First released in 1995, Java is one of the world’s most popular and long-standing programming languages.
As a result, Java developers enjoy a steady demand and job growth even as programming trends and paradigms continue to change. In fact, Statista reports that a third of all software developers used Java in 2022 — a number that’s expected to remain steady in the coming years.
But what kind of salary can a Java developer expect?
In this article, we’ll explore the average Java developer’s salary by seniority, background, and location. We’ll also cover the roles and responsibilities of Java developers, as well as expected career growth and best practices for securing the job (and the hefty paycheck that often follows).
Check Out Our Video Guide On Java Developer Salary and Job Description
What Is a Java Developer?
Since the use and application of Java is incredibly diverse, Java developers can find themselves working on an even greater diversity of projects and technologies. Depending on the scope of the job or the project they’re working on, Java developers often work collaboratively with other developers, software engineers, and business managers to deliver useful products.
But before we get into the exact role of a Java developer, let’s take a closer look at the language itself. By getting to know the language first, you’ll be better equipped to understand the scope of Java development and the factors that impact a Java developer’s salary.
What Is Java?
Developed by Sun Microsystems in 1995, Java is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language used across a wide range of technologies.
Since its earliest versions, Java has grown and developed over two decades into the highly flexible and secure language we know today. Thanks to its multi-platform compatibility, Java can be found anywhere, from laptops and supercomputers to smartphones and game consoles.
One of Java’s most unique features is the Java Virtual Machine or JVM, a highly compatible platform for running Java programs. Unlike other programming languages that have to translate or compile high-level code to binary “machine” language specific to each operating system, Java instead translates to bytecode and runs it in the JVM rather than directly on the operating system.
As a result, Java can run on any device or operating system with the JVM installed. This gives Java developers a ton of flexibility, as they don’t need to worry about operating system-specific conventions or performance issues. By contrast, developers working in C or C++ need to “work close to the hardware” by carefully writing code specific to a device’s operating system or central processing unit (CPU).
Java also gives developers helpful tools such as class libraries, which help streamline development with pre-built components. Combined with high-level, easy-to-read syntax, Java development is usually much more straightforward than other programming languages, sometimes resulting in lower technical requirements for certain developer roles.
Who Is a Java Developer?
A Java developer is someone who designs, develops, tests, and manages Java applications.
That’s only the most general description, of course. Since Java is both general-purpose and extremely flexible, Java developers can work on a broad range of projects. Spotify and Twitter are just some of the many Java applications you might use daily.
Here are some of the major applications a Java developer will typically work on.
- Desktop GUIs: Java is a major language for building Windows-based desktop applications with graphical user interfaces (GUIs). These are the more “traditional” software you download and run directly on your computer.
- Mobile Applications: The Android operating system is built on Java, requiring Android developers to use Java in their mobile applications.
- Embedded Systems: Small-scale computers serving a particular purpose, such as controlling traffic lights and reading sensor information. While many embedded systems are programmed in C, Java is a popular choice for more robust hardware.
- Web Applications: Online forms, shopping carts, file conversion, and in-browser word processors are just a few of many web applications that can be built in Java.
- Application Servers: Most major applications rely on an application server to provide business logic and other key functions. Here, the physical application server runs a JVM to provide dynamic responses to user requests.
- Web Servers: Java is commonly used to power many of the web servers and applications that make the web so dynamic. Many Java developers in this area build customer portals and dashboards for processing user/customer requests.
- Enterprise Applications: Unlike the other applications we’ve covered, these large-scale applications use Java to provide logic and functionality across an entire enterprise (rather than specific users). An overwhelming number of enterprise applications choose Java for its security, performance, and scalability.
- Scientific Applications: Java’s powerful computational features make it ideal for many scientific and mathematical applications. MATLAB is one extremely well-known example used extensively in the scientific community.
- Big Data: Spark, Hadoop, and many other big data tools are built using Java. While not as high-performing as languages like R, Java offers unparalleled flexibility and already has the support of many leading tools and applications.
- Business Applications: Beyond enterprise applications, Java powers other types of business applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, inventory management systems, accounting tools, and more.
As you can probably already guess by now, Java developers usually work on the backend of the technology stack.
Where an application might have user-facing dashboards and interfaces (the frontend), the backend uses Java (or some other programming language) to provide its core functions.
In addition to coding core application functions, Java developers are responsible for working with other developers, engineers, and stakeholders throughout the rest of the stack. While development teams come in all shapes and sizes, good development is almost always a collaborative process based on good communication.
As we’ll see later, developers can have many responsibilities — and no two jobs are exactly the same.
Who Hires Java Developers?
Many of the world’s leading technology companies hire Java developers to build and maintain their applications.
These applications might include backend web services, mobile applications, and even frontend services or standalone software packages. Here are just a few of the major tech leaders who hire Java developers.
- Google: Many popular Google services use Java, with Google Docs being the most well-known example. In addition to coding and maintaining new features for these, Google also hires Java developers to build their Android applications.
- Microsoft: The Edge web browser and many other supporting Microsoft applications are built using Java. Many Microsoft Java developers do frontend (desktop GUIs) and backend work.
- Amazon: Java is Amazon’s most widely-used programming language for web development, application development, and big data processing. As a result, Java hires hundreds of developers to help maintain its massive infrastructure and production servers.
- Netflix: The world’s most popular streaming service uses Java for almost everything. As a result, they’re always looking to hire talented Java developers.
But software companies aren’t the only ones who hire Java developers. For example, many insurance companies hire Java developers to build and maintain applications that allow customers to submit claims, provide insurance information, make payments, and so on.
Are Java Developers In Demand?
Yes! With over 9 million Java developers worldwide, Java development is here to stay — especially since it’s already the foundation for many new technologies and enterprise systems.
With the number of software developers expected to increase to 28.7 million by 2024 (up 3.2 million from 2020), Java development (and software in general) is a promising career move.
Java Developer Job Descriptions
Like most software development or engineering roles, Java developers are usually split into three main tiers: junior, middle, and senior developers.
As seen in the graphic above, some companies also hire trainee developers with little to no experience. While that may seem counterintuitive, it can be a great way to invest in new talent while ensuring their skill sets are well-suited for the company’s goals.
However, trainee positions are few and far between — and rarely seen at large companies or tech giants. While not every company categorizes Java developers this way, it should give you a basic idea of what to expect.
Junior Java Developer Job Description
Junior or entry-level positions are typical for recent graduates, interns, or anyone looking to enter the field. Some companies may also refer to these as associate or assistant positions.
While you don’t necessarily need work experience here, most employers want proof that you’ve built something in Java and/or taken classes. While a university or college degree is the most promising way to get both, many passionate developers have earned their jobs by showcasing their work on a portfolio website.
Junior developers work under close supervision to develop small, code-focused features with minimal. Though they usually don’t need an awareness of the “big picture,” their experience as junior developers will allow them to take on bigger tasks in future roles.
Mid-Level Java Developer Job Description
Mid-level or middle positions are typically for those with at least three to five years of experience in software development.
Though previous experience in Java (such as a few years working as a junior Java developer) is ideal, it isn’t always necessary. Of course, employers may want to see Java projects (or equivalent experience), making a solid portfolio very useful once again. Candidates should also be able to discuss their general experience and knowledge of Java.
On the job, mid-level developers work with significantly less supervision than junior developers and generally focus on writing individual parts of the “big picture.” Here, where a junior developer would’ve written individual lines of code or very simple algorithms, mid-level developers may write entire classes or methods.
Mid-level developers are also expected to be more strategic team players and be able to devise innovative solutions independently.
Senior Java Developer Job Description
As the name suggests, senior positions are at the top of the development totem pole.
Usually having no less than five years of experience, senior developers have a broad range of knowledge and are partly responsible for planning the “big picture.” As a result, senior developer candidates should not only have an extensive development background, but also skills in project management (particularly Agile), IT infrastructure, and other areas of the technology stack.
On the job, senior developers rely on hard-earned intuition to connect business needs with technical solutions. Doing so not only requires a thorough technical understanding of the Java programming languages and their associated parts (e.g. Java Servlets and Java Beans) but also soft skills and project management expertise.
Another important role of a senior developer is mentoring trainees, interns, and junior developers. Whether they’re managing a whole project or just an individual (albeit large) part, senior developers are the “captains” of their respective ships.
Average Java Developer Salary
Now for the burning question: how much can you expect to make as a Java developer?
While Java developers enjoy a high average salary, the exact amount depends on experience, location, and key skills. There’s the average base salary of Java developers in the United States as reported by major job boards.
- Indeed: $106K per year, with a low of $70K and a high of $161K.
- ZipRecruiter: $107K per year, with a low of $41K and a high of $157K.
- Payscale: $82K per year, with a low of $56K and a high of $120K.
Java Developer Salary by Experience Level
Java developer salary entry level averages are no less than $41K in the United States, with the average senior Java developer salary exceeding $100K with 10+ years of experience.
Most major companies also include benefits such as cash bonuses and a matched 401(k), which may impact reported figures.
Java Developer Salary by Location
Salary estimates can vary widely between different states and regions. Like many tech jobs, Java developer salaries are highest in states with major metropolitan hubs.
From the map above, US-based Java developers can expect the highest salaries (15-25% above the average) in states such as Colorado (Denver), New York (New York City), Maryland (Baltimore), Washington D.C., Georgia (Atlanta), and Washington (Seattle).
Java developers also earn a similar salary internationally. Here are the average salaries for various countries outside the US according to Salary Expert
- Japan: $65K
- Switzerland: $120K
- France: $85K
- United Kingdom: $42K
- Italy: $65K
- China: $40K
- Hong Kong: $90K
- Taiwan: $50K
- India: $60K
Java Developer Salary vs Other Developer Salaries
Though Java developers are well compensated, how do their salaries stack up against other types of developers? Let’s compare side-by-side with figures from Indeed.com, which reports an average full-stack Java developer salary of $106K.
- Python Developer Salary: $117K (+$11K)
- C Developer Salary: $96K (-$10K)
- C++ Developer Salary: $116K (+$10K)
- PHP Developer Salary: $95K (-$11K)
- Node Js Developer Salary: $114K (+$8K)
- Laravel Developer Salary: $92K (-$14K)
- Frontend Developer Salary: $103K (-$3K)
- Backend Developer Salary: $116K (+$10K)
- Full-Stack Developer Salary: $104K (-$2K)
How Can Java Developers Increase Their Salary?
As more companies start to use Java for data and enterprise applications, the following skills will be in higher demand — and also command higher salaries.
- Advanced Java technologies: In addition to Java Servlets and JSP mentioned earlier, knowledge of other advanced Java technologies such as Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) and J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) are in incredibly high demand as they become more ubiquitous.
- Data systems: As applications become increasingly data-rich, companies seek developers with knowledge of database management systems (DBMSs), database design, data modeling, and so on. Hibernate ORM is one popular Java-specific tool.
- Enterprise system architecture: Understanding networking, servers, and other components of enterprise systems is an essential skill for senior developers (and their big salaries).
- Agile project management: Most development teams use Agile project management to deliver big results in small management increments or sprints. As a result, understanding the Agile methodology is a big step up for any developer.
- App development with libraries: Most development teams use existing libraries to streamline app development. As a result, even some experience with libraries can give your salary a boost.
- Deep knowledge of Java: Like with any language or expertise, having a deep and thorough knowledge of Java allows you to develop better, faster, and more efficient systems — the very same that command big salaries and even bigger bonuses.
How To Become a Java Developer
Almost anyone with the right skills can become a Java developer — even if you don’t already have professional software experience. Thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to learn new skills, share your work, and find exciting opportunities from just about anywhere.
17 Necessary Skills for a Java Developer
Java development requires a strong understanding of basic programming principles combined with Java-specific syntax and technology.
Since technology stacks are more blended than ever before, most developers are expected to have at least some understanding of both frontend and backend systems — even if the role is just in backend development.
Having the skills of a full-stack Java developer will also make you a more versatile and desirable candidate in the job market. In addition to making you a more well-rounded developer, these skills will also help you qualify for mid to senior-level roles later in your career.
Here’s what most full-stack Java developers are expected to know. You don’t need to know all of them, but the first 10 skills are enough for most entry-level jobs.
- Import projects and files: At the absolute bare minimum, a developer should be able to load projects and files into their internal development environment (IDE).
- Decision-making under Java: Like any other language, developers should know Java’s arithmetic, ternary, and assignment operators. Conditionals such as if, else-if-, and else statements are also essential.
- Flow control: As an extension of decision-making, developers should know how to control the flow of decisions and logic with while, do-while, for, and nested loops, as well as break, continue, and modulo operators.
- Methods: Developers should be able to create and call methods that can take inputs (or parameters) and/or return values (return statements).
- Core concepts: Developers should understand how Java deals with core concepts such as interfaces, exception handling, try-catch blocks, user inputs, data types, etc. Most introductory courses will teach this information.
- OOP concepts: Object Oriented Programming (OOP) concepts are essential when working with Java. Key concepts include encapsulation, abstraction, inheritance, and polymorphism.
- Java arrays: All developers should know how to define, iterate through, and perform operations on Java arrays (you’ll use them a lot!).
- Collection frameworks: Like arrays, other collection frameworks and data structures such as ArrayList, LinkedList, Stack, and so on are also essential.
- Generics: Allows an abstract data type (integers, strings, etc.) to serve as an input parameter to classes, methods, or interfaces. This is key to developing robust, versatile code.
- Multithreading concurrency control: More advanced developers should know how to use Java’s multithreading to run several processes simultaneously.
- Lambda expressions: Advanced developers may also be required to write these shorthand methods inline with other code.
- File handling: Data streams, reading/writing files, and object serialization are just a few key file-handling skills every developer should know.
- Debugging: All developers should know how to identify, track, and solve (or debug) errors throughout their code.
- Git basics: Most development teams use Git or GitHub for version control and collaboration.
- Java Server Pages (JSP) and Servlets: These are Java programs that respond to HTTP requests and run on a special Java application server. In other words, essential for web development!
- Hibernate: An object-relational mapping (ORM) tool for communicating with databases.
- Spring Framework: A popular framework for developing Java applications, particularly with Java Enterprise Edition (EE).
Finding Developer Jobs
Java developers enjoy a very high demand — and it’s not too hard to find a good job with the right skills and experience.
Like any job search, you’ll want to update your resume to focus on your software experience, even if it’s just from university or online courses. Aspiring Java developers should also maintain an updated portfolio of projects, ideally hosted on GitHub to demonstrate Git knowledge.
With your application package in hand, it’s time to hit the job boards! Though Dice is arguably the best job board for tech jobs, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed also aggregate most job listings. If you use LinkedIn, be sure to complete your profile to showcase your projects and tell prospective employers that you’re looking for work.
You can also find jobs by participating in developer communities on Stack Overflow, Reddit, etc.
With the average Java developer salary set above $100K (and with plenty of perks to follow), Java developers enjoy a comfortable living in exchange for their specialized skill set. With software jobs increasing by the millions every year, there’s never been a better time to fine-tune your skills and join the field.
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