U.S. States Where Software Developers Earn the Most (and Least) Money

Software development can prove an absurdly lucrative position, provided your circumstances line up in just the right way. But if you’re unlucky, it can also pay squat—especially if you’re an indie developer who launches an app that subsequently fails in the open marketplace. In other words, there’s a ton of exciting opportunity, but also a not-insignificant amount of risks.

Where you live can also impact how much you make. In well-established tech hubs such as San Francisco and New York City, tech professionals of all kinds can stand to make a lot of money, provided they have the right combination of experience and skills. The cost of living in many of those “hot” areas is really high, though, which can somewhat blunt the impact of a larger paycheck.

Less-established areas, meanwhile, offer a whole basket of perks—cheap housing, easier commutes, better work-life balance—provided you can actually find a job.

With all that in mind, here’s a multi-state (and territories—can’t forget about Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico!) breakdown of what a software developer who specializes in applications can earn. How does your salary match up to your state’s mean and median? (The below chart is a multi-pager, so click through if your desired states and territories aren’t on the first page; also, note that the original dataset excluded New Mexico.)

This data is derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and comes from mid-2018. However, our most recent Dice Salary Survey suggests that tech professional salaries have largely stagnated, so it’s unlikely that these salaries have shifted very much over the past year, no matter which states or territories are under discussion.

Let’s take a look at which states and territories earned the highest median salary:

These results certainly aren’t shocking: Washington and California host some of the nation’s biggest tech hubs, largest tech companies, and swarms of aggressive startups with a thirst for tech talent. In addition, they’re also the homes of thousands of corporations that are building and maintaining applications and platforms of all types. Washington, D.C., meanwhile, needs tech pros to help service the enormous federal IT infrastructure (as well as the many subcontractors who carry out federal contracts).

Now let’s take a look at the states and territories with the lowest salaries for software builders who focus on apps. In descending order:

What can we conclude from this? Although all of these “lower salary” states need tech professionals, there clearly isn’t the same level of aggregate demand as in other places. And that’s too bad—but it’s also an opportunity for companies looking for talent in these states: Local tech professionals are no doubt interested in what any new firm can potentially offer.

3 Responses to “U.S. States Where Software Developers Earn the Most (and Least) Money”

  1. Jimi Thompson

    I think that your comparisons are lacking some vital data. I’d like to see these adjusted for the cost of living and state income taxes in those locations. It is not a benefit if you make $20,000 more a year when you have to spend $25,000+ more a year in rent just to live in that location. Rents in San Fransisco can easily exceed $3000/mo for a 1 bed room apartment. Montgomery, Alabama, by comparison, is about $700/mo for a comparable apartment with parking. California’s state income tax is 7%-12%. Alabama’s is 2%-5%.

    • I was surprised the cost of living was ignored. In San Jose, studio apartments in new complexes are typically $3,000/month. Small starter homes start at about $800,000. Smaller condos start at less than that – but not much. I understand this cost of living has brought a challenge for companies to hire graduates.

  2. Earnings can be MUCH higher is you are a bit more experienced and say at the soft dev mgr or solutions architect or higher. You can hit $500k+ in many soft development companies (in big ones like goog or msft or fb or salesforce or better) especially if you are at principle level or higher.
    if you are at director level at MSFT in Wash state you earn so much more than it easily compensates for higher real estate prices