While we wouldn’t encourage anyone to take a job just because of the money, knowing the average app developer salary can help. If you’re considering breaking into the industry, it would be nice to know whether the effort required is truly worth it!
That’s what this article is all about.
If you’re looking for a job that offers the best prospects even when the world is undergoing massive change, you could do much worse than becoming an app developer.
The rise of technology in our lives and the increased complexity and complication of modern devices means there always needs to be somebody to create, repair, bug fix, refine and test the software that powers them.
That’s just some of the functions of an application developer.
But how much can you expect to earn as a developer? What’s the average app developer salary? What skills do you need to become one?
Let’s find out!
So as to not bury the headline, we’ll outline the app developer salary first. Then we’ll cover the role, the types of programming languages you’ll need and the main career stages.
App developer salary
We aren’t going to discuss the freelance application developer salary as that can vary too widely to be accurate. Instead, we’ll concentrate on the average salary of employed developers.
As you can imagine, we can only talk about average salary, as every role and every organization is different. However, we use some leading career websites to come up with the app developer salary ranges, so they should be a good indication of what to expect.
Here’s a quick table of app developer salaries:
Entry-level app developer salaries
Junior app developer salaries
Senior app developer salaries
Entry-level app developer salaries
Don’t expect to earn a fortune as an entry-level developer. You can earn a decent average salary compared to other careers though.
- According to Payscale, an entry-level developer salary in the US can be around $60,000 per year.
- According to Glassdoor, the same level developer salary in the UK could be around £33,000 per year.
- European developers at the same level can earn similar amounts to the UK if you check current vacancies. That equates to around €38,000 per year.
As you can see, while they are competitive compared to other types of job, you aren’t going to get a particularly high average salary as an entry-level developer. The good news is that with a job like development, the more you put in and the more you learn, the more you’ll get out and the more you’ll earn.
Junior app developer salaries
Junior app developer salaries are an improvement but are so wide and varied that it can be difficult to give even a ballpark figure. However, we used some leading career portals to assess the going rate for junior developers.
- A junior developer salary in the US could be around $65,000 per year which is above national average.
- A junior developer salary in the UK could be around £42,000 per year which is above national average.
- European developers can earn similar amounts to the UK, €49,000 per year.
Junior developers cover a lot of ground so these are guidelines only. You will see vacancies for much less than this and also for much more. It is genuinely a difficult career stage to predict but at least you have an idea.
Senior app developer salaries
Senior app developer salaries are almost as difficult to quantify as juniors. There is almost as much variety and scope to earn well as there are specializations to choose.
The one thing most senior app developer salaries have in common is that they are worth working all those years to gain the skills and experience.
- A senior developer salary in the US can be over $90,000 per year which is above national average.
- A senior developer salary in the UK can be over £50,000 per year, which is above national average.
- A senior developer salary in the EU can expect to earn similar to the UK, around €58,000 per year which is above the national average.
There is no ceiling salary for senior app developers. You could feasibly earn twice this amount if you specialize or work within a large organization.
What does an app developer do?
As the job title implies, an application developer will create, test and help deploy apps for a range of devices. In the context of this article, we’re talking more about apps for businesses or computers rather than mobile. We’ll cover mobile app development in another post.
App developers fall into the software developer category when looking at careers. You will create programs for computers, enterprise, web, Windows, Mac OS, bespoke applications, Linux and all manner of systems.
You won’t need to know them all but it helps to have a wide skillset before you decide to specialize.
Depending on the role, you will work on every aspect of a project lifecycle. From analysis and design through to the wireframe, build and deployment of the app. That will include coding, testing, UX and UI, refining, troubleshooting and perhaps even supporting apps after deployment.
The role is wide and varied and your day to day tasks will differ massively depending on the size and type of company you work for. Go freelance and you’ll likely be either involved or responsible for every step of the project!
What skills does an app developer require?
While programming languages are important, they aren’t the most important skills you’ll need.
You will need:
- A knowledge of market trends and user habits
- Knowledge of current and future devices
- The ability to work quickly and accurately
- Solid grounding in marketing
- Great interpersonal skills
- The ability to listen and correctly interpret a brief
- Amazing attention to detail for coding and troubleshooting
- Project management skills
We’re sure you can think of other skills you use regularly as an app developer, but you get the idea!
What programming languages do app developers need to know?
There are dozens of programming languages out there, more if you count the very specialized ones. So, what languages should you learn?
The easy answer is to learn the programming languages you’re most comfortable using. Most developers we know gravitated towards the languages they felt most at home with.
After all, if you’re going to be spending most of your life staring at code, you want to feel relaxed and happy with what you’re looking at!
Some popular programming languages include:
- Swift (iOS)
- Java (Android)
- Kotlin (Android)
- Visual Basic
- Core ML 3
- HTML5 + CSS3
Career stages for app developers
Many developers will study computers and software engineering at university but it isn’t the only way to become a developer. One of the great things about development is that it’s a career based on ability rather than just qualifications.
It’s also a career you could get into just by showing off your work.
For example, if you code an amazing WordPress plugin or Windows app, you could get noticed by recruiters and headhunters. Even if you don’t have formal qualifications, you prove your worth by your product.
That’s one of the most interesting aspects of being an app developer.
You can also learn to become an app developer outside a formal setting. There is enough out there to give you everything you could possibly need if you know where to find it!
Once you know your languages, there are three main phases of a career.
- Entry-level developer
- Junior developer
- Senior developer
This obviously doesn’t count specialization as that’s just too large a subject to cover in one post.
Entry-level app developer
An entry-level developer has just qualified or is still learning their trade and is at the beginning of their career.
You may know some languages very well but not others or have limited experience in a commercial setting. Either way, expect to be an entry-level app developer when you first join the workforce.
You will usually work in a team supporting more senior developers and be given a range of tasks to exploit your existing skills while teaching you new ones. There may also be formal or informal training to help develop you as an employee. Much will depend on the organization you join.
You should expect to be in this role for between 3 months and a year. Again, much depends on the organization, their career development setup and your existing skills.
If you already know your languages, you will obviously develop faster than someone still getting to grips with them.
You will also need to learn all those supplementary skills we mentioned early like time management, project skills, listening and interpreting skills, knowledge of the current and future market and a wider interest in the field of technology.
Don’t expect a particularly high app developer salary at entry-level. You’re going to have to be patient for that!
Junior app developer
Junior developers are a step along in their career. You will likely know one or more languages well and be developing others as you go. You may be a recent graduate, freelancer or someone who has learned code on their own.
You will likely have at least a couple of successful projects under your belt and be able to demonstrate a solid grounding in one or more programming languages.
You may already know if you want to specialize and what in but you don’t have to be.
You will know a lot more as a junior developer but more will be expected of you. If you have been with an organization for a period of time, you will be more integrated into the culture and brand and be expected to contribute to brainstorming sessions, designs, wireframes and more of the project side of development.
The roadmap and timescale for a junior app developer depends entirely on the size and maturity of the organization. Smaller organizations will place a lot more pressure and workload into you while larger organizations may have more support or a shallower career development curve.
Salaries are more attractive for junior developers but don’t expect to earn a fortune for a junior app developer salary. You’re still finding your feet and developing your skills!
Senior app developer
Senior app developers are typically those who have been in the business for a significant period of time and will know the industry well. Depending on the person, they may know several languages or be a specialist in a particular field.
Either way, these are the core of any development department and the people you’ll go to for guidance and advice. They are also the people who carry the most workload and responsibility.
You can become a senior app developer by the sheer depth and breadth of knowledge or through having been with an organization for a long period of time. You’re at the top of your game here and will be expected to deliver solid apps along with those projects and soft skills we mentioned at the top.
Senior developers are where you can finally begin earning well. The app developer salary will vary depending on your location, specialization and experience but it is finally where you begin earning decent money.
How to get started in app development
App developers come from all walks of life but the main thing that brings them together is a love for building things and an ability to work with code. It isn’t for everybody though.
It’s a career that is always changing and always developing. It’s a career that demands a lot and requires you start learning right away and never stop.
You have two main ways to get into app development. Formal education or the do-it-yourself method by learning languages, attending code bootcamps and experimenting.
The formal method
Follow the school to university method and study computer programming, computer science or related subjects. Get a work placement wherever you can, learn other languages while you study, complete as many projects as you have time for alongside your coursework and then join the workforce.
It’s a lot to ask but the more you put in, the more you get out.
You will end up with a student loan to pay off but you’ll also have a formal qualification and hopefully some real life experience from a work placement. You may also find it easier to secure a role in a large organization.
The informal method
The informal method is where you learn to code in your bedroom or alongside your day job. Master one or more languages, create some showcase projects to demonstrate your skills, contribute to communities such as GitHub or StackExchange and become as known as possible.
Then apply to companies using your showcase projects as evidence. Some big businesses won’t be interested if you don’t have a degree but there are enough more accepting employers out there to make this a worthwhile way to get into the industry.
You should try startups, disrupters, small companies and local businesses as they are much more likely to accept informal qualifications. As long as you can prove what you’re capable of, this is a legitimate way to break into development.
Learning app development your own way
If you want to try mobile apps, you’ll need to learn Swift or Java.
If you want to go into software development, AI, big data or machine learning, try C, SQL, Java and languages like that.
There are hundreds of resources around to help you learn. From videos, to online courses, programming apps that teach code to simply messing around on your computer. The more effort you put in, the more you’ll get out.
Many resources are cheap or free and cover most of the programming languages in popular use.
Resources such as StackOverflow are invaluable to app developers of all kinds
Other useful resources for app developers include:
There are also tools around to help you learn programming languages, including:
And many, many more.
App developer career path
You have two main options if you want to become an app developer.
You can go the well-established route of a degree in computer programming or computer science or you can do it yourself.
Those with formal qualifications will find it easier to break into the market with established employers as they recognize degrees more.
Upstarts, new ventures and app companies are more accepting of self-taught developers as long as you have some showcase pieces that can demonstrate your work. Some of those established employers will consider entry-level positions for those without degrees but as you now know, the salary isn’t amazing.
As we mentioned earlier, a typical app developer career path begins at entry level, working up to junior developer and then on to senior. You can then specialize in a particular language or move on to become a lead developer within an organization, full-stack developer or even a technical architect.
Some developers decide they have had enough of long hours and crunch and move into management, team leading, project management or a technology officer career path.
Once you have proven your worth and demonstrated your aptitude, you can genuinely do whatever you like.
App developer personality types
Do you have what it takes to be a successful developer? Do you have the personality traits that suit this type of career?
Most developers are regarded as artistic and curious. Many are introverted but not all. They like to spend time on their own and get very involved in their work but many also have a sociable side.
What kind of app developers are most in-demand?
The world of software is a growing one, with more applications being launched all the type, new devices, new languages and new startups appearing on a regular basis.
If you’re considering a career as an app developer, what types of role are most in demand?
Web app developer
A web developer is slightly different to a ‘mainstream’ app developer in that they concentrate on websites, plugins, widgets and web apps. They are very much in demand right now due to the explosion of eCommerce and the general dominance of the internet.
Mobile app developers
Mobile app developers are hot property right now thanks to the increased use of phones and the increasing power of handsets. The number and quality of mobile apps grows all the time and with innovations such as foldable phones and streaming, the mobile app marketplace is incredibly competitive.
If you can learn Swift, Java or Kotlin, you may never be out of work for the foreseeable future!
Another area ripe for exploitation is Android instant apps. These are relatively new to the market but have gone down insanely well. They are a trending form of mobile app development and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
AI and machine learning development
AI and machine learning are another two significant growth areas. They aren’t purely app but there are lots of apps out there using AI or machine learning to work.
Digital assistants like Cortana or Siri use AI, as do search engines and big data. If you know a little Core ML 3, you could be onto a winner here!
IoT app development
The Internet of Things is another growth area and while you can combine mobile apps with cloud apps and a few other types as well, it is a distinct area of expertise you could specialize in.
Google has invested billions into IoT, so have some of the biggest names in IT. All of the decry skill shortages, so this could be a good area to try.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)
While VR didn’t take over the world like people predicted, it is being used to great effect in business, the military, commerce and with games. AR is more mobile app focused while VR covers a lot of ground from entertainment to military applications.
While it doesn’t quite have the same profile as AI or mobile, there is a definite demand for developers with any AR or VR knowledge within the market.
App developer career path and salary
As you can see, there is a lot of scope to learn and to earn as an app developer. If you have a curious and creative nature and a talent for code, this could be the perfect career.
It’s a growth industry with skills that are much in demand. Earning potential is very good and you can approach it either formally using a degree or informally using your own development.
Either way, the app developer salary is decent and there is no ceiling for it. Depending on how you develop your career, the sky genuinely is the limit!
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