JavaScript · Salaries

What's the salary range for a kick-ass front end developer?

Steve Madere Software Technology Consultant

February 5th, 2014

I'll re-ask Stan's question minus the pasted job posting.

So, assuming this guy knows Javascript really well AND is a top-tier developer
in other languages  i.e.  NOT a JQuery jockey,

What are you folks having to pay for that kind of talent?

Please decide on your answer before you read mine below:

We've found that guys who really know what they are doing demand a minimum of $130k
in Austin and many of them expect $160k - $200k if they are truly top-tier all around architect-level
developers who also know Angular or Ember well.

John Wallace President at Apps Incorporated

February 5th, 2014

I don't think this is the right skill set to be asking about. What separates the $100K/yr guys from the $200K/yr guys isn't the languages they know. It's their ability to effectively create great products. It takes weeks/months to learn a language or framework. It takes years (and a lot of talent) to become a craftsman.


February 5th, 2014

@Shannon Code:

"Many don't know what they should ask so you can probably find someone for $65k [...]"

I disagree with this type of thinking so much. Just because a developer is ignorant of the market, that doesn't mean you should take advantage of that like this, because if they are indeed a great developer, once they figure out that they're being underpaid, with all the competition out there, you just lost your developer. Instead, I'd take advantage of that situation the other way, by actually offering them a market salary, which in turn will make that developer even more excited to work with you, because they'll see that you understood their value. This also has two other great side-effects. One is that that developer will most likely be more loyal to you and your company, and the other, because they didn't know, they'll feel that they're being paid really well, and they'll work much harder to produce enough to justify their salary.

- Jonathan

Adam Breen Digital Product Strategist at CPDone Pty Ltd

February 9th, 2014

I've both managed and personally built client-side applications, as well as the more standard server-side web apps. 

While mature, well-built client-side apps are very attractive in terms of responsiveness and general "sex appeal", if you have an immature product concept, I'd strongly recommend starting with the conventional server-generated pages approach, then once you have a very good idea of how your UI is supposed to function, look at whether it's worth translating into client-side code. Client-side is an architectural labyrinth that you don't need to navigate until you are very clear on how the application delivers value. Server-side, properly optimised, can still deliver excellent UX, through well-understood patterns that are easier to find good technical resources to build. They also tend to deliver much lighter payloads, which is likely to be better in terms of the mobile user experience. Mobile devices have far greater constraints than desktop equivalents for in-browser apps (e.g. RAM).

If you decide to persist with client-side in the short-run, err on the side of paying more, for developers with a lot of experience and some good finished products that they can demonstrate - on both desktop and mobile. Experience counts for a lot in this sphere, because people just haven't been solving problems this way, en masse for very long, compared with server-side. Many of the good client-side guys are to be found in SF, because it's a Mecca for "sexy projects". Good server-side guys are to be found the world over.

In summary: you should pay more for client-side than you would for a good server-side only developer. Standard "supply and demand" economics apply. Choosing client-side is choosing to add overhead to your engineering budget, because you believe the additional product value is great enough to offset the cost.


February 5th, 2014

@Stan SF:

The specifics you provided for the position isn't for a front-end developer.

You're asking for PHP and .NET experience, SEO/SEM experience, intermediate to expert knowledge of CMSs; all of which shouldn't be the job of a "front-end developer". Also, CodeKit is just a desktop app ... any competent developer should pick it up in 15 minutes, so I wouldn't even put that in a job description. Lastly, IMHO, having a "formal education" won't make your front-end developer even better than the rest given that, AFAIK, there's not one college out there that teaches students modern front-end development, so I wouldn't consider that a plus. Literally 100% of the front-end developers I know learned 100% of front-end on their own, with somewhere between 60-70% of them having CS degrees and whatnot.

As for salary, it highly depends on location. I know folks in Denver making $65K and they're happy with it, and folks in Boston making $90K and they're happy, while those in the bay area wouldn't go for anything less than $100K.

- Jonathan

Jordan Stone

February 5th, 2014

I would agree with that. You have to assume a rockstar freelance web developer will probably charge around $100-$150/hr, or more in some cases. Also consider the cost of living. The developer in San Francisco is going to ask for more than the same one in Kansas City.

Shannon Code Chief Architect

February 5th, 2014

Many don't know what they should ask so you can probably find someone for $65k but if you want the best plan on spending between 95k and 160k depending on location. 

Aaron Perrin Software Architect / Senior Developer

February 5th, 2014

In the DC area, a similar developer would ask for around $150k+ salary plus other benefits. 

Mike Whitfield Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google

February 5th, 2014


If it isn't a crazy position that is over budget and behind schedule, you might consider me a resource.  I can probably at least vet people for you.

Truthfully, however, I'd bump down your salary figures like $30k all around.  I've worked at a number of companies so far that get this level of engineering on the frontend completely wrong.  In other words, they think they can pay less to get it done but underestimate the level of complexity it adds to resource and schedule requirements.

I've written a whitepaper about this.


Chris Phenner

February 5th, 2014

$125k - $150k base.

Michael Hoffman Incubating a Revolution – Microsoft HoloLens

February 6th, 2014

My experience:
$100K - $135K base
$100 - $135/hr contract