PHP development: some consider it a popular language with a promising future, others an outdated technology that’s not worth the time to learn. But what do the numbers say, especially when you take a look at PHP developer salary?

While there are certainly many newer, flashier, and more exciting languages out there, PHP remains a reliable staple of backend web development and a skill many employers are still searching for.

Interested in becoming a PHP developer yourself? We’ve covered the average web developer’s salary already, now let’s dive into PHP and see how its income compares.

Quick note: We’re rounding numbers here, so make sure to check the original sources for more exact values.

Is PHP Developer a Good Job?

So you’re considering becoming a PHP developer. But is that really the job for you? Besides the issue of salary, is it a good career that’s worth pursuing?

There are a few things to keep in mind about PHP. Like any other programming language, it has its positives and negatives. If this is a career you’re set on, you’ll find that there are plenty of reasons to try it.

First: PHP is a very easy language to learn. Other programming languages can be confusing before you get used to them, using obscure naming conventions or high-level coding standards that are difficult to memorize.

But PHP is clear, readable, and easy to understand. If you have any programming background or even a vague understanding of how web development works, you can get a general idea of what a PHP string is doing just by looking at it. It’s one of the best languages to start with.

This simplicity does mean more competition, though. So starting out, you may have a lower salary. But highly proficient PHP developers are sought after, so if you can master it, you have the potential to earn lots of money. That popularity means there are plenty of career opportunities out there.

Another good reason to learn PHP: it pairs great with other skills and languages. You could learn HTML/CSS and JavaScript to be a full stack developer or get into database management with SQL. C/C++ programs can also interact with PHP. And with PHP’s exec() function, it can work with pretty much anything else.

Unlike newer languages, PHP isn’t a gamble. It’s tried and tested, with major projects like WordPress keeping it relevant even in 2020. Your job isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and that’s why so many developers continue to work with it.

What Does a PHP Developer Do?

As a PHP developer, what will your general daily tasks be? For that, we’ll need to answer what PHP is and how you can use it.

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language. What this means is that it executes scripts in real-time (unlike “compiled programming languages” which run all at once at launch), and can be used to create any kind of application — though it’s far more often used for web development.

It’s also a server-side language, which means its code is executed on your server rather than in the visitors’ browsers, unlike a client-side language such as JavaScript or CSS. This makes it more secure and suitable for tasks like sending data to your server that can’t be easily manipulated.

That’s generally what PHP is used for: dynamic tasks that require changing files on your web server or in the database. While JavaScript and other client-side languages can dynamically affect how your website looks and acts without bogging down your server with requests, PHP works in the background to execute key tasks.

As a PHP developer, you’ll be tasked with the backend development of websites, laying the groundwork for web-based applications and behind-the-scenes jobs. You may make secure forms and other user input areas, work alongside the frontend developers, and hook databases to your PHP apps.

And of course, you’ll need to come up with inventive ways to solve problems and implement the features your clients want using PHP.

After the initial setup period, you’ll need to continue doing maintenance. That means fixing incompatibilities when they arise, updating your code when new versions of PHP release, and maintaining databases and forms.

What Do You Need to Be a PHP Developer?

Entering any development field requires a similar set of skills, though backend development and PHP do come with their own unique requirements.

First up: Education. These days, employers for technical jobs care more about experience than a degree, especially for junior positions and with easy-to-learn languages like PHP. Freelancing, internships, and entry-level jobs could be a very good way to build yourself up and get the experience necessary to land a good job.

Being a good developer does require a range of core skills, however:

Additionally, knowing how to work with databases is practically a must. And even if you’re not a full stack developer, you should understand the basics of HTML/JavaScript and how they interact with PHP so you can identify compatibility errors.

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The Average PHP Developer’s Salary

Now comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the salary numbers.

Keep in mind that these statistics are entirely self-reported; only developers who sign up to these websites and put in their salaries contribute to the estimate. So the numbers won’t be perfectly accurate, but they can give you a general idea of what you should expect your income to be.

If you’d like a more official source, the Bureau of Labor in the US reported that web developers made $74k per year in 2019. This is all web developers, not just PHP developers, but it gives you something to compare your projected salary to.

You can also check out our report on web developer salaries to see how PHP development holds up.

Now let’s get into the average salary for PHP developers.

PHP developer salary

PHP developer salary (avg.)

Overall, not bad! Averaging all these you get an estimate of $81k/year. That’s pretty good for a language as easy to learn as PHP; a few hours a day of study could turn you from an unskilled worker into a talented developer with a comfortable salary.

Do keep in mind that for computer science and programming fields, this is actually a fairly low salary. Other languages can pay much better, at over $100k/year, especially in the United States.

PHP Developer Salaries By Experience Level

Salary for developers widely varies vastly by experience. More experience means you can handle more unassisted and help out younger developers, so companies are willing to pay extra.

First up: Junior, or entry-level, salaries. There’s not a big difference between the two other than the title. This is what you can expect to earn from your first job as a PHP developer, with little to no experience and perhaps some education under your belt.

As a junior PHP developer, you’ll have no more than two or three years of experience, and will be tasked with writing basic code and doing most of the bug fixing.

The average PHP developer salary for junior candidates looks like this:

As you can see the numbers don’t vary much, so this is probably a fairly accurate estimate.

Next up is senior-level PHP developer salaries. As a senior, you should have 3-5 years of experience, possibly ten or more.

Senior PHP developer salary

Senior PHP developer salary (avg.)

You’ll be expected to work without supervision, write quality code, and potentially oversee and train others. With all that responsibility comes a higher salary. And here is where getting into PHP really pays off.

Agency vs. Freelancing PHP Developer Salary

Freelancing is hard. You’re 100% responsible for earning your own pay and doing all your marketing to boot. You need to get found before you can earn any money, and it’s very difficult to get off the ground. But just how much lower is it?

It might not be as bad as you’d expect. In fact, freelance PHP developers have the potential to make quite a bit of money.

According to ZipRecruiter, freelance PHP developers make an average of $89k/year, or $43/hour. Compared to the general freelance web developer salary of $75k (or about $36/hour) reported by Glassdoor, this is quite a bit better.

CodeMentor reports that freelance PHP developers make on average $61-80/hour. With a standard 40-hour workweek (keep in mind you will likely work less, especially at first), that’s $127k-$166k/year.

Freelance PHP developer salary

Freelance PHP developer’s hourly rate (avg.)

And how does this compare to agency salaries? Most freelancers wouldn’t describe themselves as “junior” or “senior” PHP developers, so it would be a good idea to look back at those salaries for an accurate comparison.

Averaging the data from all sources:

Freelance PHP developers, on the other hand, have the potential to earn quite a bit more. It all depends on the hourly rate you set, and how well you can pitch that rate to clients.

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Average PHP Developer’s Salary By Country

Many of these salary reports can be a bit biased towards developers in the United States.

If you’re living outside the US, what can you expect to earn as a PHP developer? Here are PHP developer salaries in Europe; the rest of the data was collected from Glassdoor. Note that these have all been converted to USD for this list.

international PHP developer salaries

DDI Development

Check out job listings in your area to get a more accurate idea of what you can expect!

 

In short: the US is definitely one fo the highest-paying country, due likely both to demand as well as the high cost of living compared to some other countries. You might also want to check out this list of the average PHP developer salary by state in the US. New York is the top ranker with $94k/year, and North Carolina the lowest at only $69k/year.

Full Stack PHP Developer Salary

Full stack developers have a wide range of skills. You’ll use PHP for the backend, while also maintaining the frontend with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. In addition to that, you’ll likely be working with database code as well.

That’s basically an entire website all in one, so you’d expect to be earning a pretty good salary.

Full stack PHP developer salary

Full stack PHP developer salary (avg.)

This is among the highest of all the PHP developer salaries, even compared against senior devs. Enough experience can really pay off!

Are PHP Developers Paid Less?

Now that you’ve seen the data, how do these salaries compare to other development languages? While seniors, full stack, and successful freelancers make decent money, for the average PHP developer, data related to their salary expectations doesn’t look that exciting:

programming language salaries

Programming language salaries

Whether you use our numbers collected from Glassdoor, Payscale, and similar sites, or other surveys, PHP is consistently near the very bottom. The only language that seems to ever pay less is HTML and CSS.

Why is that?

The ease of learning the language could be part of it. PHP is a great starter skill that’s easy to pick up, but that of course means you’re competing with tons of junior developers for clients and company positions.

You can learn PHP in two weeks to a month of studying and practice. You don’t need much technical expertise to break into it: you can go from zero programming skills to writing functional PHP apps in just a few weeks.

On the other hand, the creator of one of the current top-ranking salaried languages, Scala, has a course on Coursera. It takes approximately seven months to complete! This isn’t just something you can jump into as your first programming language, either. You need past experience.

But as you grow and move past low-skilled competition, learning how to code more complex tasks in PHP and handle larger projects, you’ll find that your salary becomes much more comparable to other languages.

Let's talk salaries. 💸 Learn what factors determine your pay as a PHP developer (hint: in Switzerland, you could be earning $83k!)📈Click to Tweet

Summary

PHP is known for having a lower salary compared to other programming languages, and the numbers do indicate that. Besides HTML and CSS, PHP is one of the lowest-reported developer salaries. There are definitely more well-paying software jobs out there.

Despite this, it still offers decent money and good opportunities to advance in your career. Just think about the WordPress ecosystem, which is filled with themes and plugins to work on and companies that always about to launch a new product.

Senior and full stack PHP developers, who have years of experience and skills in a variety of languages, are the ones who earn the most. Starting out, expect a lower salary, but know that as you grow it will only be better.

 


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