How Much Do App Developers Make in 2020?

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Software app development and mobile app development as an industry has grown quickly over the past decade. As more companies deploy their own applications, they need more people who can build, maintain, and improve those apps. Salaries reflect that demand.

Software app development and mobile app development are in-demand skills. And it pays well. But what is the average mobile app developer salary? How much do freelance app developers get paid? And what do you need to become an app developer?

How Do You Become An App Developer?

Before we start talking about app developer salaries, it makes sense to talk about how you can earn those salaries.

There are many paths to becoming an application developer, whether you are looking at mobile applications, desktop, or web apps. One of the most common is to get a relevant degree, which we will discuss shortly.

But other app developers get their start elsewhere. They might complete a coding boot camp, for example. Or experiment with app development on their own.

In the tech world, what you can do is often more important than how you learned it. So how you get your experience in development may not matter. What matters is that you can prove your ability to create great apps.

Do Degrees Help With Software Developer Salaries?

While there are several degrees that lead to a career in app development, almost all of them fall under the category of computer science. But different universities call them different things.

For example, you might get a bachelor's in computer science. Or you might get a degree in software development. You might even be able to find one in a specific field like mobile development, web development, or app development.

The question is whether those degrees help with your salary.

In short, yes, they do.

But the real answer is more complicated. If you are an experienced developer, it probably does not matter whether you have a specific degree. If you can show that you have created high-quality apps for reputable clients, anyone will be able to see that you are worth a high salary.

If you are just starting, however, having a degree can help get you in the door at a company that pays a generous application developer salary.

You do not need a degree to become an app developer. But it can definitely help you get started.

How Much Do App Developers Make?

There are many kinds of app developers, and that means there is a wide range of potential salaries. However, there are three easy groups we can put developers in: iOS, Android, and "other," where we'll look at a few more general categories.

iOS developer salaries

Here's what five services report for the average salary of an iOS app developer:

Your salary depends on factors like your experience, location, and specific skills (all of which we will discuss shortly).

Android developer salaries

Here's what those same five services say you can earn as an Android developer:

Again, these salaries depend on a wide range of factors. Also, notice that the average salary for Android app developers may be slightly lower than that of iOS developers. But not by much.

Other app developer salaries

Because there are many other kinds of app development, it's hard to say what the average app developer salary is. But here are a few figures pulled from those sites above:

  • App developer salary: $69,590 to $102,367
  • Mobile app developer salary: $73,023 to $125,381
  • Web app developer salary: $66,043 to $102,375

As you can see, there's a wide range of salaries for app developers, even just looking at a small number of specialties.

If we average out all of the numbers above, for every type of app development, though, it comes to about $102,000. So if you are looking for an average app developer salary, that's a good number to have in mind.

How Does Experience Affect App Developer Salary?

Like any other position, the amount of experience you have makes a big difference in how much you get paid.

Let's take a look at the iOS developer salary from Payscale, which shows an average of $86,622. Here's how they break down the average salary by experience:

  • Entry-level: $68,514
  • Early career: $82,522
  • Mid-career: $104,874
  • Experienced: $123,314
  • Late career: $120,289

Based on these numbers, you can expect to make about 80% of the average when you start as an entry-level app developer. And, if you stick with the career, you could be looking at around 140% of the average by the time you're in the "late career" stage -- which probably includes 20 or more years of experience.

What Other Factors Impact App Developer Salary?

As I have mentioned several times now, there are many factors that affect how much you get paid.

These are some of the most important:

Location

This should be no surprise. Developers based in the Bay Area make a lot more money than those based in the middle of the country because the cost of living is so much higher.

The fact that only 67% of iOS developers have told Indeed that their salaries are enough for their cost of living probably has a lot to do with the fact that so many developers live in San Francisco and the surrounding area.

The following cities show high salaries for app developers:

  • San Francisco, CA
  • Mountain View, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Boston, MA

While you can get above-average salaries in other cities, these are safe bets for making more.

On-site vs. remote

FlexJobs reports that remote work has grown 44% over the past five years. There is a real chance that you could work remotely if you want to. But what does that mean for your earnings?

Interestingly, the Owl Labs  2019 State of Remote Work survey found that remote workers earn over $100,000 2.2 times more frequently than on-site workers. Of course, many factors play into this -- it is possible that higher-paid employees are more likely to be given the option to work remotely.

And if you take a job with a company based in an area with a very high cost of living, working remotely might mean taking a pay cut relative to your peers.

But it also means that your cost of living could be significantly lower, netting you more money in the end. You may give up benefits like big-city life, easy networking, and on-site amenities, but many people find that the tradeoff is well worth it.

Software skills

The specific skills you have make a big difference in your salary. We already discussed the difference between iOS and Android developer salaries. But there are more specific skill sets that can boost your salary.

Here are a few that help the most, according to Indeed:

  • Node.js
  • Data structures
  • React
  • Swift
  • GraphQL
  • Cordova

While the skills that will benefit your salary depend directly on your job, there is a good chance that having the right set of skills could see your salary boosted by 10% or more.

Working In-house vs. Freelance vs. Agency

All of the figures above apply to in-house app developers. But what about if you go freelance? Or work for an agency?

ZipRecruiter shows the average freelance app developer salary around $115,000, placing it toward the high end of in-house salaries. Of course, freelance app developers have to pay higher taxes, and they also have to deal with client recruiting, invoicing, and other things that go along with being a freelancer.

(Using a freelance marketplace like Toptal, Freelancer, or Upwork makes it easier for freelancers to manage all of these things—and it helps companies make sure they're hiring the best app developers for their needs.)

Working for an agency is a totally different situation. Agency developers make a wide range of salaries, because agencies charge a wide range of prices.

If you work for a very large agency that develops apps for multinational corporations, you could make much more than the average salary.

On the other hand, if you work for a small agency that works with tiny, local clients, you might make less. And your experience may play a large role in your agency developer salary.

Conclusion: Will App Developer Salaries Continue To Increase?

As more and more companies require apps to further their business models, app development will continue to be very valuable. The COVID-19 pandemic has created more interest in distance learning, mobile engagement, and e-commerce.

That means app developers will stay in high demand. So, while it is impossible to say with certainty that app developer salaries will increase, the likelihood does seem high.

What do you think? Will app developers continue to make six figures? Will the average salary rise? Will one particular type of app development rise above the others in terms of pay? Share your thoughts in the comments below!