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The $200,000 Software Developer

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the of-course-those-are-the-blackmail-rates dept.

The Almighty Buck 473

itwbennett writes "You can make a decent living as a software developer, and if you were lucky enough to get hired at a pre-IPO tech phenom, you can even get rich at it. But set your sights above the average and below Scrooge McDuck and you won't find many developers in that salary range. In fact, the number of developers earning $200,000 and above is under 10%, writes blogger Phil Johnson who looked at salary data from Glassdoor, Salary.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. How does your salary rate? What's your advice for earning the big bucks?"

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473 comments

Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (5, Interesting)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | about 10 months ago | (#43995745)

Financial engineering. Wall street is sucking them up to implement high frequency and not so high frequency trading apps. Doesn't hurt to have a mathematics degree on top of that which would probably jack you up even further.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 10 months ago | (#43995829)

How do you get started in that field? Do most of them have a financial background with some computer science, or the reverse?

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995907)

How do you get started in that field?

1) Develop strong mathematics, physics, and software development skills.
2) Take away your sense of reason and accountability.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996081)

physics?? physics... how does? why?

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (4, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#43996219)

They are sucking up brilliant people who are strong in modeling – so mathematicians, physicist, engineers, etc. Physicist tend to be good a modeling large complex natural system with math. It’s the right skill set. Heck, I even know a philosophy grad who got hired for big bucks. (Now, he specialized in formal logic, had a minor in math, and was a real renaissance man.)

Personally, the software people (note, I don’t know any developers) that I know that are in the field are lower down in the hierarchy. Great pay but they expect perform ace now.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996441)

But what complex models do you really need with HFT? You're basically doing programs battling programs.

And winning that war seems more like a job for a hacker mindset.

Or are the HFT apps actually pretending to have a basis in the "real world"? If so then the hackers have an even better edge: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2008/09/six-year-old-st/ [wired.com] ;)

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 10 months ago | (#43996603)

physics?? physics... how does? why?

To grok system modelling and grasp the fact those damn'd schemes are just a model before it's too late (even when sound, they are as valid as the assumptions; like perfectly elastic spherical horses moving through vacuum [wikipedia.org] to predict the winner of a horse race).

Besides physics is to maths as sex is to masturbation [xkcd.com] (alt of the comic; hover the mouse over it)

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995909)

Do most of them have a financial background with some computer science, or the reverse?

Actually, a lot of them are PhD level physicists. Physicists tend to know how to code (to varying degrees) but most importantly, they typically know how to really optimize algorithms due to the massive amount of data and timing constraints in the systems they use, like particle colliders.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (4, Informative)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | about 10 months ago | (#43995921)

How do you get started in that field? Do most of them have a financial background with some computer science, or the reverse?

Well, it's a big field. A good place to start is wilmott.com [wilmott.com] and get into their forums. I have found the community there to be very helpful. I have seen postings with requirements for developing in C++ and C# and some places, if they can see that you have the programming ability, will teach you (or pay for your education) to take you further. It's a field where companies look SO much to get the edge that there are whole companies building straighter fibers (or microwave links) to the exchanges across the US to shave milliseconds off the time of a transaction.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995971)

A pimple that you can easily pop is known as a 'poppin' thomas.'

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995935)

Control theory (No pun intended.)

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

jerpyro (926071) | about 10 months ago | (#43995949)

Anyone who has gotten started in that field, and is any good at it, isn't going to tell you how.
Sorry, that's part of the trade secret. :)

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996001)

Start with Computer Science. It's rare that people who start on the finance side ever develop first-class CS skills, while good CS people have very little trouble picking up the necessary finance knowledge. Hell, a number of the high-frequency shops don't even have finance experience as a prerequisite, but you can bet every one of them wants rock-solid technical skills.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996017)

I used to work with them. They usually have a PhD in mathematics, but also learned to write C++.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (2)

macson_g (1551397) | about 10 months ago | (#43996551)

Most of the financial companies in London recruit devs without any financial background.
So:
  1. 1. Move to London,
  2. 2. Be prepared to have commute from hell,
  3. 3. Profit.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996661)

  1. 1) Be intelligent.
  2. 2) Don't be unintelligent.

.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

Andover Chick (1859494) | about 10 months ago | (#43995929)

Good point. But Wall Street is generally a frustrating place for young, talented engineers. There are lots of legacy systems, arcane terminology, and crap engineering. Wall Street systems are often a conglomeration of asymmetrical mergers/acquisitions. Sure there is the occasionally high frequency gig at Goldman which pays $300k+, but few want to hang for the long term.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

emagery (914122) | about 10 months ago | (#43996173)

In other words; Wall Street is a great place to make a big impact with new (if carefully designed) systems, contemporary terminology, and excellent engineering. Sounds like a lot of job opportunities right there. Then again... I'm not sure I want to support Wall Street. Seem like the bad guys to me right now

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (2)

korbulon (2792438) | about 10 months ago | (#43996395)

In other words; Wall Street is a great place to make a big impact with new (if carefully designed) systems, contemporary terminology, and excellent engineering.

ha.. hA. HA. HAHAHAHA!

Whoever told you this was either utterly ignorant, or just taking the piss, mate.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (5, Insightful)

ZeroConcept (196261) | about 10 months ago | (#43995965)

According to:
http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/ [cnn.com]

200K in Brooklyn is equivalent to $101K in Austin, TX.

Not that hard to make 100K in Austin, the only issue is that is surrounded by Texas.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (3, Interesting)

Richy_T (111409) | about 10 months ago | (#43996327)

This is an important point. I could make a lot more money elsewhere but I like the quality of life here.

Though I could be making some more money here but that's a different issue.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996437)

But to be honest, is life really quality if you're surrounded by Texas?

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996679)

Thing is he is right.

Lets say I make 100k in San Fransisco. I probably have an awful commute and have a tiny house (if any). Where as pretty much anywhere in the mid west I can have a decent commute and have 2x the house for half the price with a decent yard for the kids to play on.

My aunt and uncle who between them pull in 500k a year live in a 400k house that is maybe 1200 sq ft and is 2 story and maybe that much again of yard. Where I live I make 1/5th that and have double the house and 1/4 acre.

If you look down your nose at everyone how do you see where you are walking? Almost every single person I talk to in the bigger cities their eyes bug out when I tell them the size house I have and the commute I got (10 mins). The only ones who do not want what I have are usually to busy judging everyone around them to bother to notice what they have sucks and they could do way better just by moving.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

GoogleShill (2732413) | about 10 months ago | (#43996483)

Thanks for that. It showed me that my salary was effectively cut in half by moving to Manhattan.

Still, I think it's worth it.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996669)

True, it is horrible to have the great state of Texas surrounding that cesspool of dirty hippies, but you can always live outside of Austin and commute in.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

cod3r_ (2031620) | about 10 months ago | (#43996003)

Or the petroleum engineers. Right out of college making 6 figure incomes designing drilling programs.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996013)

You can also sell drugs.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (2)

dpilot (134227) | about 10 months ago | (#43996511)

Ever read "Freakonomics"? The author spent some time with a gang (There's a story right there.) and found that economically the drug business resembles McDonalds. A few execs at the top make the big bucks, the rest have to live with their parents.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (1)

korbulon (2792438) | about 10 months ago | (#43996335)

Terrible idea. The sweet time is long gone. Financial engineering is now a well-established field, where boredom and politics predominate. The heady days of new ideas and big bonuses are over. Now it's all about regulation and answering audit points and unwinding toxic trades.

Look: do something interesting. If you're really interested in money, like big money, then you may need reevaluate your life's trajectory.

Now if you'll excuse me, political boredom awaits.

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996555)

Financial engineering. Wall street is sucking them up to implement high frequency and not so high frequency trading apps. Doesn't hurt to have a mathematics degree on top of that which would probably jack you up even further.

The HFT fad is almost over:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-06/how-the-robots-lost-high-frequency-tradings-rise-and-fall

Re:Wanna earn $200K+? Two words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996683)

Yes, and human chess grandmasters will start figuring out how to beat computer programs Any Day Now.

Contractor (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995747)

You'll never make that much money as a salary. High annual rates are usually the exclusive province of contractual obligations and performance bonuses.

Re:Contractor (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995849)

I make 200+k a year working in Washington state, I'm a devops(aka a seriously good generalist).

To be blunt, I am better than most people and no I don't know everything. The problem with most people they have ZERO initiative in improving themselves. The fact is I'm a high school dropout which started coding for cash when I was rather young. I torched my childhood for education and experience, I regret nothing. I'm always in a state of learning, keeping up with new tech, OSs of all types, security and even find time for a personal/sex life.

TL;DR: stop playing video games and hit the books continuously.

Re:Contractor (1)

emagery (914122) | about 10 months ago | (#43996201)

Well said; I need to do much the same... it kinda comes and goes with me, and I am dissatisfied.

Re:Contractor (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 10 months ago | (#43996367)

I'm the same way. I'm always learning and trying to improve myself. Most people just stand still and rest on their laurels. I've picked up two new degrees and countless new skills over just the last 10 years.

Re:Contractor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996419)

autodidact FTW

Re:Contractor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996497)

$50 billion net worth and you only managed to net $200+k a year? You need to talk to Warren a bit more about investing there, Bill.

Re:Contractor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996393)

The contractor pay only looks higher. You pay your own FICA, etc. You'll have more downtime than you would with a steady job. Contracts don't write themselves, and you don't get paid while searching and negotiating. I bet it's a wash.

Blackmail (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 10 months ago | (#43995789)

Threaten to go abroad and reveal all the details of the SuperSekretSystem you've been working on. You'll either get very rich or be spending a long time in state-provided accommodation....

What's your advice for earning the big bucks? (5, Informative)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 10 months ago | (#43995855)

Make a time machine, and go back to the 80's.

Re:What's your advice for earning the big bucks? (5, Funny)

gman003 (1693318) | about 10 months ago | (#43996263)

I think step 2 is kind of unnecessary once you've developed time travel.

Step 1: Move to an expensive area (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 10 months ago | (#43995865)

I would imagine most jobs paying $200K are in areas where $200K does't go as far as it would in other places. It is somewhat arbitrary to look at a dollar figure without looking at what it will cost you to live within a reasonable distance of said job.

Re:Step 1: Move to an expensive area (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996055)

Very true. The number that's exorbitant in Texas won't get you a decent apartment in California.

Re:Step 1: Move to an expensive area (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996235)

Exactly. I make significantly less than the industry average for my position, BUT I live in a six bedroom, 3 bath house on half an acre in the middle of a small/medium city. Work is 10 minutes from the house, the house is 5 minutes from shopping, and I'm 45 minutes from great fishing (and 2 hours from world-class fishing). My children go to great schools. My community has a low crime rate. There's a commuter airport ten minutes away and an international airport 3 hours away (by car). We have a nice theatre group in town and strong performing arts because of the local university. I work in a nice office with a door. I don't work for a publicly traded company and so I don't have to worry about the hellish nightmare called the quarterly report and all it entails. Oh...... and my bosses aren't Wall Street jerks with over-inflated egos and under-performing morals.

What's $200k compared to that? If I were to move to a large city I would have to command a salary of well over $200k to keep the same lifestyle. The money isn't really in the big companies unless you are a top-tier executive. It's in small to medium sized corporations where you can work in a smaller city for a comparatively higher standard of living.

Re:Step 1: Move to an expensive area (3, Interesting)

lazarus (2879) | about 10 months ago | (#43996687)

Working in a location that pays higher dollars makes perfect sense if you are also investing that money in a house/condo in the same area. Why? Because it is not a bad retirement plan. You sell your $1m condo in downtown whereever and buy a nice home in a country setting for less than half that and live off the rest. Risk the housing market will go down? Yes, but not as much risk as in less dense areas, and IMHO lower than the risk of investing in the stock/bonds/currencies/minerals/commodities markets.

You should still have some retirement savings, but living and working in a high standard of living area and then moving out later is a good idea. If you can stand it.

Issue Is... (3, Interesting)

jchawk (127686) | about 10 months ago | (#43995871)

I work in IT for a large multinational company and the issue I see with our approach to developers is better, faster, cheaper. In reality what this boils down to is cheaper and good enough. Projects tend to drag on for longer then they should but the development expense from a salary perspective is fairly minimal because the bulk of it is being done offshore.

I think if you want to earn the big dollars as a programmer either need to be the best in the field working for one of the big tech guys like Apple, Google, Etc... Or you need to go work for a start-up for bad starting wages but a percentage ownership in the company.

The only other option I see is going out on your own and starting your own development company but then if you earn big dollars it's because your business is doing well not because you are programming most of the time.

Re:Issue Is... (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#43995919)

If you can get them, security clearances seem to be a popular way of not getting outsourced and competing with a rather smaller(if alarmingly large, on a per-capita basis) pool of applicants.

Re:Issue Is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996627)

This is a large part of the reason that Loudoun, Fairfax, and Arlington Counties (plus Falls Church) are the highest income counties in the country. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-income_counties_in_the_United_States

The same advice in every profession (5, Interesting)

p00kiethebear (569781) | about 10 months ago | (#43995877)

Do it better. Do it faster. Work longer hours. Bullshit. Kiss ass. Draw a firm line when everyone is so dependent on you that they can't survive without you. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Sabotage the competition. Don't ever settle. Sue. Keep your heart on your sleeve at home. Nail people to the cross in business. Cheat. Lie when you can get away with it. Bend the rules until they break.

This just in.... (5, Insightful)

isopropanol (1936936) | about 10 months ago | (#43995883)

Only a few people make 2.5x the average...

Also news:
Only a few people have substantially higher than average intelligence,
Only a few cars have much higher maximum acceleration than the industry average,
Only a few people have substantially lower sprint or marathon times than average,
Only a few drisophila have curlier wings than average...
Only a few people have substantially more acute hearing perception than average,

I'm not sure if it's just the summary, but it seems the author may not understand the nature of the bell curve and why it's a decent model for population distributions.

Re:This just in.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996015)

Only a few people have substantially higher than average intelligence,

Except on Slashdot. Ask almost anyone here if they have substantially higher intelligence than the average Slashdotter, and the answer will be a yes.

Re:This just in.... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 10 months ago | (#43996021)

But set your sights above the average and below Scrooge McDuck and you won't find many developers in that salary range.

From that it seemed like the submitter was trying to imply that there's a dip in the curve between those two, with some average developers, some rich-like-McDuck developers, and few inbetween.

Re:This just in.... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 10 months ago | (#43996183)

And 50% of people are dumber than the average person.

Frightening, isn't it?

Re:This just in.... (0)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 10 months ago | (#43996339)

except that is only true if intelligence is a purely straight line going from dumb to genius, which it is not. there isn't a number 1 most average person, but a large group of people that would all fit in the group. The people above and below that level are going to be much less than ~50%. Parroting a saying without understanding I'd guess puts you in that group.

Re:This just in.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996391)

I do it doing mere web developing... as a freelancer. If you're good, big companies will hire you for months for $80 - $100 per hour. They will do that because they are failing to find the right guys, or management read about flex work in a magazine. This does not sound like much, compared to the hourly rare of a lawyer for example. The magic trick is billable hours. Do this for 10 months a year, and you have $140000. Do it for 8 and you still make more than my lawyer. Then I do some hosting, domain name, mail services etc. for some prior clients, run some ads on private project sites, and have a small hobby webshop with specialized items.

Before this I was a web developer for web development and design companies. Then what the client pays goes to sales guys, middle management, project managers, and the boss. And a little to me. Oh, they might have nice extras such as a car or whatever. Which means you don't get the cost of that paid, but you pay the overhead. Freelance isn't for everyone though. You need the skills, the discipline, the market/location, the client skills, and so on. And if you work your way up in a big company, you'll have more budget and may have more interesting possibilities.

Re:This just in.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996649)

That stupid bell curve prevented me from getting 90s in math class.

I'm like "look I got 95% on my math test" and then ALL my other class mates are like "I got 96" and my final mark on the report card was curved into a fail.

consulting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995887)

I own my own c-corp and act like a staffing company whose main client if myself. I get on average $120 an hour. I get to take a lot of write-offs and earn above the $200K mark.

Soon I will probably get certified in things like JBoss and Spring - I know them both, but without those little pieces of paper, my M.S. doesn't seem to convince a lot of the mid/large size companies that I'm fully qualified in the manner they were hoping for. At that point I should be able to raise my rates even more so.

Don't forget cost of living (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995889)

I've been with the same software development company in Florida for well over a decade, and one of my friends got his first development job in California a year ago making as much money as I was at the time.

Some time later I got to see pictures of the apartment he lives in...and then I felt better about my house.

Re:Don't forget cost of living (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996123)

This!

The company I work for just got bought by a silicon valley giant. I will go from making $140K & living in a huge, paid off $350K house in a great school district in a very low-cost area of the country to making ~$200K in Silicon Valley. For about $100K/year, I could get a mortgage on a $2.0M house roughly the same as mine & in a similar school district (assuming I could even compete with the all cash offers from the IPO crowd). So even though I'm supposedly making $200K, my effective income really drops by roughly $40K to $100K/year.

I plan to rent something cheap and stick around for second round of retention bonuses, then head back to the heartland & retire.

I make a decent living as a Data Analyst (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995925)

Posting anonymously only because I know my employees read Slashdot but:

I make a very decent living (not 200k but well above the median income for the area) working managing data analysts using SAS and R. This field is rapidly growing and without enough graduates coming out of college with the appropriate mix of programming, math, and business skill we find ourselves looking for anyone with any relevant knowledge combination.

This void is being filled at a nearly alarming rate of high salaries for what amounts to somewhat limited skill. The average salary for someone with 3-5 years of related experience is just under $100,000/year + benefits, which is pretty impressive for an area which has a median income of about $53,000 a year.

Want to get money as a developer? Learn to write SQL, SAS and now especially R and be able to do simple statistics, generate explanatory charts on queried data, and have decent communication skill.

Re:I make a decent living as a Data Analyst (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996217)

Salary for careers related with data and statistics are growing very big!

Learn to sell yourself (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995961)

The best predictor of how much a talented software engineer can earn is how good a salesman and communicator they are. Of course you need a lot of technical skill too, but being able to sell yourself and communicate with non-programmers can almost double your salary. Of course then you'll need to fight against being sucked into management, but that's another story.

They key is to move around (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995979)

If you're a top-notch engineer, you need to move around to keep your salary competitive. With the demand for engineers the way it is now, if you don't move around, raises to your base salary will be limited by merit/cost of living increases. When you decide to interview around, interview with multiple companies (Google, Hulu, Microsoft, Amazon, etc - just to name a few in the Seattle area) and play the offers against each other.

Just get out of debt and you'll be fine. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43995981)

Always strive to get the most you can, but honestly don't worry about not making over $200k. Doing something you can enjoy is more important.

I was making $50k/year or so, saved money, avoided credit card debt, but I also had a car payment, house payment, etc.
I then made it up to $100k/year or so, saved money, avoided credit card debt, but I also had a car payment, house payment, etc.
Which was ridiculous! I'm making double the money but my debt ratio is the same!

I now have no car payment, investing money into retirement, giving, and I'm on goal to have my house paid off this year - at age 30.

Yes I know cost of living varies, but if you budget your money, stay out of restaurants, and get out of debt you'll live great even earning well below Scrooge McDuck.

(Dave Ramsey's baby steps...)

From the obvious facts department (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 10 months ago | (#43995991)

In fact, the number of developers earning $200,000 and above is under 10%,

In other news, water is wet.

Was anyone under the delusion that it was ever over 10%?

50K. 120K. Same work. (4, Informative)

Apuleius (6901) | about 10 months ago | (#43995999)

I made 50K doing IT for a department at MIT.

I made 120K for exactly the same work at a hedge fund.

THat's a 70K price to pay for the intense satisfaction that comes from helping scientists engage in science. Worth it IMO.

Re:50K. 120K. Same work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996277)

I got a call from a recruiter at a very large corporation located in the Minneapolis metro area yesterday. When I asked about the salary and benefits package for the role in order to skip wasting everyone's time, the recruiter told me they like to discuss that during the interview process and that they put a higher price on interesting work and work-life balance than salary.

Now, that's all well and good and I am glad that you are altruistic with regards to your employment, however, doing good work for no pay doesn't put great food on the table but I digress...

After I told them that I put a high value on that and I was quite uninterested in furthering any discussion with them until they told me the range, they asked for what my requirements were. I told them and they said, "oh, that is WELL outside our range." I thanked them for saving many FTE hours wasted on both sides of the equation and moved on with my day.

I'm glad there are people who will work for less pay to love their job. To me jobs all come with headaches regardless of how great the work may be and salary and benefits need to be great too.

YMMV.

Re:50K. 120K. Same work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996637)

If that company is the company I think it is, you were right to flat-out turn them down. I was there for a couple of months as a contractor and it was soul-sucking.

So how's that anti-union attitude working for you? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996029)

Put down that mug. Coffee is for earners. You're not an earner, you're a cost center. Regardless of your contributions, you're an interchangeable part who's presence we suffer because we haven't figured out how to do with out you. - This is how management sees you. It doesn't matter how important your work is, how hard you work, or how much you sacrifice and contribute.

If only there we an organization that could help you get some leverage. That made sure that you and your co-workers get proper recognition and made sure you and your counterparts were qualified to do the job. (Good Unions don't' just protect workers, they make sure that workers meet a minimum competency criteria) Maybe the next time some pencil dick middle manager decides to outsource your project to India and requires you to train your replacements, he'll have to think twice. Maybe it would be nice if someone had your back for once.

Yes, in your reply please tell us how you're a contractor and how you have jobs lined up for years and how your plans for that bootstrap factory are going. - Can it. We've heard it all before. Most developers are not like you and have to suffer the indignity of being treated like garbage in the hands of a soulless middle management hell designed to sap you youth and livelihood in exchange for piddling compensation.

Programming, IT, etc is a fairly new trade. A lot of you have enjoyed the wild west years where anything goes and all you need is some balls and maybe reputation. Well, that isn't going to last forever. The industry is becoming "mature".

Depends on where you live (2)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | about 10 months ago | (#43996053)

In Taiwan, I make about twice what the average person with an equivalent education level in a different field would make, but that's still way, way lower than $200000usd a year. Adjusting for the cost of living, I'm actually pretty well off, but this pay would suck in the US.

$200K is insane (2)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 10 months ago | (#43996075)

$200K? That's crazy talk. Maybe in San Francisco but not back East...
Computer engineer working on Aerospace control system software: less than half of that. Much less than half.

Not all the same.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996083)

Programmers in particular can have a huge variance on ability.. and that can affect projects accordingly. A great programmer is worth 100x an average programmer... especially if you're on cutting edge technology or under great time constraints. The problem is, there aren't that many great programmers.

The gold and honey trap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996087)

That NSA-CIA whistleblower guy, who is now all over the news, was earning exactly 200 federal kilobucks per year, plus they assigned him to the Hawaii station and embedded him with a blonde poledancer. Yet he decided to abscond and leak? Can't grasp.

Most SD audience would probably work for free there, provided they could get Miss Poledancer embedded. After all, Hawaii has sharks and it's only a little leap to attach friggin' lasers to their heads!

The NSA is hiring! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996127)

Apparently IT people with top secret clearances working for defense contractors can make $125k up to $200k,

Just saying...

Forget $200k... (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 10 months ago | (#43996195)

I would be happy to have ANY job in Software Development.
But around here everyone wants 3-5 years experience in .NET or Oracle or J2EE or any number of other technologies and no-one is going to give you the experience.

Re:Forget $200k... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996317)

Don't worry about the "requirements" apply anyway. Most are BS.

Contractor (2)

DogDude (805747) | about 10 months ago | (#43996297)

The #1 advice I can give is NOT to take a "full time" job. Work as a contractor. Contractors have always gotten paid significantly more than "full time" developers, and have the added benefits of being able to move between jobs much more quickly.

Re:Contractor (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#43996477)

Unless you need healthcare, then you can forget that route.

Contractors get no health coverage and many people can't get it without group policies.

Re:Contractor (2)

DogDude (805747) | about 10 months ago | (#43996575)

Contractors get no health coverage and many people can't get it without group policies.

Have you heard of a little thing called "The Affordable Care Act"? Anybody can buy their own health insurance now. Unless you have some very serious medical issues, it's only a few hundred bucks a month, which is much more than the pay difference between a "contractor" and a "full time" developer.

Re:Contractor (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#43996647)

I tried pricing some out recently. A couple months ago, it was $700 a month. That is not what I would call a few hundred dollars.

Location & Risk/Reward (4, Insightful)

Doc Hopper (59070) | about 10 months ago | (#43996349)

Two factors to consider: Location and risk/reward ratio.

The "$200,000" figure -- as mentioned earlier in the discussion -- is extremely location-dependent. Let's say you live in Salt Lake City, UT and make $100,000 per year. I'm from the area, and $90K-$110K seems to be a very typical pay rate for sysadmins and programmers with 10 or more years of experience in their field, if you include health and other benefits in the W-2 (all the employers do!). Then let's cross-reference that with the Cost Of Living calculator at http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/ [cnn.com] . To enjoy an equivalent quality of life, here's what that guy needs to make (these are all area averages, not the specific cities referenced):

San Francisco, CA: $171,987
Los Angeles, CA: $140,380
Seattle, WA: $123,784
Raleigh, NC: $99,154
Austin, TX: $97,991
Washington, DC:$151,479
New York, NY (Manhattan): $231,289
New York, NY (Queens): $162,684

Advice for earning the big bucks? If you want to earn a high-end "salary", move to one of the technology hubs. Get an education in finance and high-end mathematics. Or get a security clearance, shine up your resume and skills, and plan to have no life outside of work due to travel abroad. Get some solid experience, get in on some high-profile projects, and job-hop when you're at the apex of your visibility in your company for much better pay.

If you don't want to live in Silicon Valley or New York, then be your own boss. Write your own products. Innovate in a field that lacks innovation. Develop software nobody has really thought of before. Monetize it and make a living. Cash out by selling the company to a bigger fish, and start working on your next idea. My company, for instance, buys small companies who create innovative software a LOT and integrates that software into its other offerings. And that strategy works very well for continually expanding the customer base and revenue. Sometimes it works out well for the little guy, sometimes not. It's a risk of running your own business.

Working for someone in a "typical" IT or software engineering field is typically not gonna make you rich. It can make you a good living with solid pay and far less stress than running your own business or working in high-pressure financial and security markets, though. And you're less likely to lose several fortunes on your way to making a fortune if someone else takes the risk, and you get paid the salary. Risk/Reward.

For me, quality of life matters a lot. I've been on both sides of the fence (trying to make it in business for myself vs. drawing a salary), and right now in my life it makes more sense to draw a reasonable salary doing a job that I love in a great environment working with quality people and making a positive difference without feeling that my job is my life. But I know I'm probably not going to strike it rich doing so... and I'm OK with that.

Take advantage of demand where it exists (1)

venir (971650) | about 10 months ago | (#43996439)

I graduated in 2010 with a BS in Computer Science and managed to have a Software Developer job lined up beforehand. I started with a pretty bottom barrel salary at $40k for a local startup. I have leveraged some fairly good demand here in the Northwest to now be starting in a new position next week making $75k, in a city where the average household income is $39k. Moving up is all about getting your foot in the door and then using your experience to move around where there is demand for good developers. Now, I may not be anywhere near the $200k talked about in the article, but my salary compared to my cost of living is pretty good whereas I would venture a guess that those close to that upper range are living in places where the salary to cost of living ratio probably isn't a lot different than where I'm at right now.

$200,000 is not a lot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996455)

You can't buy a new Ferrari with it.

It's pretty obvious (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996481)

Cook Meth :)

Absolute salaries need adjusting... (4, Interesting)

gwolf (26339) | about 10 months ago | (#43996491)

If you don't take into account geographical issues, saying "$200K" means very little.

I am a Mexican software developer. I consider myself well paid, and while I am far from living a life of luxury, I get enough to even set some aside to make some savings. My salary? Somehwere around US$25K a year. And I find I am a bit over the average in my country — Take as an example the study on salaries for 2012 published by Software Gurú [sg.com.mx] , a national software development magazine.

(For reference sake, the US dollar is currently at ~MX$12, and we usually talk about our payment in monthly periods... so for your convenience, you can even read the numbers presented as if they were yearly salaries in US dollars ;-) )

Don't be a developer. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996535)

If you work for someone, they make the money. Period.

Specialization. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996547)

Don't forgot some of the basic stuff. Specialize in a needed area, and become excellent at it. Be social and known in your field, make lots of work-friends and contacts. Play well with others while looking out for your own self interests. Good communication and documentation of goals when working in a group. Learn how to estimate development times and make sure that they are known to your boss. Be willing to put in ungodly hours to meet your goals, but know when to stop so that you don't burn out and cannot produce well in the long term. Help others in who are having trouble in your group when it helps you finish your portion of the project more promptly. Be a salary whore, just don't burn people.

Anyhow, that's how sweetie does it. :)

what do you expect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996563)

You can't expect to get rich as an employee in any industry. Programmers only get the above-average pay they do now because of the scarcity of the labor pool and the demand of high tech products. If you want to make real money you have to get on the business ownership side of things.

Is $103K in the DC area a good salary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996611)

I have 15 years of experience and do Java-based software engineering.

Realize that salary isn't the most important thing (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | about 10 months ago | (#43996639)

Why make $200K if you can't enjoy it because you are working 18x7x52???

I make above $100K working 8x5x48. Been doing it since I was 40. Last two nights I worked 10 hours, but it really was needed. Rarely get called.


I'm smart, but not an expert in anything. I am a damn good trouble shooter and work on old software because new developers are too full of themselves to do it and I have a lot of experience working on code I know nothing about without finding excuses.

My salary gives me a very comfortable lifestyle. I drive a 2001 Blazer because I'm too cheap to trade in a truck that works. A truck I paid $12K for in 2003. I have a 1984 and 1989 Goldwing in the garage that get ridden over 15K miles a year because I see no reason to buy a new bike when I can get a used bike has less than 50K miles on it for $5K and will probably run over 200K miles instead buying an overpriced new bike because "it's cool". I have no debt except for the house, and pretty darn good 401K and savings accounts.

It's amazing how far a good $100K salary can go if you spend it on stuff you need instead of stuff you just want. I do buy things from time to time that I just 'want', I don't live like a pauper. But I've found that a $1000 audio system meets my needs, and 42" TV is actually big enough. So my wife and I spend our spare money enjoying life by traveling a few times a year on long weekend trips instead of stuff that just takes up space.

I have nothing against an extravagant lifestyle. If I could make $200K or more a year doing what I do now with the same level of stress, of course I'd do it. And I'd probably have a newer car and, nicer house. But not the bikes, I live my old Wings.

But I don't think I'm good enough make that much, and I don't think too many jobs like that exist. And I'm not willing to work harder to make it that far.

So I guess self-motivation is probably also a factor.....

yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43996641)

>What's your advice for earning the big bucks?

Become a prostitute. Writing code isn't about money, it's about passion.

Management, ownership, PhD but not "employees" (2)

swb (14022) | about 10 months ago | (#43996677)

I would imagine that anyone wanting to earn over $200,000 per year (and not living in some of the super high cost of living cities like NYC or LA) would need to:

1) Have a PhD and a proven record in developing marketable, patentable technology. Basically advanced knowledge and experience that makes you extremely valuable AND very, very difficult to replace.

2) An ownership stake in whatever the business is beyond being a minor shareholder. This means partner or substantial investor in the business where you get to make decisions.

3) Management involvement, and this probably removes you from the programmer or "do-er" category.

I think salaries over $200k in most of the country would be extremely unusual for people who actually do work and aren't management, highly educated/professionally credentialed or owners.

I think senior management generally doesn't want to pay that kind of money for people who actually do work. I think it violates cultural norms in business by altering the status quo hierarchy. Pay is used to enforce the hierarchy and someone making that much money might feel a little too independent for his actual place in the system.

It's also an open question why you would need to spend so much money for someone in that role. I'm sure there are a small handful of "superstars" who might be that valuable, but there's only so many of those people, jobs and managers who recognize that.

And even if you found a job that would pay like that, I'm sure it would come with horrible deadlines, terrible travel, bad working conditions, etc.

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