Software Developer: Really the ‘Best’ Job in America?

Every year, U.S. News and World Report generates a list of the “best jobs” in America. For 2020, software developer topped that particular list—the only technology-related job to make the Top 10. 

Why did software developer place so highly? A generous median salary (which the magazine estimated at $103,620) combined with a low unemployment rate had a lot to do with it. There’s also a lot of growth potential in the role, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a 25 percent growth in related jobs between 2018 and 2028. 

In addition to median salary, unemployment, and future growth projections, U.S. News and World Report used a variety of other factors for its methodology, including stress levels and work-life balance. 

Many of the other jobs topping this list were medical: dentist (in second place), physician assistant, orthodontist, nurse practitioner, and so on. These roles obviously come with high salaries and solid job prospects; but it seems a bit of a stretch to describe many medical or technology jobs as “low stress.” Work-life balance also varies from company to company; although more tech firms have focused on making sure their employees are happy with their hours and workloads, things like “crunch time” remain a persistent problem in many parts of the industry. 

In any case, other sources confirm the “generous salaries” part, especially for software developers and engineers who work for larger, well-established companies. Those who manage to build a career can easily pull down six-figure salaries. For example, levels.fyi, which anonymously crowdsources software-engineer compensation from across the tech industry, has a breakdown of what Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and other firms pay out in stock, bonuses, and base salary:  

The key, as with any other job or industry, is specialization. An iOS developer who is skilled in Swift and Objective-C, for example, can find good work building iOS apps, helping companies maintain legacy macOS code, and other functions (and earn a pretty good salary while doing it). Those with the right skills can also negotiate for those benefits that can ensure better work-life balance and less stress—making a developer job truly the best job. 

3 Responses to “Software Developer: Really the ‘Best’ Job in America?”

  1. Its not, by far. Its made out to be some unicorn job that will make you untold amounts of money out of the gate (or even later in your career). In reality its a middle class, middle income job for 90% of the folks out there. On top of that the amount of time and money you have to spend just to keep your head above water and the stress involved makes it not worth it. Then when you hit 40 you are aged out, or have to run yourself ragged just to keep up. Remember, 200k is an ENTRY LEVEL salary in places like SF, NYC, Boston, where the jobs are. Crappy commutes, crowded cities….you really want to live like that? Remote work is only for some folks, its the exception, not the norm. What happens when that remote job where you can live in the middle of the country for 150k goes away? Whoops! Uproot and back to the SF grind!

  2. NotConvinced

    I don’t understand why this job keeps in the top lists. I’ve been doing it over 20 years.

    One thing that’s clear, you get no respect. You’re just a “dev”. You go from junior to senior/lead and hit a dead end.

    If your a web dev, you have to learn new front end languages/frameworks every couple years. That takes its toll on you if you are in your 40s.

    If you went to a vocational college, hardly anything applies once you get in a few years into your career because technology changes so quickly.

    You need to change jobs quickly if you particular dev shop doesn’t keep up with the industry trends, or you risk becoming obsolete.

    Stress can be a huge issue if you are in doing greenfield contract work, or production support.