Salary Surveys

Visual Studio Magazine's 2012 .NET Developer Salary Survey

Our first annual salary survey shows that developers aren't just surviving, but thriving.

When we set out late last year to do our first-ever salary survey, we weren't sure what we'd find. The global economy continues to limp along, and unemployment in the United States remains stagnant. Layoffs are still a very real possibility for many, and employers remain hesitant to hire with future uncertainty. That's why our results were so encouraging: The survey reflects numerous positive trends for software developers, from job security to bonuses to the future outlook to job satisfaction. Yes, it's a good time to be a developer.

We polled software development professionals who subscribe to Visual Studio Magazine and related eNewsletters (.NET Insight and Redmond Developer News) in November 2011. More than 1,300 subscribers who currently work in the United States participated in the survey and filled out the online questionnaire. The median base salary was $92,000. On average, VSM Salary Survey respondents were college graduates with a four-year degree or higher level of education and more than a decade of industry experience.

The single-biggest survey takeaway is that 59 percent of respondents reported higher salaries in the last 12 months. More than half of those surveyed received bonuses during the same time period. The average reported base salary was $92,754, not including bonuses and additional compensation. More than one-third (38 percent) of survey respondents said their current annual base salaries, not including bonuses, fell into the six-figure range ($100,000 or more).

Bucking the Trend
Despite the gloomy global outlook, many Microsoft software development professionals appear to be bucking the "back to the future" trend.

"Microsoft software development gives us a strong future in the sense that there is some security in it," says Rafique S., who has worked as a software engineer and application developer for almost a decade at a manufacturing company (non-computer-related) outside of Los Angeles, Calif. "There is always going to be a demand for that type of skill and that type of work -- it's a good skill set to have," he says. "Our company has been stable and we're still hiring more people. We haven't had freezes or significant reductions. It's a little bit more conservative and the compensation that we're seeing has been about average for the last three or four years." That includes slight increases in salary and "token" bonuses around the holidays, which are based on corporate profitability.

Long tenures with the same employer may have helped some people ride out the economic rollercoaster in the technology sector. More than 43 percent of VSM Salary Survey respondents have been with their current employers for a decade or more -- 22.8 percent of that group have worked for the same organization for more than 15 years.

Survey respondents who worked for an independent software vendor (14 percent) reported the highest average salary, at $106,435. Those who worked for consulting firms, training companies and systems integrators also fell into the six-figure range on average at $103,635, not including bonuses and additional compensation. The majority of survey respondents, however, worked for corporate IT/IS (43.9 percent), with an average base of $95,015. Those employed by state and federal government, the education sector and non-profits (22.7 percent) earned less, reporting $78,688 on average. Average salaries might more closely reflect urban pay scales (see Average Salary by Location) because 65 percent of survey respondents worked in cities (200,000 to 500,000 residents) and major metropolitan areas (more than 500,000 residents).

Despite some job movement -- 16.2 percent have been with their current employer for one year or less and 4.5 percent have been laid off in the last 12 months -- by and large Visual Studio and .NET developers have skirted some of the harsher realities felt by stagnant or depressed job markets. But not everyone: while 59 percent received higher salaries in the last 12 months, 8.3 percent reported making less, based on budget cuts. Some government employees told us they experienced "5 percent cuts across the board," and federal employees are under a salary freeze mandated by Congress.

Growing Opportunity
Senior .NET developer Charles F. joined a new employer in 2011, making what he describes as a lateral move after the politics at his former employer -- a not-for-profit hospital -- became untenable. Charles, who has degrees in computer science and health-care administration, found work through a headhunter in about four days. He switched jobs and joined a private health-care management company in Kansas City, Kan., where he received a salary increase and opportunity for bonuses. "They're very generous here," he says. "It's a privately owned company and the people have been here for years -- five years is the shortest tenure besides myself."

That's notable, according to Charles, because in his experience .NET developers tend to move around a lot. "My primary challenge was that I worked at the same place for eight years, which is kind of long for a .NET developer, so my recent experience was very narrow," he says. "I'm very good at what I've been doing and the way I've been doing it, and I wanted to make good use of that specific skill set, which was C# and Visual Basic .NET development, but luckily I was able to find that pretty easily."

A Best Jobs in America 2011 survey published by CNNMoney, which was based on data, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Money magazine research (published in its November 2011 issue), paints a fast-growth job market. CNNMoney listed "Software Developer" as No. 1 for "Best Jobs for Fast Growth" in 2011, with median pay of $82,400 for those working at least two to seven years and top pay of $118,000. Total software developer jobs in the United States were estimated at 380,000 with the potential for 10-year job growth of 32 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the CNNMoney report.

As job seekers sometimes find, however, "software developer" and related job titles don't always offer the best description of actual roles and their respective pay grades. Job descriptions for the same title can vary widely based on the employer and size of the organization, which is why we asked survey respondents to identify their primary role instead.

A little more than a quarter of those surveyed (27.4 percent) listed their primary job function as programming, software engineering or application development. Loosely translated, that describes the rank and file Visual Studio developer who is actually working with code. Not surprisingly, the coders ranked on the lower end of the pay scale in terms of average base salaries: programmer/analyst ($75,114) and software engineer/application developer ($85,165).

Average salaries jumped dramatically when "senior" status was achieved. Almost 20 percent of respondents said their primary role was senior software engineer/senior developer. This group reported a six-figure average base salary ($100,655).

Senior software engineers and developers earned more on average than team leaders and IT managers. The 6.5 percent who described their job as development manager/team lead earned $94,664 on average. The 9.4 percent of respondents who classified their primary function as IT management reported an average base salary of $98,975.

Only 4.2 percent of survey respondents categorized their role as database administrator/developer. However, 67.5 percent of 1,104 respondents reported a background -- they had worked on a project for at least six months -- in database development: 45.3 percent in database administration and 24.2 percent in data warehousing. The average base salary for database administrator/developer was $91,276.

Not surprisingly, VSM Salary Survey respondents who characterized their role as software architect (11.5 percent), which traditionally implies higher education and a lot more training, earned on average $116,119. Only 1.4 percent of those surveyed listed their primary role as Research and Development (R&D), although 27.4 percent claimed to have a background in R&D (in other words, worked on a project for at least six months). The average base salary of those who listed R&D as their primary job function was $113,171. Chief information officers accounted for 2 percent of respond¬ents and reported an average salary of $118,804.

Several people indicated that they wear too many hats to pick a primary job function. One Microsoft software professional worked as a system engineer and a Web/application developer, while another classified his job description as IT management, software development and DBA. "[I] hold several roles," commented another respondent: "LAN admin, network support and trainer, and database developer."

At the same time, 57.9 percent of survey respondents reported working standard hours -- between 40 and 45 hours per week -- for their employers.

Additional Compensation
Raises, bonuses and compensation packages -- including paid training (40.1 percent) -- are still the norm at many organizations, according to survey participants. Close to 70 percent (67.2) of those surveyed still received 401(k) retirement options with matching contributions, 50.1 percent reported paid medical/dental and 48.7 percent were eligible for paid life insurance. More than 90 percent received two weeks of paid vacation or more. Paid training and technical conferences, however, were at the top of list for compensation benefits that were cut in the last 12 months, according to survey respondents.

In the last 12 months, 10 percent of 1,022 respondents received increases in salary of $10,000 or more, 9.6 percent saw raises of $5,000 to $9,999, and 42.1 percent received $4,999 or less. Salary increases were generally based on cost-of-living raises, merit increases, profit distribution, job changes in the last year, incentives to stay at the company and tokens of good will.

Many people were cautiously optimistic about salary increases in the next 12 months, with 48.3 percent expecting raises of $4,999 or less, 9.9 percent expecting $5,000 to $9,999 and 7.1 percent anticipating $10,000 or more. About one-third (33.2 percent) expected no increase in base salary. This comment from a respondent summed it up: "There is a salary freeze and I do not anticipate any changes (which is fine with me ... I'm employed)."

Only 1.5 percent expected to see a decrease in salary. However, 5.1 percent indicated that they anticipated layoffs would affect their compensation in the coming year.

More than half of those surveyed (52.9 percent) indicated some involvement in the decisions related to their department's IT budget when it comes to spending -- and cuts. Of that group, 22.1 percent described their role as influential decision makers, and 8.1 percent said they make the final decision. Close to 70 percent indicated that their IT budgets in 2011 either increased (29.9 percent) or stayed the same (39 percent) compared to 2010. About a third (31.1 percent) faced budget cuts. Out of 932 respondents, 40.7 percent expected their company to hire additional software developers in the next 12 months.

Temp to Perm
Have organizations resorted to using more contract workers in this tough economic climate in the last 12 months? Approximately one-third (34.7 percent) of those surveyed said yes. Of this group, 3.6 percent said they had lost a job due to outsourcing. And 8.4 percent fear losing their jobs to outsourcing/contractors in 2012, while 88.6 percent indicated that their organizations' use of outsourcing/contractors would have no impact on their role. About 3 percent expected to find employment with an outsourcing provider.

Martin D. has worked on 10 projects in the last two years as a contractor through a Texas-based firm, earning in the $95,000 to $99,000 range without benefits. In the last few years, a number of projects were killed based on budget restrictions while others were put on hold (until 2012) because they were waiting to get funding.

He recently filed a software patent application for a mobile company in the Boston area, which as a full-time hire would have resulted in a bonus, he says; as a contractor, he didn't qualify for additional compensation. A generalist who has 30 years of development experience and "done everything from soup to nuts," Martin says he has worked in Visual C#, Visual C++, Mono, Eclipse and to a limited extent Xcode. He's actively looking for full-time work and expects the job outlook to pick up in 2012. "I see a lot more things coming available; a lot more headhunters are getting in touch with me," says Martin, who worries that his lack of management experience could limit his earning potential. "One thing that I have avoided is management, which kind of puts a ceiling at a lot of places," he says.

Career Satisfaction and 5-Year Outlook
Fewer than 5 percent of survey respondents were laid off in the last 12 months. That stat may be misleading, though, as people without gainful employment are generally not filling out salary surveys. Of the survey respondents who were laid off and rehired, 54.6 percent said they found a new job in one month or less, and 89.4 percent found employment in four to six months or less.

More than three-quarters (77.4 percent) of respondents reported general satisfaction with the Microsoft development profession. Of that group, 30.3 percent love it and wouldn't want to do anything else. Almost 20 percent (19.8) said they were neutral and happy to be working, but they'd rather do something else (see "Visual Studio and .NET: 5-Year Outlook"). Despite adequate compensation, Rafique S. says that he feels neutral about his in-house development job because it's somewhat limiting and doesn't take full advantage of his experience and capabilities.

What technologies did respondents rate highest for job security and retention? Visual Studio and .NET ranked first (84.9 percent), followed by SQL Server (71.1 percent), ASP.NET (55.4 percent) and HTML/JavaScript (48.6 percent). Windows and SharePoint were virtually tied with 34.4 percent and 33.4 percent respectively, followed by Office (28 percent), Windows Azure/SQL Azure (11.7 percent) and Silverlight for Windows Phone (9.2 percent). Several people cited general mobile and cloud development as keys to job security.

"Basically, keeping up on technology is the best thing," says Martin D. "Being able to pick things up quickly is also very useful. When I started at a company a few years ago, I didn't know Java but I said I could learn it and they said, 'We would be happy to do that.'"

One survey respondent thought more-specialized technologies was the best strategy for job retention. ".NET is no longer considered to be a specialized technology since the majority of the people work with this technology and it's easy to find a replacement," he commented.

Another survey respondent stressed broad skillsets and flexibility: "Adaptation -- being able to do every IT job." Several people felt that there was no such thing as job security. "None -- everything is subject to cost cutting and layoffs," lamented one survey respondent. "Nothing can be counted on at my company," noted another.

In terms of top job functions for security and retention, database administrator/developer ranked highest (46.5 percent), followed by senior engineer/senior software developer (43.5 percent) and software architect (43 percent). Software engineer/application developer (39.3 percent) and programmer/analyst (38.9 percent) were also viewed as good bets, followed by software designer (33.6 percent) and Web services architect/developer (33.3 percent) and mobile developer (25.6 percent).

How Does Your Salary Rank?
Most people assume that their industry peers are better compensated, and that trend holds true for roughly half of the software development professionals who participated in our survey. Only 20.8 percent believed that their salary or gross compensation was higher compared to others in the same field; 45.6 percent thought they earned less, and 33.5 percent saw their salaries as comparable to their peers.

Although the majority of those surveyed (77.4 percent) are generally satisfied with Microsoft development as a career choice, 13.2 percent anticipate their compensation will change in the next 12 months because they plan to switch employers. Even so, the outlook for 2012 is generally positive, with 59.9 percent expecting salary increases and 50.2 percent anticipating bonuses this year.

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Reader Comments:

Sat, Jun 9, 2012 DotNetSharepoint California

If you have development experience in both ASP.NET and SharePoint 2010 plus Microsoft certifications and college degree and 10 yrs+ experience (like I am), you should be doing contracting. It's more fun and challenging.

Tue, May 29, 2012 Jonny Frank Florida

As an independent contractor you should be pushing $100/hr for .NET Skills. That being said, you have to be top notch, keep your skills up to-date, read, read and read more. Plus - no such thing as a 40 hour work week. Just saying..

Thu, May 24, 2012 Rob Gray Australia

That sounds about right for Australia too. I recently left a permanent Senior .NET Developer position in the private sector that paid $110K + benefits (super) for a permanent government job paying $98,000 including benefits (super) but with a guaranteed 36.25hr/wk work week (so a better work/life balance). The contract rate in AU is between $80 and $100 per hour for 6 to 12 month contracts. I've got 13 years experience and a 4 year undergrad degree + 2 year postgrad degree.

Fri, May 18, 2012 ML Tampa Bay, FL

I find this survey to be accurate. I live in an area of the US that does not bear the highest in term of salary rate and (Tampa Bay, FL). I find that here these numbers are bang on.(Salaried .NET senior employees in the 90s and contractors around the 100-110k level). If you are patient and are always looking, you can push it a little higher with a company that wants good knowledgeable people; for them the money is usually not a concern. To rated architect friend is being offered around $85/hr now. (May 2012) Not bad for this area. Aside from salary, I found the best way to boost my net residual income was by living modest. I drive a small car (Corolla) and moved to a townhome with low hoa fees, no mortgage. These two are by far the best differential I made this year. Most of my income now goes to savings. So my point is, Salary is not the only thing to consider. Location (cost of living), and lifestyle can make a huge difference in your total income story. Enjoy life, make a difference, Love the one you care about. Good luck everyone.

Fri, May 11, 2012 Patman Abroad

Or, we could look at something more independent, such as Note that the Microsoft salaries fit this survey, but no others. Perhaps most readers are MS employees.

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 Clint Ohio

I would like to see some comparisons of salary and average hours worked per week. I expect some of the higher salaries are attached to a longer work week.

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 Jonjo Boston

Those who are making less is because you have not learned anything new or are in a government position. In the Tech field you have to be just like a virus. You have to go in to the company consume all the resources (learn as much as you can) and spread or move to another host. When you move, you have mutated into something stronger, and much more valuable. Stick to contracting for 3 to 5 years and I guarantee that in 6th year you will have more knowledge of new system than you will ever be with the same company for 15years. I came to Boston from Florida making a mere 50k, I have only been here 1 year and I am already making over 95k with three separate contract position. By this time next year I should be way over 6 figures. Learn something new, and a degree will only get you in the interview room, experience will get you the job.

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 Ovidiu

In Romania, as a .NET developer with 2 years experience, I have 500uro/month.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 Paulo B Brasil

Here in Brazil working with C++/C the salary is about US$30K per year And with NET is about US$25K

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 George Athens, Greece

Sadly none of these apply in Greece any more. I was making 3k € per month before all this. After an 8 month unemployment period I am down to 1.2k€. And I should be happy that I actually have a job. More than 50% of 20-25 year olds are unemployed and in my age range (30-40) the figure is close to 20%.

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 zuhaib Home

I rtead the coures IT

Mon, Mar 5, 2012

This is all very interesting but you're not taking into consideration the cost of living, etc. If I can double my salary to say 120K and have to move, I will currently take a loss on my existing home then increase my cost of living buying another. With the increase in salary and home cost everything goes up i.e. taxes, mortgage payments, etc. If you start chasing the bigger salary be sure to do the math. Also look at your long term benefits. Striking out on your own is expensive and it's all on your shoulders. Independence is a good thing but you do pay for it. You'll need $150K + per yr. to afford health insurance, taxes, SS/Medicare and so on. Don't forget you'll need to save for retirement, rainy days etc. I'm currently working for 25% less than my all-time high salary but the reduction in taxes and current benefits only have me down $100 every 2 weeks. ALWAYS DO THE MATH! Don't get me wrong - if you can score a great paying job then go for it. If you're in a jam and can't justify moving don't turn your nose up to good work. Just my 2 cents.

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 TX

I’ve been contracting off and on since 1994. I have gone perm for a few years at a time throughout my career. You should be making at least 120K as a senior contractor. You should be making at least 90K as a permanent senior employee. If you are making less, in almost any venue, your company is taking advantage of you -- they know it. Demand a raise or find another job – there are PLENTY out there. If your employer counters your demand by threatening to outsource your position then, be cool -- wish them the best of luck and walk -- right away. You’ll probably get your raise. Note, by 2015, it will no longer be profitable to outsource American programmer jobs.

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 Montgomery, AL

Montgomery, AL, USA: I had a Windows .NET 2.0 WinForms consulting/ programming work-from-home job from 2008-2011 making $126k/yr gross. Formed my own S-Corp and worked strictly on a 1099 basis. Due to a company paradigm shift to web-based with Unix/Mac/Java/open source tools, I sadly lost that position and went to work for a govt contractor in a military environment for $70k/yr. I think the first position paid ridiculously well, and the current job pays a bit poorly for this area (but then I'm just starting out). It's certainly true that location, location, location matters a lot, but also consider the work environment and project funding.

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 Mangesh Pune, India

Salary for .net developer is around 30,000 per month for 1-2 years of Exp.

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 Bhaiya Singh Pune, India

This is not about salary of .Net Developers but I can say in IT industry there is no defined standard for salary it depends on domain, skils and year of experience.

Tue, Feb 21, 2012 JJ Phoenix, AZ

I was working in MA for several years and made $88K. Recently moved to Phoenix, AZ and struggled to get $77. I have a Master's Degree, 15+ years of development experience and I'm a former military officer.

Tue, Feb 21, 2012 Jim Wisconsin

Perhaps this really means that developers who read Visual Studio Magazine (and respond to salary surveys) earn significantly more that .NET developers who do not (as Putman - Austin suggests).

Mon, Feb 20, 2012 Masood H. Virk Jeddah - Saudi Arabia

i working in a construction company as Software Engineer and my annual salary is about 25000/Year.

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 Cant Say London

I am a contract .NET developer in London working for the investment banking industry, and I earn £675/day which is about $1041 per day - so salary / rate depends on your market sector

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 GrandLarsene Florida

I live in Florida and I work for the State. I'm a pretty good .NET programmer, I would say. But I only make $53k per year. fml

Thu, Jan 5, 2012

My current rate in DC Metro is $138/hr. Works out to a raw $260K/yr. I have to buy my own "benifits" and health insurance is a pain, but you can buy alot of health insurance. The only way to make this kind of rate is be very productive, have specialized knowledge, and be on your own. Remember, whatever your salary, the company assumes you cost them two-times as much. Divide by 2000 and you have a rate to start with. Sure you trade "security" for the rate, but having been laid off numerous times in the late 80's and early 90's, I do not beleive in "job security". For those of you already on your own, push your rates higher!!! I found it interesting that people are not worried about foreign contractors taking jobs and lowering rates. H1-B workers are basically indentured servants and work for $40/hr, if that. That lowers everybodies rate.

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 Rod New Mexico

$92.7K per year is the average salary? Really, because I'm making a lot less than that, and I've been in my current position 15 years. I've got to wonder what's wrong; why I'm so far off the mark.

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 putman Austin

Those people that are reading this survey are likely readers of the magazine, as well... so I imagine that the results would generally be very appropriate for that reader as well.

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 putman Austin

Those people that are reading this survey are likely readers of the magazine, as well... so I imagine that the results would generally be very appropriate for that reader as well.

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 Keith Ward

Jack, that's an excellent point. I've seen reporting on this survey that says "Developers earn $92,000", but that's misleading. This is a snapshot of this particular readership. -- Keith Ward, editor in chief

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 Jack Virginia

It's important to note that the survey participants were all subscribers of Visual Studio Magazine or a related newsletter. That probably means that they have a higher than average interest in .NET and likely an above average skill set. We'd expect, then, that the salary numbers would be skewed upward.

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 Rupen

The link to CNNMoney report is not working.

Tue, Jan 3, 2012 John Virginia

Surveys can be turned a lot of different ways it all depends on how they interpriet the numbers, so I would take this with a grain of salt. V/r John (Survey-101)

Mon, Jan 2, 2012 annzyoung ny

Expand your mind and expand your knowledge. There are still jobs out there. Go after a degree in the field of your choice and on demand. Find your field at High Speed Universities websites to know which are on demand and suitable for you.

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