10 Top Highest-Paid Software Engineer Jobs in 2021

Written By Iryna Bilyk

According to the Indeed report, the average software development rate in the United States is $110,539 per year.

For those who are thinking about becoming a software engineer or are at the start of their dev career, such a number could become a strong motivation to study hard and get high-value skills.

Moreover, since the number above is only an average, the actual amount of money you could get could even be higher, depending on factors such as your negotiation skills, experience, soft skills, and employer.

Whether you are a skilled software developer or a junior software engineer, the question remains the same: What programming language and framework brings the highest salary in the current market conditions? Keep reading to know all the details and make sure you steer your programming career in the right direction.

How Much Can You Earn With Top Coding Skills?

According to the 2019 Levels.fyi research, software engineers who work at popular technology companies can expect really high pay levels. Of course, your salary will depend on experience. But according to this research, a software engineer starting salary at a popular technology company can be from $175,000 to $234,000 per year.

highest paid software engineer jobs
Image source: Levels.fyi research

Quite often, employers use some sort of level-based system to rank their developers. For example, Apple engineers are separated into five levels starting from ICT2 up to ICT6, while at Google, entry-level developers start from Level 3.

These systems may vary, but the main point is the same: You have to improve your soft and hard skills to reach a higher level. And a higher level means a higher salary.

The situation may also vary in different companies. Depending on the size and authority of the organization you work for, the same-level engineers’ salaries may differ a lot. Some of the best software engineers in leading companies in San Francisco may earn over $1 million per year. According to a report from Levels.fyi, high-level engineers at Facebook can get over $3.5 million per year.

The average software engineer salary also varies from country to country. According to Indeed, the United States is the best-paying country for developers. You can see how the annual salary falls off for the rest of the countries. Switzerland is the second-best country for software engineers; their average salary is $83K annually.

highest paid software engineer jobs

The developer’s salary also depends on the programming language they use.

highest paid software engineer jobs
Image source: Indeed

Engineers who are experienced in the most popular programming languages have the highest rates. These popular technologies are needed in most IT projects, and businesses pay a lot for an expert in the particular programming language. Moreover, these experts tend to have no problems finding a job.

While JavaScript and Java remain one of the most high-demand programming languages, and guarantee developers top salaries from year to year, some technologies start losing their popularity over time. For instance, there was a drop in C#, C++, and PHP developers’ salaries in 2020. Which makes total sense, as recruiters were looking for these languages half as much as for Java and JavaScript.

Image source: HackerRank

Also, it is worth remembering that there is a vast difference between salary and compensation.

If salary is the amount of money you get over a period of time (usually a year), compensation is a much more complex concept. In different companies, compensation can vary and includes personal and family insurance, paid sick leave and vacations, retirement plans, education programs, gym memberships, child care assistance, and even profit-sharing or shareholding plans.

Taking all this into consideration, we can see that a high salary itself is not an indicator of the best offer. A lower salary together with a generous compensation package can ultimately give more to the employee, while a high salary may leave the employee with no bonus or other perks.

The comparison of compensation programs is beyond the scope of this post, so we only focus on salaries, which, as a metric, are more relevant for the determination of the best-paid development technologies. When compensation illustrates an approach of a particular company to its employees, salary is a universal market indicator that correlates with supply and demand.

Which Programming Language Pays the Most?

Now let’s figure out what programming language can bring you the highest salary. The report from HackerRank about developer skills 2021 says that, once again, JavaScript is the language most widely known by engineers. In contrast, Go is the No. 1 language that most developers want to learn. Its popularity can be justified considering its creator, the tech giant Google, is the one that drives language adoption.

In general, developers tend to learn the most widely used technologies. When a developer can code in a popular programming language that is used in different software projects, finding a job won’t be a problem for them.

Learning popular languages is a great strategy for entry-level developers whose main aim is to start a career in IT. But in order to get salary raises, they should get unique and highly demanding skills, as companies tend to pay more for experts with rare technology experience.

Below I’m going to discuss what the best programming languages in terms of salary are, how much time spent on both learning and practicing you may need to know the language, and the expected salary for an entry-level developer.

Image source: Stack Overflow 

Perl is a high-level, general-purpose, dynamic programming language known for its string-parsing capabilities and native support of regular expressions. You need around a year at two hours per day to become proficient in Perl. In the United States, you can earn on average $130K per year with Perl, while globally, it brings developers around $76K annually.

Scala is also a general-purpose language that is principally targeting the Java Virtual Machine. Martin Odersky, who designed Scala, has a course on Coursera, which is seven weeks long, with a 5-7 hour workload. Scala developers get $140K per year in America and $76K worldwide.

Go (or Golang) is an open-source programming language that makes it easy to build simple, reliable, and efficient software. Go allows you to earn $140K per annum in the United States and $74K globally. You’ll learn the basics of Go in two weeks, but to become proficient in it, you need 3-6 months.

Ruby is a multi-platform dynamic object-oriented interpreter, an open-source language created by Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz) in 1995. You may need from two weeks up to two months to learn Ruby if you are already familiar with other languages. As a Ruby developer, you can earn $130K annually in the United States, while globally, the rate can be $71K per year.

Objective-C is a primary programming language you use when writing software for OS X and iOS. You can get the syntax and general overview of the language in 2-3 weeks. The expected salary of Objective-С developers in the U.S. is $123K per year.

Swift is a fast, safe, and expressive general-purpose programming language developed by Apple for its platforms and Linux. You need around three weeks to learn Swift. The average salary of a Swift developer globally is $125K in the United States and $54K globally.

R is a free, open-source programming language and software environment for bioinformatics, statistical computing, visualization, and general computing. It takes seven days to learn R programming, spending at least three hours per day. You can make $109K in America and $57K/year globally.

Prolog is the most commonly used logic programming language. It supports nondeterministic programming through pattern matching and chronological backtracking. You need 12 days to learn Prolog programming. The average salary of a Prolog developer in the U.S. is $102K/year.

C# (pronounced “see sharp”) is a statically typed, high-level, multi-paradigm programming language developed by Microsoft. C# code usually targets Microsoft’s .NET family. On average, a C# engineer earns $110K/year in the United States and $57K/year globally.

With all the data above, you can consider the time you want to spend on learning and the expected salary that you can get as an experienced developer in the future, and choose the path of learning.

What Frameworks Are Associated With Higher Salaries?

When developers become familiar with one or multiple programming languages, it’s time to upskill and learn different frameworks that are helpful in software development. Sometimes, engineers choose to learn the framework that is needed for their current or future projects. But you should also consider which are the most popular frameworks among developers and tech recruiters.

Globally, Backbone.js is associated with the highest pay. However, according to the HackerRank research, React is the framework that 32% of developers say they would like to learn next. AngularJS and Django are in the top three too.These are also the frameworks recruiters need the most.

highest paid software engineer jobsTherefore, with the knowledge of a popular programming language and one of these frameworks, you can already be in demand and get a higher salary than an entry-level engineer can get.

However, the association with higher pay partly depends on seniority. Let’s take as an example Backbone.js. While 7% of senior developers know this framework, only 2% of junior developers are skilled with it.

In the list below, you can find the stats of salary increase based on the developer’s knowledge of each framework. But you have to consider that as senior developers have higher salaries, it could elevate the average salary raise linked to the framework.

So let’s take a closer look at the popular frameworks and see how much you can earn by knowing each of them.

Backbone.js is a JavaScript framework that gives structure to web apps by providing models with key-value binding and custom events, views with declarative event handling, and collections with a rich API of enumerable functions, and connects it all to your existing API over a restful JSON interface.

If you are interested in learning this framework, you may only need 30 hours. According to HackerRank, by knowing Backbone.js, you can get a 48% of salary increase (with $54K/year global average salary). But remember that it depends on the developer’s seniority, as I explained above.

Cocoa is Apple’s application-development framework for macOS, including Foundation, Application Kit, and Core Data. This framework helps build macOS applications, so if you want to work as an iOS developer, you should consider learning it. You can learn this framework with the book Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X. Cocoa may bring you an approximately 36% salary increase.

Ruby on Rails is a server-side web application framework written in Ruby under the MIT License. It is good for rapid application development, saving development time, as programming is much faster than with other frameworks and languages. You will need 1-2 months to learn Ruby on Rails. If you have chosen Ruby as your programming language, the knowledge of this framework can increase your salary by 29.6%.

Spark is a simple, open-source, expressive Java/Kotlin web framework DSL built for rapid development. It’s an alternative to other Java web application frameworks such as JAX-RS, the Play framework, and Spring MVC. This framework would be useful for you if you want to work with data analytics. It can make your salary bigger by 29.4%. If you pick the self-learning method, you need 3-4 months to learn Spark.

The Struts framework is a free, open-source solution for creating Java web applications. You need just 30 days to learn Struts, and it would help you save a lot of time on web app development. You can increase your pay by 19.3% by learning this framework.

.NETCore is an open-source, free, managed computer software framework for Windows, Linux, and macOS operating systems. It is a cross-platform successor to .NET Framework developed by Microsoft employees. If you are going to work with .Net, it would be a great advantage for you to learn this framework. The learning process may take 2-3 months, but it is definitely worth it. You can expect a 10.7% salary increase with .NETCore.

React (also known as React.js or ReactJS) is an open-source JavaScript library developed by Facebook for building UIs. It uses a component-based, declarative paradigm and aims to be both efficient and flexible. It is recommended that you learn the basics of HTML and CSS at first. If you do that, then learning React will be easier and more convenient for your web projects.

The learning process to become skilled with React can take six months on average. You can make your salary bigger by 8.7% by knowing the React framework.

ASP (Active Server Pages) is Microsoft’s first scripting server-side language and engine for webpages that change by time or other conditions. You need around 2-3 months to learn the basics, but 1-2 years to become a Pro in ASP. But first and foremost, you need to learn C#. So, the ASP would be useful for you if you choose C# as your main programming language. Then, you can get a 7.4% salary increase with this framework.

Vue.js is a progressive JavaScript framework for building user interfaces. To learn JS, you need about two years of active studying. Moreover, to learn Vue, you’ll need one additional year. Vue.js is known to be used by startups but can be just as well used in large-scale applications. Knowing Vue.js allows you to get a 6.3% addition to your pay.

Angular.js is a JavaScript-based front-end, open-source web framework mainly maintained by Google to address many of the challenges encountered in developing one-page applications. Around 2-3 months of active learning is enough to know Angular.js. You can count on a 3.7% salary increase if you know Angular.js.

It’s Your Time To Become a Highly-Paid Software Engineer

As you see, the salary of a software engineer varies depending on many factors, including programming language, experience, the company, and the country you work in. Before choosing a programming language, consider your options based on the data I shared with you in this post.

highest paid software engineer jobsFirst of all, you should decide whether you are interested in creating and working with web development or building mobile applications. That will help you to choose your first steps.

Depending on the development area you want to work in, it would be easier for you to choose your first programming language. Assisted by this post, compare the main languages, estimate how much time you need to become an entry-level software engineer, and how much you can earn with each language.

However, don’t forget to analyze your local salary market and the companies you aim to apply for, as the numbers can be slightly different.

With all the information above, you can also choose other areas you can concentrate on and new frameworks you can learn and thus become a candidate in demand, expecting a higher salary.