The short answer? On average, backend developers make either $82,462, $95,472, or $104,865 per year in base pay depending on who you ask. (I asked Glassdoor, Indeed, and Salary.com respectively.) StackOverflow uses medians instead, and their survey suggests the backend developers actually make upwards of $150,000 per year.
That said, none of those numbers is the full answer. If it were, I wouldn’t be writing this entire post. If you want to know how much backend developers make, those numbers don’t paint the full picture. First of all, not only is there a $70k discrepancy between some of these numbers, but even if they were all the same number, they’re averages and medians. How much backend engineers earn depends on so many things! things like:
- Where they live
- Who they work for
- What skills they have
- How good they are at negotiating and interviewing
Before we dive into a more comprehensive answer, I want to quickly discuss what backend developers are. Backend developers are programmers that build and maintain the systems that store, process, and secure the data used by websites and apps. (In contrast, front-end developers control what you see and interact with on a browser or app)
Now let’s get into figuring out how much backend developers earn.
🔗 Are backend developers in demand?
In short, yes. Backend developers have a high salary (whether it’s $80k or $150k!), solid career prospects, and unshakeable job security because backend developers are in very high demand by very well-funded companies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics unhelpfully groups web developers and digital designers together, but still estimates that for that group, the job outlook for the next decade is set to grow by 23% – much higher than the average job (which is around 5%).
If I search “back end developer” jobs on LinkedIn, I currently see 48,000+ job openings.
This demand leads to a high salary. It’s worth getting the job.
🔗 What do you need to become a backend developer?
There are six basic concepts you should know pretty thoroughly if you want to get a job as a backend developer. Looking at how much backend developers make, it’s not an impossible task. Even if you’re a total beginner, we expect you can learn enough about back-end development to get a job in nine months to two years.
Here’s what you should know:
- Coding basics in Python, Go, or another back-end language
- Data structures and algorithms
- The basics of the web, like HTTP
- Simple web servers
- Database fundamentals - SQL or NoSQL
- How to deploy to the internet
The easiest, cheapest, most fun and most effective way to learn those six fundamentals is by taking our backend development course. You can also opt to learn backend development by running through these six back-end projects.
🔗 How much does a backend developer earn?
Let’s look at a couple of different factors: where you live, what certifications you have, what skills you have, and how good you are in job interviews.
🔗 Best cities for backend developer pay
It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that the highest salaries are in California, Massachusetts, and Washington. But before you uproot your life to chase a high backend developer salary, you should look at the cost of living, too.
Here’s a handy chart showing you the takeaways:
I looked at the average salary for a backend developer, the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment, the tax rate, and the cost of living in each of the top nine cities.
🔗 The most in-demand skills and certifications
Another important factor in how much backend developers earn is the skills they have. Indeed has a great tool showing the skills that are most often listed in conjunction with a high backend developer salary. Here’s the information you need:
Source: Best Pay for Backend Developers
It’s important to keep in mind that Indeed’s chart is not flawless. For example, gas chromatography is the skill that boosts your backend developer pay the most (67.5%!)… but before you decide to take a course in it, know that it’s “the process of separating compounds in a mixture by injecting a gaseous or liquid sample into a mobile phase” (thanks Wikipedia) and only three jobs currently posted are asking for it. It’s a very specialized skill that in reality almost no back-end developers are going to truly need.
Meanwhile, Python and Go are much more in-demand skills, but they “only” offer a 6-9% increase in backend developer salary. However, you shouldn’t expect to get a job if you can’t code in at least one of these languages, and ideally several of them. The same could be said for the “computer science” skill – only listed on 90 jobs! But best believe you’ll struggle to get a job as a backend developer if you don’t know computer science.
Use this chart to see which skills you should specialize in, or which to emphasize if you already possess those skills.
🔗 The most in-demand soft skills
It’s a given that soft skills are as important as hard skills to determine how much you earn.
It’s much harder to quantify these skills. Instead of looking specifically at which soft skills increase how much backend developers earn specifically, I investigated which soft skills increase job pay generally, and cross-referenced with the skills I know make backend developers successful.
I looked at one study in particular: the effect of self-reported soft skills on the wages of post-secondary graduates in France. I know there are limitations to this – most of us aren’t post-secondary graduates in France, for one – but it was a great way to measure the effect of soft skills on income.
The study found that grit, risk-taking, communication, and self-esteem all had a role to play in increasing wages:
Surprisingly, the study found that sociability did not show a rise in wages, but the authors speculated this could be because not many people said they weren’t sociable, so there just wasn’t enough data.
I compared that to the estimated wage increase corresponding to an extra level of schooling, which I took from this Czech study.
We can conclude (within the limitations of the studies, and the fact that I’m referencing two different studies with different populations) that grit, self-esteem, and communication are soft skills that are worth more than a whole extra degree. Risk-taking is also, surprisingly, a significant factor in how much backend developers earn.
Finally, we know that scientifically speaking, confidence in job interviews predicts the gender pay gap among STEM graduates. Increasing confidence is therefore a key determinant in your starting salary – and especially important for women and non-binary folks.
🔗 How does the salary stack up compared to other developer/engineer jobs?
If you have a base set of computer science skills and you’re deciding which job to pursue, it can be helpful to know how much backend developers make compared to other, similar roles.
To compare these roles to how much backend developers make, I’ll use the same source for every job: Indeed’s average salary estimate.
🔗 Front end versus backend developer
As mentioned above, the difference between frontend and backend developers can be boiled down to client versus server. Indeed reports that this difference amounts to a $3k difference in average annual salary – backend developers can expect to make $95k as mentioned in the intro, while front-end developers will make on average $92k.
Why this discrepancy? Apollo Clark, a full-stack developer, posited a potential answer on Quora. “It’s a cultural bias in software development that the front-end or ‘gui’ is what the ‘graphic artists’ create, while the back-end is where all the complex computer science theory needs to take place, and should never be questioned.”
🔗 Fullstack developer versus backend developer
Fullstack developers are expected to handle both the front end and the back end. Their pay is therefore higher than just one or the other – Indeed estimates that the average full-stack developer earns $101k per year.
Wondering which to learn first, back end or front end? There are a lot of factors that go into deciding which one is best to start with, but I’d recommend learning backend development first – it pays more, and there’s less competition – and then learning front-end development afterward to become a full-stack developer.
🔗 Data engineer versus backend developer
Data engineers earn $115k per year on average according to Indeed. Full-stack development is a key skill to becoming a data engineer, so if this salary appeals to you, I recommend learning backend development, then front end, then tackling data engineering.
Want the full lowdown? Check out our article on the difference between data engineers and backend developers.
🔗 Data scientist versus backend developer
The much-touted sexiest job of the century! The average salary for data scientists is a bit higher than backend developers, clocking in at $100k per year according to Indeed.
Like a backend developer, one of the main languages you’ll use in data science is Python. Beyond that, there are quite a few differences. You’ll need more business, analysis, and data viz skills to get into a data science career path.
🔗 Final thoughts on the salary of backend developers
When you think about how much backend developers make, there’s so much more than just a flat number to consider. You need to think about:
- Where you live, and where you’d be willing to move
- What skills you have, and what skills you can gain
- How much confidence you have, and whether you can bring that confidence to bear during interviews
But overall? Backend developers make a lot of money, relatively speaking. Most enjoy their job. The skills are very flexible, meaning you could grow your career easily. And in the meantime, your job isn’t going anywhere: the demand for backend developers is high, and the supply is low.
Want to get started becoming a backend developer? Learn backend development the right way with our Backend Developer course track. You’ll get portfolio projects, on-demand skills training, and a fantastic community of lifelong learners.