Programming, or coding, has been a financially rewarding career path for a long time, a trend that shows no signs of changing anytime soon.
However, not all coders are created equal.
On the low end, you can go through a few-week or few-month coding program. On the higher end, you can get a 4-year college degree, which generally commands higher salaries. This includes Computer Science (CS), Computer Engineering (CE), and Software Engineering (SWE).
In the following, we’ll concentrate on those.
Nationally, What Does a Coder with a College Degree Earn?
According to Glassdoor, Computer Engineers are at the low end of the scale, making an average of just $89,256. Next up are Computer Scientists, at an average salary of $106,012. A bit higher are Software Engineers, with an average salary of $108,249.
However, compensation varies wildly by employer or even by region.
For example, Levels.FYI shows the total compensation of Software Engineers at Google starts at $198k (of which $138k is base), and goes up to over $1 million (of which $331k is base).
Where Are Software Engineer Salaries Best, and Where Are They Worst?
According to Hack Reactor, the median income for Software Engineers hits 6 figures in most states. When scaling by states’ relative cost of living, your 5 best options are:
On the opposite end, your 5 worst options are:
What Are the Best Metro and Non-Metro Areas for Software Engineers?
Drilling down deeper, your 3 best metro area options are:
As you can see, Battle Creek, MI beats out all statewide averages by a good margin; while the other two options beat all but the top two states.
And if city living isn’t your style, your 3 top choices are:
Interestingly, all three of these options beat out all statewide averages, and all but the single top metro area (which still comes in behind the top non-metro area).
Which States Are Best for Computer Science Salaries?
The best state for Computer Scientists, according to Indeed, is South Dakota, where pay is 28% higher than the national average. With a cost of living index of 97.0, the adjusted rate is 31% higher than the national average, which should work out to about $140,000.
In second place is Georgia, with 8% higher pay and a cost of living 10.6% below the national average, for an adjusted pay that’s about 21% above the national average, scaling to about $128,000.
Third is Virgina, with pay about 7% above the national average. With a cost of living about 1.6% higher than average, the adjusted pay is about 5% higher than average, or about $111,600.
The Bottom Line
While this is hardly a definitive study, it’s does show that coder incomes vary widely from state to state and even inside states.
If you’re willing and able to move, you can pick and choose where to look for a job. This could be crucial, as the cost-of-living-adjusted average coder salary in the best location (West Central/Southwest NH) is 3-fold higher than in the worst (Hawaii)!
When comparing offers from different locations, consider the local cost of living to see how easily you’ll be able to afford living there, and how much of your admittedly high income will be left over.
Given the widespread acceptance of remote work these days, your financially ideal solution is to accept a position with a company that pays well, but work remotely from a low-cost locale. However, note that some employers pay differently if you commute to the office vs. working remotely from a different city or state.
This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial, business, or legal advice. You should consult a relevant professional before making any major decisions.