To make the most money as a software engineer, move to Switzerland

New data reveals in which countries developers make the most money, and where they can most live like royalty

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Switzerland: Land of tall mountains, good chocolate and highly paid software engineers

Image credit: flickr/Archangel12 (license)

As a rule of thumb these days, software engineers make pretty good money. Of course, just how good the pay is for developers can vary from country-to-country, in some cases quite drastically. Exactly how good the pay for software engineers is and how it varies around the world today was illustrated by new data recently published by Bloomberg.

Using data from PayScale, Bloomberg ranked 50 countries by the annual income of their software engineers, from May of 2013 to May of this year. Specifically, they calculated the median annual income for developers, which included all cash earnings (e.g., salary/hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing). Using these data, here are the top ten countries where software engineers get paid the most:

Top Ten Countries by Median Annual Income for Software Engineers

Rank Country Software Engineer Median Annual Income
1. Switzerland $104,200
2. Norway $81,400
3. United States $76,000
4. Denmark $71,500
5. Israel $70,700
6. Australia $65,900
7. Germany $63,800
8. Sweden $61,400
9. New Zealand $59,600
10. Canada $57,500

Source: Bloomberg

Overall, not many surprises here. These are all developed nations where incomes are relatively high for everyone. Switzerland leads the way, the U.S. is third and all three Scandinavian countries are included. Naturally, you’d expect developer salaries to be highest in countries where people generally get paid the most, no matter what they do.

To take into account relative differences in average national incomes across countries, Bloomberg also calculated the ratio of median developer income to GDP per capita, essentially a measure of average national income per person. Here are the top ten countries that pay engineers the most relative to per capita GDP:

Top Ten Countries by Ratio of Median Annual Income for Software Engineers to per capita GDP

Rank Country Software Engineer Median Annual Income/per capita GDP
1. Pakistan 5.56
2. India 3.91
3. South Africa 3.64
4. Bulgaria 3.28
5. China 3.15
6. Ukraine 2.96
7. Philippines 2.69
8. Brazil 2.46
9. Egypt 2.19
10. Mexico 2.04

Source: Bloomberg

Now, we get a much different picture of things. Using this measure, the top ten countries for developer pay are all developing nations. Median developer pay in Pakistan ($7,200) is whopping 5.56 times that of the average income per person ($1,296). Of course, this is driven by the much lower per capita GDP of these countries. But, compared to their counterparts in the U.S. (1.38 median developer income/GDP per capita), being a software engineer in Pakistan or India provides a much more significant pay increase and, no doubt, standard of living, over most other occupations.

One last interesting thing these data show us: software developers in oil rich countries make far less than their countries’ average annual income. The bottom three countries based on median developer income to per capita GDP are the United Arab Emirates (overall rank #48, median developer income $29,000, median developer income/per capita GDP 0.65), Kuwait (#49, $25,200, 0.54) and Qatar (#50, $33,400, 0.35). Obviously, the key word here is “oil;” even software engineering has a hard time generating as much income as huge amount of oil reserves.

There you have it. If you want to make a lot of money writing software, move to Switzerland. But, if you want to live like royalty writing software, move to Pakistan. Whatever you choose, good luck!

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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