How much should a Jr. Developer in Nashville be paid?

I started a series on Southern/alpha about software developers in Nashville, and starting salaries at local software-based companies. My reporting focuses on the identity of Nashville technology. In the past, I’ve attempted to cover Nashville technology in every way that I could, but full disclosure, I’m not a software developer. I’m a writer. Keep in mind that my reporting is a window from my vantage point.

Nashville technology-related salaries are competitive and comparable with other major cities. However, technology jobs and salaries are also unique in Nashville, and so are the people who work here.

I did some research after reading an article about developer salaries in Silicon Valley. My research focuses on Nashville, and the differences that make this region of the country unique for technology companies and workers.

Here was my original thought.

I read this article on YCombinator yesterday and I felt that on some level, developers and programmers in Nashville probably have interesting perspectives to add.

I posed the topic to John Wark, Founder of Nashville Software School (NSS) to start learning about programmers who currently build software here.

JW: I always have to caution my students here to read everything they see on HackerNews and those sorts of sites as being pretty biased or fragmentary. [The sites] tend to be heavily biased by the perspectives of the Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Austin, Boulder start-up world and somewhat broader tech company world, often only somewhat representative of the reality of Nashville (or many other cities).

The post in the YCombinator link was an example of a senior level developer’s less-than average-salary offers with 10 years of experience in Silicon Valley. I’ll get to that in a different article, but first I wanted to know how much a junior level developer makes in Nashville. For the example, I’d like to learn about programmers with one to two years of experience, who are graduates of NSS, with knowledge in the technologies NSS teaches.

Is there an industry standard salary for junior level developers in Nashville?

JW: I’m not sure there is an “industry standard” for junior developers (or any other flavor of developer) in Nashville or anywhere else. As was discussed a bit on that discussion thread you sent me, there are lots of types of developers and some skills/knowledge are more highly valued or scarce than others. Plus, what a large corporation is willing to pay versus what a seed stage or even earlier stage startup can pay are two very different things and people shouldn’t expect the starting salaries at those sorts of places to be the same.
When we say junior developer we mean for a person’s first professional full-time developer position. Some people talk about junior developers but mean people with one or two years of experience.

What is the standard salary for a junior developer in Nashville?

When I asked John this question, he made sure I had full disclosure. This is an observation and representation of only one software school in one city. He said “I think this is generally representative of the overall Nashville market for junior developers as [far] as we can tell, but that’s really hard to tell.”

JW: The average starting salary of an NSS graduate has moved from $45,000 in 2013 to $50,000 (and maybe a bit higher) over the last six months or so. I’d say that the range of salaries we see has moved from $40,000 to $52,500 in 2013 to $45,000 to $57,500 more recently. I’d say that about 75% or so of our starting salaries fall inside that range and 25% are outside the range to both the high side and low side. On the high side we’re seeing multiple offers in the $60,000 to $70,000 range out of each group of students. On the low side we still see a few offers in the $36,000 to $42,000 range. The low end offers are almost always either (very) early stage startups or small agencies that tend to work with small business clients or music industry clients.

The last six months indicate that the value of employing a junior developer has gone up an average of $5,000 for a starting salary in Nashville according to observations from educators at NSS. The upward trend of starting salaries for graduates of NSS indicates that employers trust sources of new talent in Nashville.

There are so many nuances, so many classifications and generalizations of software developers and engineers. There are graduates from NSS taking a $40K in salary and there are senior database administrators in an entirely different realm of technology and salary range. If I want to explore the last six months and figure out what the next six months look like for Nashville developers and programmers, I have to be specific on each piece of research to be accurate.

I spent the last few days in conversations with different individuals discussing everything from the value of a software developer to the definition of a product, and discovered exactly how little I understand about my own “technology” beat.

In my short time writing for Southern/alpha, I’ve always written about people, young companies, raising money in Nashville, startups, venture capitalists, and business.

In all that time, I’ve written about several different “technology” topics, but I’ve never once written about the identity of Nashville technology.

Over the next few weeks, I will be reporting and researching topics that define the meaning of technology in Nashville including the culture, the compensation, the value, and the identity of the technology behind Nashville technology companies.

Read more at Southern/alpha

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