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The Highest Paying Computer Jobs in the USA - Part 4: Programmers

Updated on December 13, 2016
Programmers can work in groups.
Programmers can work in groups. | Source

Programmers write instructions, known as code, for computers to follow. They base their efforts on designs created by software engineers or systems analysts. They also change, test and expand existing programs, and use different programming languages, such as C++, which is the most common.

Though employers prefer computer programmers to have a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions, a two-year degree or programming certificate may be acceptable for some jobs. In any case, those with voluntary certification from vendors, and who keep up with the latest technologies, will find better job prospects and higher salaries.

Unfortunately, computer jobs in the USA are expected to decline by three percent until 2018. This is primarily because many programming jobs are being contracted to offshore shops where labor costs are cheaper. In addition, advancing computer technology enables programmers to do more work, and allows many users to write their own programs. All information is from the US Department of Labor.

Workplaces and Pay

Salaries for computer programmers vary according to workplace:

  • Mean pay runs $36.01 per hour or $74,900 per year, with a median low of $19.62 per hour or $40,820 per year, and a median high of $54.90 per hour or $114,180 per year.
  • Of the 333,620 professionals, about 116,600 work in computer systems design, where mean pay at $36.40 per hour or $75,720 per year is close to the national average.
  • The highest-paying employers are computer and peripheral equipment manufacturers, where 1,920 professionals make a mean $50.84 per hour or $105,750 per year. They are followed by home health care services, where 130 workers earn $46.03 per hour or $95,750 per year.


mean annual wages of programmers in the US.
mean annual wages of programmers in the US. | Source

Pay for programmers varies according to state and city:

  • The high-population states offers the most employment for programmers. California contains 34,840 professionals, who earn a mean $40.61 per hour or $84,470 per year. New York has 31,110 positions paying $37.83 per hour or $78,680 per year. Both wages are higher than the national average.
  • The states with the best pay are Massachusetts, where 8,960 programmers make a mean $43.57 per hour or $90,620 per year, followed by Washington, where 8,760 receive $43.31 per hour or $90,090 per year. California ranks third in terms of wages.
  • The largest cities also offer the most jobs. New York City leads with 21,550 positions earning a mean $39.30 per hour or $81,730 per year, followed by Chicago at $37.33 per hour or $77,650 per year.
  • The cities with the best salaries are Rochester, Minnesota, where 260 computer programmers earn $57.14 per hour or $118,860 per year, and Poughkeepsie, New York, where 610 positions receive $55.62 per hour or $115,680 per year.
  • Rural areas can offer far higher salaries for computer programmers than in many parts of the US. This is because employers want to attract talent to areas where employment opportunities are scarce. Los Alamos County, New Mexico, for example, boasts means of $65.72 per hour or $136,700 per year but only has 60 positions. Central Texas has salaries at $47.21 per hour or $98,190 per year but only 150 jobs. Third-ranked Northwestern Texas contains 150 jobs earning $43.55 per hour or $90,590 per year.


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