What Type of Software Engineer Gets Paid the Most?
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Software developers are so highly regarded that they took the #1 spot in the top 100 jobs in the U.S. News Best Jobs rankings. It’s no secret that software engineers are in high demand and highly paid. The average software engineer salary is higher than the industry average for many other industries. The more years of experience an engineer has, the higher they’re paid—managers, directors, and leaders in software engineering earn in multiple six figures.
But not all software engineering careers are the same. There are various specialist fields within software development, each with its own set of rules and standards. The salary range for software engineers varies across these related fields. The average base salary of an entry-level full-stack developer will not be the same as that of a senior software engineer or front-end developer with years of experience (and stock options).
How successful a software engineer is or how much money they make is also a function of which field they are in, their range of tech skills, knowledge of various programming languages, engineering degrees, and what type of work they do. It also matters where you live: software engineers in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, and Seattle are likely to earn more than those working in other parts of the United States.
Software engineers don’t all make the same amount of money. Learn about the different types of software engineers and how much they get paid here. We’ll also explore some of the most sought-after software engineering roles with the highest salaries.
The demand for engineers in augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) went up by 1400% in 2020, according to Hired. It shouldn’t come as a surprise given AR/VR is seen as the next level of digital technology. From retail to education, businesses are exploring AR/VR for growth.
Because the demand for this field is high and there is a low talent supply, salaries for AR/VR software engineers tend to be industry-leading. AR/VR engineers are paid in the range of $120,000 to $200,000, with a median salary of $165,000.
NLP and Machine Learning Engineers
LinkedIn found in 2018 that machine learning engineers are among the highest paid, with great demand and not as much talent supply. This has not changed much in 2020, as machine learning is still one of the most sought after skills in software engineering—Payscale reports that machine learning and natural language programming (NLP) skills both have a direct positive impact on salary.
Machine learning engineers earn $138,000 per year, with the range going up to $250,000 based on experience. Deep learning, computer vision, and natural language processing (NLP) skills command a higher pay than the national average.
Big Data Engineers
The rise of big data and the ability of data science to glean insights has made big data engineers highly sought after. This makes them among the best paid too. According to Robert Half, the median national salary for big data engineers is $163,000. However, more experienced data engineers can earn up to $222,000.
As the world grows to be more and more digital, cybersecurity is becoming an important and highly-valued function. In addition to being sought after by tech companies, cybersecurity is also a priority across industries like banking, financial services, healthcare, and so on. The demand for cybersecurity engineers has grown by 49% in 2020. The average salary for security engineers has also gone up by 5% in 2020, reaching $163,000.
With an average salary of $161,000 and a spike of 11% in job demand, gaming engineers are here to play.
Embedded and Application Engineers
According to LinkedIn, embedded and application engineers are the highest-paid after machine learning and data engineers, although the demand for them is low—as is the supply. But that does not mean they don’t have a place in this list: the average salary for embedded engineers is still quite an impressive figure at $155,000.
Mobile engineers make up for the second largest talent pool among software engineers and have been steadily rising. Across Android and iOS platforms, there is a huge demand for full-stack engineers in mobile application development.
Mobile engineers earn $146,000 on average.
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Site Reliability Engineers
Google is the birthplace of this discipline, which turned out to be so crucial that other companies like Netflix and Amazon were quick to adopt it. Ben Traynor, VP of Google and the founder of Google Site Reliability Engineering (SRE), clearly sums up the function and its importance: “SRE team is responsible for availability, latency, performance, efficiency, change management, monitoring, emergency response, and capacity planning.” In short, these engineers take care of operations and systems administration using software engineering principles.
Salary-wise, they rank high at $140,000.
Front-end engineers make up for the biggest talent pool among all software engineers. In fact, their population is more than double the second-biggest specialty (mobile). Since the numbers of front-end engineers are only rising, the demand for them seems comparatively lower.
They earn a pretty steep $110,000 on average.
What type of software engineer gets paid the most?
On average, AR/VR software engineers are paid the most in the United States, closely followed by big data engineers and cybersecurity engineers. However, it’s important to note that these are indicative figures only. For instance, a front-end engineer at a premier product might be earning far more than all these three kinds.
While choosing a field to specialize in, it’s also important to pick one that’s right for you based on your interests, skills, and strengths.
Related Read: What Do Software Engineers Earn?
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