Salary Surveys

2013 .NET Developer Salary Survey

Our second annual salary survey indicates that experience pays off for Microsoft software professionals.

When we conducted our first Salary Survey in November 2011, the results were encouraging. Our data indicated that software development in Visual Studio offered great pay, reasonable perks and fairly high career satisfaction despite an uncer­tain economy that showed only muted signs of recovery. This year's survey, which took place in mid-November, showed similar results.

The economy hasn't improved, and momentous changes are roiling the technology industry as consumers embrace tablets and mobile devices. The release of Windows 8 in late October didn't have an immediate positive impact, and available hardware from fewer manufacturers than first announced threatened the holiday selling season. Still, in the wake of the challenges facing Redmond, .NET software development remains one of the best careers in 2013, according to our polling and other surveys.

We polled software development professionals who subscribe to Visual Studio Magazine and related eNewsletters. More than 1,000 U.S.-based developers participated in the survey and filled out the online questionnaire.

Similar to last year's findings, almost three-quarters (73 percent) of VSM Salary Survey respondents are college graduates with a four-year degree or higher level of education. The majority of respondents are software veterans; 70 percent have worked in application development or programming for at least a decade, with 49.3 percent logging 15 years or more. More than 96 percent of respondents are at least 30 years old.

Survey respondents also report lengthy careers working with Microsoft technologies, although many are involved in cross-platform development, according to our findings. Indeed, 78.5 percent of those surveyed have held a job that involves working with Microsoft products and technologies for a decade or more. On average, survey respondents have worked for 12.5 years with the Microsoft technology stack. Only 10.6 percent have developed software using Microsoft products and technologies for five years or less.

What's Changed in a Year
The average base salary in the November 2012 survey is $94,381, not including bonuses and additional compensation. That's a bit higher than the average salary ($92,754) reported in November 2011. Male respondents, who account for 86.6 percent of those surveyed in 2012, report a higher base salary on average -- $96,079 -- than females ($85,035).

Half of the reported salaries in 2012 fall below $90,000, down from the $92,000 median salary derived from our November 2011 survey results. The median salary for respondents working with Microsoft products and technologies that have five years or less of experience is $76,000. Software development professionals with 10 or more years under their belts earn a median salary of $92,700. The national median for software developers in the United States in December, according to self-reported data from, was $75,000.

About one-third (33.8 percent) of VSM survey respondents say their annual base salaries, not including bonuses, fall into the six-figure range ($100,000 or more). Almost 7 percent (6.9 percent) report base salaries of $150,000 or more. On the other end of the scale, 10.3 percent indicate annual base salaries of $54,999 or less.

The biggest takeaway in our first annual salary survey was that 59 percent of respondents reported higher salaries in the last 12 months. For 2012, that number remains fairly steady at 60.3 percent. This could be interpreted as good news that higher wages have continued for the majority of survey respondents despite uncertainty in the economic climate and a looming fiscal cliff (at the time of the survey) that may have caused some companies to reduce capital spending. The rise in pay is expected to continue -- 62.8 percent of those surveyed predict their base salaries will increase in the next 12 months.

The news wasn't all good, however. Almost 30 percent (29.7 percent) of those surveyed saw no change in their average base salaries in 2012, and roughly 10 percent (9.7 percent) indicated a salary decrease compared to the previous year.

As our November 2011 survey clearly showed -- the results of which were published in January 2012 -- the type of organization that developers work for influences average base salaries. Those findings were verified in the most-recent poll. Survey respondents who work for an independent software vendor (11.2 percent) report the highest average salary, at $103,553. Those who work for consulting firms, training companies and systems integrators (17.5 percent) also fall into the six-figure range on average, with a comparable $103,216, not including bonuses and additional compensation. The majority of survey respondents, however, work for corporate IT/IS (43.3 percent), with an average base salary of $93,422. Those employed by state and federal government, the education sector and nonprofits (17.9 percent) earn less, reporting $78,685 on average.

In addition to the type of organization, compensation ranges are affected by industry, location, and company size and annual revenue. About one-quarter of VSM survey respondents work in organizations with $10 million or less in annual revenues. Another 21 percent are employed by billion-dollar companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more. The rest fall somewhere in between (see the chart, "Where You Work Based on Business Income").

The average salaries presented here more accurately reflect urban pay scales; some 22.5 percent of survey respondents work in cities (200,000 to 500,000 residents), and 41.7 percent are based in major metropolitan areas (more than 500,000 residents).

Our survey data also indicates a direct correlation between hours worked and higher base salaries. The 29 percent of survey respondents who estimate that they work 30 to 40 hours per week have an average base salary of $87,600. Another 29 percent, who say they work 41 to 45 hours per week, have an average base salary of $90,212. The 40 percent of respondents who work 46 hours or more per week move into the six-figure range. The top 4.8 percent, who clock 61 hours or more during an average workweek, have an average base salary of $111,238.

Moonlighting isn't a huge source of income for the majority of our survey respondents; only 9.6 percent earn $10,000 or more outside their primary employment. Close to 70 percent (67.7) report no dollar compensation for work outside of their primary employment. Of the rest, 6.4 percent earn up to $1,000; another 10 percent earn $1,000 to $4,999; and 6.3 percent fall in the range of $5,000 to $9,999.

Job titles don't always offer an accurate description of what a role entails, but after our second annual survey, we're seeing clear correlations between job titles and compensation. Like last year, a little more than one-quarter of those surveyed (25.7 percent) list their primary job function as programming, software engineering or appli­cation development. The programmer/analysts report an average base salary of $74,682, and software engineer/application developers earn more on average, with a base salary of $86,868. Salaries move into the six-figure range when senior status is achieved; the 15.6 percent of respondents who say their primary role is senior software engineer/senior developer have an average base salary of $102,030.

Another finding from our 2012 survey: senior software engineers and developers earn more on average than team leaders and IT managers. The 5.6 percent who describe their job as development manager/team lead earn $95,579 on average. The 12.8 percent of respondents who classify their primary function as IT management report an average base salary of $97,458.

The anomaly is the drop in salary for the 4.2 percent who categorize their role as database administrator/developer. The average base salary for database administrator/developer is $80,213 in 2012, compared to $91,276 in 2011.

VSM Salary Survey respondents who characterize their primary role as software architect (11.5 percent) earn on average $118,971. In our 2011 survey CIOs accounted for 2 percent of respondents (2.5), with a reported average salary of $109,117. In our 2012 survey, CIOs represent 2.1 percent of respondents, with an average base salary of $118,804. Job titles that had so few takers that we couldn't analyze the salary data include UI/UX specialist, mobile developer and game developer.

More Money
As we noted last year, by and large it's a good time to be a developer. Average base salaries for Visual Studio-focused developers in the $90,000 range -- including increases for 60 percent of respondents -- were encouraging.

Well more than half of our survey respondents (60.3 percent) received salary increases in the last 12 months. Almost one-quarter of those respondents (23.5 percent) report asking for more money. More than 10 percent (15.3 percent) were offered a salary hike as an incentive to remain with their employers. The majority of salary increases were less than $10,000, however. Only 10 percent (9.7 percent) received salary increases of $10,000 or more, with 3 percent (2.6 percent) reporting raises of $20,000 or more. And 20 percent (20.2 percent) received increases of $1,999 or less. Not surprisingly, 6.4 percent of respondents whose salary decreased over the last 12 months indicate that their base pay was cut as a result of budget reductions.

In spite of the relatively high paychecks, many developers still believe that they lag behind their peers when it comes to salary. Almost half (49.3 percent) think they have lower gross earnings than others in the same field, and 34.9 percent believe wages are about the same.

About 15.9 percent of respondents feel they have higher salaries than their peers. Of those who indicate higher salaries, roughly 10 percent (9.6) believe the higher wages are likely linked to certification titles. The uncertainty -- or pessimism -- has increased slightly when comparing this data with the responses in our 2011 survey. In that poll, one-fifth of respondents (20.8 percent) percent believed that their salaries or gross earnings were higher compared to others in the same field; 45.6 percent thought they earned less; and 33.5 percent viewed their wages as comparable to their fellow developers.

Additional Compensation
Developers' monetary compensation packages often extend beyond base salaries. More than half of those surveyed (52.7 percent) received bonuses during the last 12 months, up from 48.8 percent in our 2011 findings. About 19 percent of the bonuses are estimated in the $1,000 to $4,999 range. Roughly 11 percent fall into the $5,000 to $9,999 range, and 13 percent of respondents earned bonuses of $10,000 or more.

How are those bonuses calculated? Roughly one-third of survey respondents indicate that their monetary bonuses are the result of a combination of factors, typically company profitability and personal performance. However, 28.2 percent of the bonuses are based on company profitability only -- up from 23.6 percent in 2011. And 14.3 percent are based strictly on personal performance. Other ways bonuses are calculated, according to respondents, include years of service, project overtime, one week's salary, attendance, Christmas bonuses, company politics and even "whims." Local, state and federal government employees rely on their respective committees and legislative bodies for bonuses and wage increases. "Local government typically feels IT makes more than it should," gripes one respondent.

While raises and bonuses remained steady year-over-year for the majority of developers, according to our findings, the benefits offered by primary employers show a downward trend. Retirement programs appear to have tightened up, with 65 percent of companies offering 401(k) programs in 2012 compared to 67.2 percent in 2011. Similarly, 15.8 percent of employers offer 401(k) benefits without company contribution, down from 17.5 percent in last year's survey. College education reimbursement also appears to have dropped, with 33.2 percent reporting it as a benefit in 2012 compared to 36.2 percent the previous year. However, 13.1 percent of respondents report profit sharing in November 2012, compared with 10.7 percent the previous year. Stock options (8.7 percent) and stock purchase programs (14.1 percent) also show an upward trend.

Medical and dental benefits remain largely unchanged. Half of the survey respondents (50.5 percent) receive medical and dental benefits, compared with 51.8 percent in 2011.

About 70 percent (69.6 percent) of survey respondents indicate they're eligible for three weeks or more of paid vacation in 2012 and close to that number (65.9 percent) plan to use 75 percent or more of their paid vacation.

Hiring Trends
The majority of VSM Salary Survey respondents have been developing with Microsoft products and technologies for more than 10 years. And a large percentage have remained with the same employer: 42.9 percent indicate primary employment with their current organizations for a decade or more, and 23.8 percent of that group have been working for the same organization for more than 15 years.

About 16 percent (15.7 percent) of those surveyed expect to change employers in the next 12 months. If you're planning to switch jobs, the 2012 survey indicates some positive trends. Almost 40 percent (38.7 percent) of survey respondents indicate that their primary employers expect to hire developers in the next 12 months. About 60 percent (58.4 percent) of survey respondents have some role in managing their organization's IT budget. Of that group, 26.3 percent are influential decision makers, and 11.6 percent make the final decisions. IT budgets also remained steady. According to survey respondents, 43.5 percent of IT budgets remained the same year-over-year, 29.3 percent increased and 27.2 percent faced cuts.

At the same time, 31.9 percent of respondents indicate that their primary employers are using more contractors in place of full-time hires. Most people aren't worried, however; 86.5 percent expect outsourcing and contractors to have no impact on their jobs in 2013. Indeed, job security doesn't appear to be an issue for the majority of respondents. Only 4.3 percent have been laid off in the last 12 months, although 7.7 percent anticipate losing their jobs to outsourcing or contractors in the next year.

Five-Year Outlook
Almost 90 percent of respondents indicate that they anticipate working in Visual Studio and .NET development in five years. Last year's survey produced similar results (89.7 percent). Career satisfaction with the Microsoft development profession remains high among those surveyed -- 26.1 percent say they wouldn't do anything else, and 50.9 percent are generally satisfied with their careers. The other 20.3 percent of respondents are largely neutral about their career, but just 2.7 percent are unfulfilled or wish they were doing something else.

Concerns about the future of .NET development weren't really raised by survey respondents this year. Compared to other industries, software development in Visual Studio offers opportunities for continued financial gain and career satisfaction. Optimism for the future remains bright: 62.8 percent of survey respondents expect their salaries to increase this year, and 34.2 percent expect them to stay the same. Just 3 percent think they'll make less in 2013.

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