Software developers in South Africa don’t need a university degree to earn a good salary. In fact, one in every four developers are self-taught coders, who actually start out earning slightly more than those with a formal qualification.
That’s according to technology talent marketplace OfferZen’s first State of the Software Developer Nation survey, which polled over 4,000 developers last month to find out about skills, work experience and opportunities among the South African developer community.
The key findings of OfferZen’s survey indicate that:
- The younger developers start coding, the more they earn. Those who started coding before the age of 12 earn the biggest salaries;
- Apart from salary, the top perks that developers look for in a job are flexible hours and remote work. They also care more about company culture than the tech stack;
- The number one reason developers in South Africa turn down a job is a lack of growth opportunities.
“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,” said OfferZen’s VP Growth, Stephen van der Heijden.
The younger developers start coding, the more they are likely to earn.
Just over half of all respondents who started coding before they started high school now earn more than R60,000 per month, while 60% of those who only started in their late twenties earn less than R30,000 per month.
While most respondents came from formal education streams, just over a quarter are self-taught coders.
Interestingly, self-taught developers earn similarly and in some instances even more than their formally educated counterparts.
On average, the best-paying industries for developers right now are FinTech, Cloud, Healthcare and eCommerce.
The top-earning intermediate developers are those in FinTech, who earn more than R39,000 per month on average. Intermediate developers in web development or design take home the least, with an average of R28,211 a month.
For junior developers, the sweet spot is data and analytics, at an average salary of R25,638, while senior developers earn the most in cloud-based solutions, taking home R67,276 on average.
However, Python is rapidly climbing 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 South Africa, go with Go or Ruby – they are among the skills that pay the most, across all levels of experience.
PHP developers earn the lowest salaries, no matter how much experience they have.
The future of work in South Africa
No matter the industry, salary is the number one thing developers in South Africa consider when weighing a job offer.
This is closely followed by flexi-hours and the option to work remotely, OfferZen said.
“Importantly, developers in South Africa care more about company culture than the tech stack. And the leading reason developers in South Africa 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 that they’ll turn it down,” said Van der Heijden.
When it comes to how South African developers want to participate in the global economy, 86% of developers in South Africa are open to moving abroad – but only 1 in 5 developers 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, the report said.
It’s called Slaapstad for a reason
More than 50% of developers in Gauteng wake up before 6h00, while only 30% of Capetonian developers are early birds.
Of the developers who wake up later than 10am, 75% are based in the Mother City.
When you’re first starting out, Cape Town is the place to be. Mountains, beaches and good money, the report said.
For example, developers with one-four years of experience in Cape Town get paid roughly R4,000 more than developers with the same level of experience in Gauteng.
However, after 10 years in the industry, you might want to relocate to Johannesburg: developers with 10-15 years of experience based in Gauteng reported earning an average salary of R68,000 per month, while those in Cape Town at the same level earn about 5% less at R64,735 on average.