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Software developers in fintech, cloud sectors earn the highest

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South African senior software developers working in the fintech and cloud services sectors are the mostly highly paid developers, earning an average of R65 000 to R70 000 per month.

This is one of the findings of the “2019 State of South Africa’s Software Developers Nation” report compiled by tech talent marketplace, OfferZen.

The report sheds light on what is playing out in the developer community in SA, based on over 4 000 respondents from the software community. Developers shared their experiences of what it is like to work in SA, what programming languages and tech stacks they enjoy most, and what is most important to them when looking for a job.

According to the report, software has become the multiplier for business growth: when tech teams are working on the solutions that matter, companies thrive; however, when they aren’t, it can cost them millions.

It reveals the average developer’s salary is around R39 298 and developers with unique skill and experience can earn upwards of R90 000 per month.

The younger the developers start learning to code, the more they will earn. Just over half of all respondents who began coding before they started high school now earn more than R60 000 per month, while 60% of those who only started in their late 20s earn less than R30 000 per month.

The lowest paying industries for developers, according to the report, are Web development and design as well as digital agencies, with a starting salary of between R15 000 at junior level and R55 000 at senior level.

On the other end of the spectrum, junior developers who earn the most are those working in the data and analytics sector, with a starting salary of R25 638, while senior developers in the same field earn around R60 000.

Those working in e-commerce earn an average starting salary of R20 000, while at senior level, they earn an average of R63 000.

“We live in an age where software is literally changing the world. But software doesn’t write itself. People are the foundation of winning software teams. We have a community of more than 90 000 people that we engage with regularly – so we set out to ‘take the pulse’ of the local dev community, and reveal what developers want, need, and look for in their careers,” says OfferZen’s VP growth, Stephen van der Heijden.

No matter the industry, salary is the number one thing developers in SA consider when weighing a job offer. This is closely followed by flexi-hours and the option to work remotely, notes the report.

One in four software developers in SA are self-taught; online tutorials are the number one way that local developers keep their skills sharp, it reveals.

According to a report by compensation software and data company, PayScale, anaverage engineer developer salary in SA is R366 000 per year.

Entry-level software developers with less than one year of experience can expect to earn an average of R208 000 annually, based on 158 salaries. An early career software developer with one to four years of experience earns an average of R284 000 annually, based on 1 700 salaries assessed.

A mid-career software developer with five to nine years of experience earns an average total of R417 000 a year, based on 693 salaries.

Companies paying the highest software developer salaries in SA, according to PayScale, are Takealot Online, the National Research Foundation and Entelect. The lowest paying companies in this field are 5DT ACI Worldwide and LexisNexis.

“Importantly, developers in SA care more about company culture than the tech stack. And the leading reason developers turn down a job remains a lack of growth opportunities – if they’re not convinced that a role can offer professional growth, there’s a good chance they’ll turn it down,” adds Van der Heijden.

In terms of programming language, the majority of developers in SA list JavaScript as one of their primary languages, ahead of C#. However, Python is rapidly slithering up the charts, and is in second place on developers’ ‘want-to-learn’ list, after being the fifth most used language in 2019.

“If you want to make more money as a developer in SA, go with Go or Ruby – they are amongst the skills that pay the most, across all levels of experience. PHP developers earn the lowest salaries, no matter how much experience they have,” notes OfferZen.

Seeking global opportunities

When it comes to how South African developers want to participate in the global economy, OfferZen says around 86% are open to moving abroad – but only one in five are actively looking for overseas opportunities.

The biggest reason they are looking abroad is personal safety, followed by professional growth and the opportunity to make more money.

Furthermore, junior developers earn 38% more in Cape Town than those based in Johannesburg.

At the start of 2018, OfferZen data showed Capetonian junior developers earned an average of 14% more than junior developers in Johannesburg; the latest data shows there has been a shift in this trend.

“Now, however, when we look at the latest data, it shows junior developers earn an average R24 000 in Cape Town and R23 000 in Johannesburg. This is because in the last few months, we have had more graduates from boot camps and science-related degrees like engineering using our platform, and they typically earn less than computer science graduates at the start of their career,” according to the report.

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