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Software Developers - Five Ways to Find Out Your Worth

Every day I get some variation of the same question, “What am I worth?” Unfortunately there’s no simple answer since this is a gray, subjective area. With so many variables in market, geography, industry and individual skill sets, it’s impossible to pinpoint an exact number. That said there are a number of sources you can turn to which will help determine what you can reasonably expect to earn as a developer. Since some are more effective than others, here’s a look at the pros and cons of five of them.

Industry Averages

One of the easiest ways for a developer to look for salary ranges is to get online and check out sites like salary.com, PayScale.com, and Glassdoor.com. Unfortunately, the numbers posted don’t take into account your specific skill set as it relates to the market. It only provides what’s been posted with little insight into each component of that salary information. Despite the information being a bit objective and vague, these sites can provide a good general starting point.

Peers

Another favorite source of information is reaching out to friends and former classmates who now work at various companies in your industry. The problem I often see here is that there’s a natural tendency for people to pump up their salaries. Friends are sometimes reluctant to reveal their actual compensation for fear that it will be judged too low or too high. There’s also the problem of variability caused by differences in education, years of experience, companies and positions of your peers. Although these comparisons may not reflect your specific worth in the market, they do provide some guidance to help narrow your search.

Your Employer

A better data point is what you’re earning today. Based on your skill set and background, what you’re making is what you are worth to your employer. Knowing how your company’s pay scale compares to other similar businesses in the area can give you a clue as to whether your current salary is above or below market. You can also determine where you stand by having a discussion with your boss and asking what goes into establishing your salary. This may sound intimidating, but it’s the best way to get a view of how your current employer values your experience and contribution.

Recruiters

You can get a good idea of your worth by speaking with a recruiter. Every day we see what companies are paying individuals with similar experience. The ongoing stream of information we receive from interviews and job offers provides a clear vantage point of the market and what you might expect based on your skills and experience.

Job Search

By and large, testing the market by going through a rigorous interviewing and job search process is the best-known way to understand your market worth. The offers that come in after you’ve met with a number of companies will be the most accurate indicator of your worth. Hiring managers will review your credentials, match them to their requirements and assess your value to them.

In reality, the market speaks loudest on this subject. Discussing your specific situation with a recruiter can give you a good vantage point of market realities, but the most accurate answer will come from a prospective employer in the form of a job offer. The process of determining a fair salary is a subjective one, but ultimately you’re worth what someone is willing to pay you.

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