Software Developer: Still One of America’s Best Jobs?

Another January, another list of the “best jobs” in America from U.S. News and World Report. For technologists (or those thinking of becoming technologists), this annual rundown offers good news: software developer came in second among best jobs (as well as second among best STEM jobs, and number one among technology jobs).

“Software developers are employed in a range of industries, including computer systems design, manufacturing and finance,” adds the report. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 21.5 percent employment growth for software developers between 2019 and 2029. In that period, an estimated 316,000 jobs should open up.”

U.S. News and World Report uses a number of data-points to determine its rankings, including median salary, unemployment rate, future job prospects, and stress level. The magazine rated the stress level for software developers as average, and “flexibility” (i.e., the ability to determine your own schedule, as well as work-life balance) as above average. 

The next tech-centric job on the overall list, data scientist, came in eighth place. The rankings are notably dominated by medical roles, including physician assistant (in first place), nurse practitioner (in third), and physician (in fifth).

Here’s how the magazine ranked technology jobs:

It’s no secret that software developers and engineers with the right combination of skills and experience can expect to pull down hefty compensation, especially when you factor in bonuses, stock options, and other benefits. Here’s a breakdown of representative software-engineering salaries at some of tech’s biggest companies, courtesy of levels.fyi (which crowdsources compensation data):

You can also boost your salary still higher with the addition of highly specialized skills. For example, data scientists who develop a specialization in machine learning and A.I. skills can find more opportunities among companies that need technologists who can train algorithms on enormous datasets. It’s a similar story with cybersecurity experts: Those with the skills to counter cutting-edge threats have an advantage even in a crowded job market. 

When it comes to calculating lists like this, it’s easy to see how strong projected job growth and high salaries place technology jobs near the top. As for work-life balance and stress levels—well, that varies between professions and industries. For every web developer who enjoys set hours and an average workload, there are a dozen game developers suffering through the brutality of “crunch time.” But at startups offering equity, or more-established companies that pay out substantial bonuses for reaching particular production milestones, an insane amount of work might be worth it.