The average back-end developer earns six-figures in the U.S., and top-earners live in these states

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Imagine yourself shopping for a brand-new car. It’s easy to get pulled in by the sleek lines and contours, the deep colors, and the flashy tech. But it’s what’s under the hood that really matters for most vehicles—and the same holds true for websites and applications. That’s why back-end web developers are so important.

Back-end developers operate “under the hood,” so to speak, on websites and apps. While front-end developers may code and work with the visuals and design, “back-end developers work with databases, may build custom content management systems, and work with SQL and PHP,” says Dan Martino, the digital director and founder of 914Digital, a New York-based digital media company. 

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If you were to stick with the car analogy, Martino says that “a back-end developer is building out the engine and the computer systems,” as opposed to a front-end developer, who might work on the interior’s design and colors.

How much do back-end developers make? 

Back-end developers in the United States earn an average of $100,778, according to internal data from ZipRecruiter that was provided to Fortune. The overall pay range between states tends to range between $92,000 per year or so in Oregon to more than $115,000 in Washington D.C., but there are a range of factors that can influence what a back-end developer earns in any specific state or city.

Julia Pollak, Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter, says that it’s important to note that salaries can be a tad misleading, too, as they don’t incorporate total compensation for developers, who are often pulling in sizable bonuses and stock options on top of that salary.

Pollak also says that back-end developers may end up earning more than their front-end counterparts.

“Because back-end developers are dealing with ever more data, and responsibility for building the data server database logic, the job has become incredibly important and crucial,” Pollak says. “Getting things to run quickly on the back end, with vast amounts of data, is a very specialized and difficult skill—back-end developers need to be really proficient,” she says. That, in a nutshell, is why back-end developers can command relatively high salaries.

Cost of living

While the average back-end developer may earn a relatively high salary, they must also keep the cost of living where they live and work in mind. A developer earning a high salary in an expensive city may see more of those earnings whittled away by high rent and childcare costs (for example) than a developer earning a bit less in a cheaper area. Again, this is something to merely keep in mind for prospective developers looking at high-paying career tracks.

Back-end developer salary by state 

Below, you’ll see the states where back-end developers earn the most on average. The salary numbers were provided by ZipRecruiter, and were calculated between the beginning of 2024 through early May 2024. 

Further, the cost of living (COL) index for each state is calculated by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), which averages indexes from metro areas and cities, and incorporates costs for groceries, housing, utilities, and transportation.

These are the states where the average back-end developer earns the most (and the least):

Rank Location Salary* Cost of living index
1 Washington, D.C. $115,499 146.8
2 Wisconsin $113,373 95.1
3 California $113,074 138.5
4 Massachusetts $108,811 146.5
5 Ohio $108,006 94.7
6 New Jersey $106,696 113.9
7 Pennsylvania $105,931 95.6
8 Vermont $105,790 115.3
9 Minnesota $105,368 94.1
10 Maryland $104,406 116.5
11 Alaska $103,791 125.2
12 Illinois $103,753 92.1
13 Colorado $103,709 105.1
14 Connecticut $103,611 112.8
15 New Hampshire $102,996 114.1
16 Washington $102,594 116
17 North Dakota $102,513 94.6
18 Maine $102,300 109.9
19 South Carolina $101,965 95.3
20 Hawaii $101,546 180.3
21 Montana $101,413 102.9
22 Tennessee $101,185 90.3
23 Delaware $100,956 101.1
24 Arizona $100,205 108.4
25 Rhode Island $100,089 110.7
26 West Virginia $99,912 87.7
27 New Mexico $98,787 94
28 Iowa $98,665 90.3
29 Nevada $98,506 101
30 Georgia $98,475 90.8
31 Oklahoma $98,357 86.2
32 Alabama $98,319 88.3
33 Kentucky $98,311 92
34 Idaho $98,265 98.6
35 North Carolina $98,099 95.3
36 Utah $97,817 103.2
37 Wyoming $97,413 92.4
38 Missouri $97,000 88.5
39 Texas $96,861 92.7
40 Louisiana $96,676 91
41 Nebraska $96,578 90.9
42 Michigan $96,468 90.6
43 Indiana $96,224 91
44 Florida $96,220 100.7
45 Kansas $95,442 87.1
46 Mississippi $95,274 86.3
47 Virginia $94,347 101.9
48 South Dakota $93,263 92.4
49 Arkansas $92,260 89
50 Oregon $91,864 114.7
51 New York No data 125.9
*Back-end developer salary as of May 2024
1
Washington, D.C.
$115,499
146.8
2
Wisconsin
$113,373
95.1
3
California
$113,074
138.5
4
Massachusetts
$108,811
146.5
5
Ohio
$108,006
94.7
6
New Jersey
$106,696
113.9
7
Pennsylvania
$105,931
95.6
8
Vermont
$105,790
115.3
9
Minnesota
$105,368
94.1
10
Maryland
$104,406
116.5
11
Alaska
$103,791
125.2
12
Illinois
$103,753
92.1
13
Colorado
$103,709
105.1
14
Connecticut
$103,611
112.8
15
New Hampshire
$102,996
114.1
16
Washington
$102,594
116
17
North Dakota
$102,513
94.6
18
Maine
$102,300
109.9
19
South Carolina
$101,965
95.3
20
Hawaii
$101,546
180.3
21
Montana
$101,413
102.9
22
Tennessee
$101,185
90.3
23
Delaware
$100,956
101.1
24
Arizona
$100,205
108.4
25
Rhode Island
$100,089
110.7
26
West Virginia
$99,912
87.7
27
New Mexico
$98,787
94
28
Iowa
$98,665
90.3
29
Nevada
$98,506
101
30
Georgia
$98,475
90.8
31
Oklahoma
$98,357
86.2
32
Alabama
$98,319
88.3
33
Kentucky
$98,311
92
34
Idaho
$98,265
98.6
35
North Carolina
$98,099
95.3
36
Utah
$97,817
103.2
37
Wyoming
$97,413
92.4
38
Missouri
$97,000
88.5
39
Texas
$96,861
92.7
40
Louisiana
$96,676
91
41
Nebraska
$96,578
90.9
42
Michigan
$96,468
90.6
43
Indiana
$96,224
91
44
Florida
$96,220
100.7
45
Kansas
$95,442
87.1
46
Mississippi
$95,274
86.3
47
Virginia
$94,347
101.9
48
South Dakota
$93,263
92.4
49
Arkansas
$92,260
89
50
Oregon
$91,864
114.7
51
New York
No data
125.9

The takeaway 

The web development process can be split up into different parts, including both the front-end and back-end portions. While some developers have “full-stack” skill sets—meaning they work both front and back-end—some developers opt to specialize in the front or back-end specifically. Back-end developers tend to work “under the hood,” with a lot of data and databases.

Their proficiency in back-end systems and processes isn’t easily obtained, either, which is what makes a back-end developer’s abilities prized in the labor market, allowing the average back-end dev to earn a six-figure salary. Prospective back-end developers should keep in mind that their salaries likely will depend, to some degree, on where they live and work, and the specific skills and programming languages they possess.

While working on the back-end of websites and applications may also not be quite as sexy as designing them for the front-end user, it’s a critical process. And back-end developers may not only command high salaries, but could also see big bonuses and other compensation, too.

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