Saturday, June 15, 2024

How much do software engineers earn? It depends on the state, and these places are the most lucrative

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The past year and a half has not exactly been a period of growth for software engineers. Data from Levels.fyi, a compensation data and career services platform, shows that median compensation for software engineers actually fell by roughly half a percent during 2023—a trend that’s likely continued in the midst of widespread layoffs in the tech sector in early 2024.

But software engineers remain instrumental to the tech sector, and despite the hiccup in compensation, aren’t going away, as they play an important role in the tech ecosystem. Software engineers’ “responsibilities include code development, testing, architecture, systems design and more standardized processes,” says Inbal Shani the Chief Product Officer at Twilio Communications. 

And tech companies employ armies of them, experts say.

“Generally, large tech companies will have thousands of software engineers,” says Zuahyeer Musa, co-founder of Levels.fyi. Software engineers, in the tech space, are “almost seen like an investment,” he says. “For large tech companies working on a large swath of products, engineering is an investment they make in building out those products.”

How much do software engineers make? 

The average software engineer in the U.S. commands a healthy salary, too. “The median compensation for a software engineer in the U.S., for base salary, is $155,000, according to our data on Levels.fyi,” says Musa. Furthermore, other internal data, sourced from ZipRecruiter and provided to Fortune, shows that the average base salary for software engineers is roughly $116,800. 

But there are other things to take into consideration beyond base salaries for software engineers—who are often compensated in a variety of ways, including stock options and bonuses. “The most important thing is total compensation package, not just base salary,” says Musa. 

Additionally, salaries and compensation for software engineers can vary based on where you live. States where tech companies may be clustered (e.g., California, Washington, and Massachusetts) may have tighter labor pools, where workers have a bit more leverage. Conversely, states with weaker labor markets (including many states in the South and Midwest) may see the typical software engineer earn less.

Senior software engineer salary

In the software engineering field, it’s also important to note that you can “level” up, and earn much more than your base salary indicates. 

“In the industry, there’s a concept of leveling—it’s a median value across the whole industry that gives you a sense of what the compensation looks like overall,” says Musa, who named his company, Levels.fyi, after the concept. In effect, a higher “level” means you’re a more senior engineer, and generally earn more money.

“Leveling allows you to look at what each group or level pays,” he says. “The pay drastically goes up as you go up in level. At the highest levels, you’re seeing more than 50% of your total compensation in stocks and bonuses—it’s always important to think of that,” he says, when considering your options on the market. 

Cost of living

If you’re thinking about a career in software engineering, and want to get the most bang for your buck in terms of purchasing power (pairing a high salary with low costs), you’ll also want to consider the cost of living in a given state when or if you accept a position. A high-paying job in Massachusetts will also come with higher living costs, while a high salary in Mississippi will likely coincide with lower living costs.

There’s a lot to consider when thinking about salaries and costs, but the overall cost of living from state to state is, broadly, important.

Software engineer salaries by state

The table below includes a ranking of the states where software engineers command the highest salaries on average. As noted, the salary data was provided by ZipRecruiter, and it is reflective of the labor market between January 1, 2024, and late May 2024. Additionally, the cost of living (COL) index for each state, as seen below, is calculated by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), which averages indexes from metro areas and cities, and incorporates costs for groceries, housing, utilities, and transportation.

Here are the states where software engineers make the most, in descending order:

Rank Location Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) Cost of living
1 Washington, D.C. $141,053 146.8
2 California $138,123 95.1
3 Washington $134,539 116
4 New York $132,777 125.9
5 Massachusetts $131,131 146.5
6 New Jersey $128,416 113.9
7 Connecticut $127,919 112.8
8 New Hampshire $126,776 114.1
9 Maine $126,632 109.9
10 Virginia $123,417 101.9
11 Rhode Island $123,193 110.7
12 Delaware $122,670 101.1
13 Maryland $122,067 116.5
14 Illinois $122,012 92.1
15 Oregon $121,307 114.7
16 Indiana $120,814 91
17 Wisconsin $120,759 95.1
18 Alaska $119,969 125.2
19 Pennsylvania $119,737 95.6
20 Colorado $118,833 105.1
21 Minnesota $118,716 94.1
22 Vermont $116,302 115.3
23 Arkansas $116,187 89
24 Arizona $114,799 108.4
25 West Virginia $114,605 87.7
26 Texas $114,335 92.7
27 Nevada $114,253 101
28 Georgia $114,143 90.8
29 South Dakota $113,990 92.4
30 Iowa $113,801 90.3
31 Tennessee $113,472 90.3
32 Alabama $113,256 88.3
33 North Carolina $113,231 95.3
34 Michigan $112,621 90.6
35 Idaho $111,681 98.6
36 Ohio $111,604 94.7
37 North Dakota $111,577 94.6
38 Wyoming $111,059 92.4
39 Utah $110,992 103.2
40 Florida $110,314 100.7
41 Missouri $109,870 88.5
42 Montana $108,949 102.9
43 Kentucky $108,717 92
44 New Mexico $108,423 94
45 Hawaii $107,629 180.3
46 Kansas $106,949 87.1
47 Nebraska $106,525 90.9
48 Oklahoma $105,943 86.2
49 South Carolina $103,400 95.3
50 Louisiana $101,870 91
51 Mississippi $95,404 86.3
Average software engineer salaries (as of May 2024)
1
Location Washington, D.C.
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $141,053
Cost of living 146.8
2
Location California
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $138,123
Cost of living 95.1
3
Location Washington
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $134,539
Cost of living 116
4
Location New York
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $132,777
Cost of living 125.9
5
Location Massachusetts
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $131,131
Cost of living 146.5
6
Location New Jersey
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $128,416
Cost of living 113.9
7
Location Connecticut
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $127,919
Cost of living 112.8
8
Location New Hampshire
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $126,776
Cost of living 114.1
9
Location Maine
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $126,632
Cost of living 109.9
10
Location Virginia
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $123,417
Cost of living 101.9
11
Location Rhode Island
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $123,193
Cost of living 110.7
12
Location Delaware
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $122,670
Cost of living 101.1
13
Location Maryland
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $122,067
Cost of living 116.5
14
Location Illinois
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $122,012
Cost of living 92.1
15
Location Oregon
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $121,307
Cost of living 114.7
16
Location Indiana
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $120,814
Cost of living 91
17
Location Wisconsin
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $120,759
Cost of living 95.1
18
Location Alaska
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $119,969
Cost of living 125.2
19
Location Pennsylvania
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $119,737
Cost of living 95.6
20
Location Colorado
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $118,833
Cost of living 105.1
21
Location Minnesota
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $118,716
Cost of living 94.1
22
Location Vermont
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $116,302
Cost of living 115.3
23
Location Arkansas
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $116,187
Cost of living 89
24
Location Arizona
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $114,799
Cost of living 108.4
25
Location West Virginia
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $114,605
Cost of living 87.7
26
Location Texas
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $114,335
Cost of living 92.7
27
Location Nevada
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $114,253
Cost of living 101
28
Location Georgia
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $114,143
Cost of living 90.8
29
Location South Dakota
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $113,990
Cost of living 92.4
30
Location Iowa
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $113,801
Cost of living 90.3
31
Location Tennessee
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $113,472
Cost of living 90.3
32
Location Alabama
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $113,256
Cost of living 88.3
33
Location North Carolina
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $113,231
Cost of living 95.3
34
Location Michigan
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $112,621
Cost of living 90.6
35
Location Idaho
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $111,681
Cost of living 98.6
36
Location Ohio
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $111,604
Cost of living 94.7
37
Location North Dakota
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $111,577
Cost of living 94.6
38
Location Wyoming
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $111,059
Cost of living 92.4
39
Location Utah
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $110,992
Cost of living 103.2
40
Location Florida
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $110,314
Cost of living 100.7
41
Location Missouri
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $109,870
Cost of living 88.5
42
Location Montana
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $108,949
Cost of living 102.9
43
Location Kentucky
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $108,717
Cost of living 92
44
Location New Mexico
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $108,423
Cost of living 94
45
Location Hawaii
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $107,629
Cost of living 180.3
46
Location Kansas
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $106,949
Cost of living 87.1
47
Location Nebraska
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $106,525
Cost of living 90.9
48
Location Oklahoma
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $105,943
Cost of living 86.2
49
Location South Carolina
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $103,400
Cost of living 95.3
50
Location Louisiana
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $101,870
Cost of living 91
51
Location Mississippi
Avg. software engineer salary (as of May 2024) $95,404
Cost of living 86.3

The takeaway 

Software engineers play an important role in the tech space, and large companies may have thousands of them on staff. They’re distinct from other positions in some ways—like developers—but are likewise versatile. Going forward, experts think that versatility will become even more important and prominent, too.

Both developers and software engineers “will spend more time from the get-go understanding and making decisions based upon the full-system, whether that’s the environment or the product they’re building,” says Shani, explaining that tech workers will see their overall roles broaden in scope to tackle large-scale problems.

Again: Compensation will differ from state to state, and company to company. As Musa notes, it’s important to think beyond mere salaries, and also consider stock considerations and bonuses, too, to make sure you’re getting as much as possible when shopping around your skills to employers.

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