Systems software developers are some of the top-paid technical specialists today, generally with more education than any other IT workers.
Systems software developers create or modify the software that runs computers and other technologies like phones, network routers and switches. The Windows 8 or Mac OS X operating systems, for example, are created by team of hundreds of developers. Of course, systems development is not limited to operating systems. Software drivers and firmware used to access computer components are also designed by systems software developers, as is the software used in a computer's BIOS to access processors and hardware components. Basically anything that has a chip in it requires a systems software developer to make it work. These positions differ from application developers, who create the programs that run on the operating systems.
A job in systems software development generally requires more education than most computer positions. Companies that hire systems software designers usually require a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field like computer engineering. A post-graduate degree may also be required for some positions. Several years of on-the-job training or vocational training is often required as well.
For those currently in the workforce, ages 25 to 44, half of all systems software developers hold a bachelor's degree and 29 percent have a master's degree. Four percent have a doctoral or other professional degree. Only 5 percent have an associate's degree, 9 percent have gone to college without getting a degree, and only 3 percent have not gone to college.
According to O*NET, the median salary of systems software developers in the United States in 2011 was $96,600. The most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the median income in 2010 for systems software developers was $94,200. This is more than $6,000 higher than median salary for application software developers. The bottom 10 percent of system developers earned less than $61,000 in 2010. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $143,300.
Regional Variations in Salary
Like most technical positions, system software developer salaries vary from one region to another. California has the highest median salary, more than $20,000 higher than other states like Florida, Michigan and Ohio. The following lists the median salaries of 12 states in 2010, compared to the national figures. The numbers in brackets represent the thresholds for the top and bottom 10 percent of salaries.
California: $108,300 ($68,200 to $161,100)
Massachusetts: $100,400 ($68,500 to $141,900)
New Jersey: $100,300 ($67,100 to $142,100)
Washington: $95,000 ($75,700 to $142,000)
National: $94,180 ($61,000 to $143,300)
Texas: $93,100 ($62,800 to $137,000)
Arizona: $93,000 ($62,100 to $137,300)
New York: $91,500 ($59,500 to $143,900)
Georgia: $89,100 ($55,200 to $143,600)
Alabama : $87,200 ($54,800 to $127,200)
Florida: $85,500 ( $54,500 to $127,200)
Michigan: $82,100 ($53,100 to $116,400)
Ohio: $80,800 ($52,600 to $117,700)
Salaries by Company
According to the incomes reported to PayScale by over 2,700 developers, pay varies widely from company to company and within each company. According to the same source, salaries for developers are directly proportional to company size. The larger the company, the higher your salary can be.
Companies with less than 200 employees generally pay developers from $40,000 to $88,000. Companies with between 200 and 1,999 employees pay between $43,000 and $92,000. Developers working at companies between 2,000 and 4,999 employees earn between $48,000 and $96,000. Companies with between 20,000 and 49,999 employees pay between $53,000 and $99,000. Companies with more than 50,000 employees generally pay up to $105,000. Of course, there are always exceptions to these statistics.
Developers working at Microsoft generally range between $40,000 and $116,000. Senior developers, programmers and engineers can earn between $75,000 and $136,000.
Hewlett Packard (HP) pays developers between $37,000 and $89,000. Senior positions at HP pay between $67,000 and $124,000.
Oracle pays developers between $63,000 and $110,000. Senior developers there earn between $75,000 and $135,000.
IBM pays between $48,000 and $124,000. They pay senior developers between $67,000 and $147,000.
Cisco Systems pays developers between $80,000 and $93,000. Senior positions pay between $88,000 and $139,000.
Google pays developers between $70,000 $99,000. Senior developers can earn between $74,000 and $167,000.
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) pays developers between $63,000 and $92,000. Senior developers earn between $88,000 and $128,000.
Salaries Based on Experience
According to recent PayScale data, systems software developers typically earn between $36,000 and $80,000 in their first year. Those with between five and ten years experience earn between $49,000 ad $93,000. Developers with more than ten years experience generally earn between $53,000 and $136,000.
Outlook to 2020
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were 392,300 systems software developer jobs in the United States in 2010. By 2020, this should increase by 32 percent to about 519,400 positions. As more and more products become computerized, which now range fro cell phones to refrigerators, the number of systems software developers needed should also increase.