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.