A survey of 65,000 developers across 186 countries has revealed that engineering managers, site reliability engineers and DevOps specialists receive the highest salaries.

Across board, the top five best-paying job descriptions are engineering manager, site reliability engineer (SRE), DevOps specialist, data engineer, and data scientists or machine learning specialists. According to the research findings, the salary of the respective developer roles are: $92,000 (manager), $80,000 (SRE), $68,000 (DevOps), $65,000 (data engineer), and $58,000 (machine learning scientist).

Meanwhile, the roles sitting on the lower rung of the salary scale are academic researcher ($41,000), mobile developer ($43,000), designer ($47,000), educator ($49,000), and front-end developer ($49,000). Although compared to some roles in other professions, their salaries are still jumbo pay.

Related Article: What's the state of coding and developer jobs in Nigeria?

Stack Overflow, who conducted the research and published the results in their latest annual developer survey, also analyzed how salary compares with years of experience. And unsurprisingly, developers with more experience tend to command higher salaries. Stack Overflow's analysis shows that all the developers earning top dollars have between seven and twelve (12) years of professional programming experience.

When specific developer roles are examined, however, some differences emerge. "SREs, DevOps specialists, and data engineers command disproportionately higher salary compared to developers within a similar level of experience in different roles," Stack Overflow said.

Commenting on the survey, Quincy Larson, a teacher and founder of Free Code Camp—an online platform for learning how to code, said: "One mistake I often see people make is to prematurely specialize. Your first developer job is unlikely to be as a DevOps engineer. Most likely, it will be as a full stack developer. [And] you will specialize on the job from there."

Quincy noted that the Salary and Experience by Developer Type chart is a helpful guide. He said, "It may give you some ideas for what types of dev team responsibilities you should ask your boss for."

Salary and Experience by Developer Type

Earlier this year, Devcenter—a Nigerian software development talent company, had also published the State of Code report. And this latest developer survey mostly reasserts its findings on a global scale.

According to the State of Code, employers are only willing to pay higher remuneration to developers with many years of professional programming experience. Thus, the estimated salary of developers with less than two years of experience is between $220 (₦85,000) and $410 (₦158,000).

Devcenter also reported that many tech companies are becoming more emphatic, and they are using design thinking in the development of their products. This has led to an increased demand for designers; and designer roles are at the bottom of the salary scale, according to the 2020 Developer Survey.

In most cases, high demand + low availability of talents = high paying jobs, while high demand + abundant talents = low paying jobs.

Sharing salary data is a taboo, not only in Nigeria

Out of the 65,000 developers that participated in the 2020 Developer Survey, only 34,279 (52.7%) gave salary data. Almost half of the total respondents decided not to share how much they earn and in what currency.

On the employer side, Devcenter noted that they were reluctant to share how much they pay their tech talents. Rather than disclose salary in their call for job applications, most employers just say "competitive".

Both employees and employers act secretive towards salary information.

Last year September, a venture capital firm—Timon Capital—partnered with a research and analytics firm—Briter Bridges— to release a compensation study with the aim of promoting transparency and to initiate conversations about compensation and accessible data.

The Compensation Study [pdf] surveyed 48 companies across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. The study estimated that the average compensation (including salary) of senior engineers in the selected countries and companies is $33,684 (₦13 million), while junior engineers receive $23,076 (₦8.9 million).

Indeed, there have been a lot of conversations about salaries and compensations since the report was released. Some tangible feats have also been achieved. An example is the Nigerian Salary Scale, which contains anonymized salary data of about 100 people, mostly developers, working within and outside the country.

Interestingly, while people are averse to sharing their current salary, they don't mind sharing what they want to earn.

A look at the responses to Twitter user, @Dikachim, provide some perspective.

About Stack Overflow

The 2020 Developer Survey is the 10th edition of the annual global survey published by Stack Overflow, a forum for enthusiasts and professional developers or programmers. Every month, about 50 million people visit the site to learn, share, and build their careers.

Disclaimer: The survey was taken in February, before the World Health Organisation called COVID-19 a pandemic. As at the time the survey was taken, the devastating effect of the pandemic had not spread across the world. Hence, it is possible that if the survey were taken at a later date, the job and salary data would be different.