Software engineers design, construct and maintain both software and systems based on the needs of computer and mobile phone users. They code the software, which tells the computer — or application — how to work. Most engineers and developers start out with a college degree, typically in a related field such as computer science or software engineering. While many companies look for software engineers and developers with some computer experience, larger firms will hire graduates right out of college. But the starting salary for new hires isn’t as meager as you might think.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that software developers earned an average of $100,000 per year in 2011. This figure, however, accounts for both developers and engineers, regardless of experience or skills. For 2012, starting salaries for a software engineer ranged from $78,000 to $120,000, predicts Robert Half Technology, one of the leading providers of IT professionals. This is a 6.6 percent increase over last year.
Software engineers with desirable skills often can earn more money. ASP development skills, which deal with active server pages, typically make 4 percent more, bringing the starting range up to $81,000 to $125,000. Java development skills, PHP development skills, .Net development skills and Web service development skills also help to increase starting salaries by as much as 6 percent to 8 percent for each.
Besides development skills, location affects salary. Software engineers in San Jose, California, for example, earn 33 percent more than the national average for all software engineers. Those in Boulder, Colorado, also fare better than most, bringing in 13 percent more than average. Software engineers in Minneapolis, Minnesota make just over 5 percent more than average. Those in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, however, earn 6 percent less than the national average.
Employment growth for software developers is expected to reach 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much faster than the national average for all occupations, which is projected at 14 percent. The growth in employment is largely due to the need for more computer software and applications for handheld devices.