Front end developer salary (and how to increase it) in 2023

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March 23, 2021
5 minute read

Being a front end developer can be a rewarding experience, both personally and financially. With the explosion of technology not just in the tech industry, but throughout the entire business world, it’s also an incredibly secure career path that is likely to be in demand for a while. 

At the same time, there are companies that seek to take advantage of people when it comes to salaries. One of the best ways to combat this issue is to arm you with knowledge of salary ranges, pay rates, and expectations of a successful developer. That’s why we put together this guide, diving deep into front end dev salaries. 

What is front end development?

A front end developer's job is to make technology products or websites visually appealing for end users. They take a code base and turn it into an accessible, client-side experience. If you’ve used a website and didn’t have to type code in a command line, you’ve interacted with the work of a front end dev.

The most common programming languages are Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript. These three core languages interface with back end code and tell it how to display—and what design details (such as the font color) to show—on a web page or client-side of an application. Front end devs commonly collaborate with web designers and back end developers to create full-fledged tech products and websites.

(P.S. Curious about becoming a front end dev? Wave has an in-depth guide answering the question “What is a front end developer?”)

How much does a front end developer make?

The average salary range for web devs in the United States goes from $50,000 to $125,000+ annually, depending on experience.

Junior front end developer salary

The United States national average base salary for a junior, “fresher," or entry level developer is $50,000–$70,000 per year.

This may seem low compared to the sky-high salaries you hear about in Silicon Valley, but this is just the beginning. A junior developer will have anywhere from 0–2 years of experience, and might only know one or two front end development languages.

Further, you can earn a junior dev salary right out of a coding bootcamp—no college degree required. This range is higher than the average $43,000 annual salary that people without college degrees can expect to earn.

Intermediate front end developer salary

Intermediate developers typically have a few years of experience under their belt and can do a wide variety of tasks on your own, but can’t quite take on whole projects.

At this level, people can expect to make an average of $80,000 to $90,000+ per year.

Senior front end developer salary

Senior developers typically have 4-7+ years of experience and are talented enough to take on whole front end projects on their own.

Because of that additional experience, salaries jump by a significant percentage to an average base of $110,000–$125,000+ per year.

Front end developer manager salary

If you love development and have a few years’ experience under your belt, another way to earn more money (without doing more individual contributor work) is moving up into management.

In the United States, front end development managers can expect to make anywhere from $90,000–$160,000+ per year. This career path means you’ll be coding less and focusing more of your work on people and project management, but that is exactly what some people want.

Freelance front end developer salary

If working full-time isn’t for you, freelancing is a great alternative that gives you more control over your time and an opportunity to earn great money.

The typical hourly rate for a junior front end developer is around $41–$60. For intermediate front end devs, that jumps to $61–$80 per hour. As you get more experienced, though, you can easily charge rates of $100–$160+ per hour for complex projects.

Factors that affect pay rates

Here are the major factors affecting how much someone gets paid:

Geography: Major cities like Washington, DC or San Francisco are likely going to pay more (in fact, San Francisco is famous for its incredibly high tech salaries). On the flip side, a smaller city like Tulsa might pay lower average rates. These shifts can even apply within specific regions: for example, jobs just outside the Washington, DC area may have lower salaries than what people make in Washington, DC itself. This is tied both to the competition for talent in these cities and to the cost of living.

Skills: The more skills you have, the higher pay you can ask for (and get). That's why it's important to be a continuous learner and take advantage of all the front end development resources available.

Perks and other benefits: Total compensation is a critical thing to pay attention to (it's not all about salary). Some companies have really good perks—including things like a home gym membership—while others prefer to pay more but provide less.

Experience level: The more you can show what you've done, the more money you can ask for.

Front end developer salaries compared to other types of developers

Front end development is one of the better paying jobs compared to the average base salary of related jobs, but it’s not the top.

Front end developer vs. back end developer

There is a slight salary gap between front end vs. back end developers, but it’s not as significant as some people might think.

Back end developers make an average salary range of $70,000–$125,000+ annually depending on their experience levels. So while front end developers are paid less than back end developers at junior levels, pay tends to even out as you get more experience.

Front end developer vs. full stack developer

When you hear of huge developer salaries, it’s often about full stack developers.

The average salary for a full stack developer starts around $90,000 for newbies and goes well up into the six figures for people with experience. If you’re driven heavily by money and are thinking about a career in development, full stack might be the better choice as starting salaries are nearly 90% higher than they are for front end developers.

Front end developer vs. software engineer

Software engineers make a similar average salary to front end web developers. Depending on experience, an engineer salary can be anywhere from $62,000–$128,000+ in average total salary per year.

Front end developer vs. mobile developer

Mobile developers track roughly on the same earnings path as front end developers, since their work is very similar. The difference is that mobile developers start a bit higher at around $64,000 annually and top out a bit lower around $120,000 in average total compensation per year.

Front end developer vs. UX/UI designer

UX / UI designers are also in high demand alongside front end web developers, but the average salary range ($51,000 to $110,000+) is slightly lower.

Front end developer vs. web designer

Other web designers on average make less than front end devs, earning between $49,000–$90,000+ annually.

Where to find web developer jobs

If you’re looking for your first (or next) role, check out these sources for job openings:

If you’re going down the freelance path, consider these sources for freelance job openings:

How to make more as a front end web developer (7 tips to try)

While gaining more experience and seeking promotions is the simplest way to earn more money as a front end developer, it’s not always the fastest way. We’ve outlined seven strategies you can try to increase your market worth.

Learn specific high-paying skills

Front end developers all need to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build a career. However, certain other skills put you in very high demand with employers—meaning you’re able to negotiate a higher pay rate.

If you want to get a pay bump, consider learning these additional high-paying skills:

  • React and React Native
  • Node JS
  • Scala
  • Spark
  • Hadoop

These languages and programs are more complex than simple HTML, but are also capable of building more expressive and complex websites. As a result, devs who can work with these programs tend to have a higher market worth.

Look for equity or profit share employers

If you want to earn more money long term, think about profit sharing and equity so you’re paid for the value you create instead of only making a salary. Startups famously give equity, particularly to early employees. Companies of all sizes offer profit sharing with their employees. And if a company is public, it might have a program where it gives stock options (or direct shares) to employees based on performance.

Stock options or grants can translate into significant money over time, particularly if a company’s stock does really well or a startup is acquired or goes public. Even simple profit sharing can add up to thousands of extra dollars per year (and grow as you get promoted, since profit sharing percentages are often correlated to seniority).

Job hop

On average, job hoppers (people who stay in roles for 2–5 years then leave) saw a 5% salary bump, whereas job holders (who stay in roles >5 years) only saw a 4% bump when accounting for similar performance. While it may not seem significant, consider that 1% happening multiple times in your career—on an increasing salary base—can amount to tens of thousands in additional career earnings.

The key to successful job hopping is to treat every job like a learning opportunity. Focus on gaining new skills and demonstrating real value in each job. That way you can make the case for a higher salary at your next role. The other thing about job hopping is to avoid doing it too much. The sweet spot is usually to stay in a role for 2–5 years because you are there long enough to face new challenges, but not so long that you get stale or stagnant in your career.

Side hustling and full-time freelancing

At every experience level, freelancing tends to pay a better hourly rate than base salaries provide. Of course, you have to handle your own business administration and management, but there are many low cost and free tools to help you with business banking or invoicing, making it much more sustainable to launch a freelance business.

If you like your job, side hustling can be a great way to earn extra cash. If you want more freedom, you could jump to full-time freelancing. Even a junior freelancer could command around $60 per hour, meaning working full-time hours would net them almost double in freelance pay compared to what they’d command in a job. Freelancing is also a great way to open a variety of career options, since it gives you more practice in your chosen craft and hones other skills like sales and client management.

Sell web templates and themes

Building tech products with your front end dev skills is a great way to create passive or ‘scalable’ income streams. For example, consider Wordpress or Shopify themes. You could build a beautiful theme that people pay for—anywhere from $50 to $250 each. While the platforms might take a percentage of your price as a fee, you’re taking home a lot of your sale price. Since you build these products once but can sell them hundreds—or thousands—of times, the profit margins can be huge.

If you’re going down this route, it’s best to start with large marketplaces that already have buyers. Further, be aware that there is a lot of competition (Shopify alone has thousands of themes. Wordpress has hundreds of thousands). That means you’ll have to think about marketing and ongoing upgrades if you really want to see a financial return.

Sell online courses and digital downloads

If you’ve built a good body of work or learned a very niche skill, consider teaching it to others. You can either build a pre-recorded course or launch live-taught cohorts (or a mix of both). A live taught course can usually go for more, but it’s also more time intensive and often requires premium platforms like Kajabi to operate successfully. A pre-recorded course will usually sell for far less (as low as $5 or $10), but you can sell it an infinite number of times through online marketplaces like Teachable or Udemy.

If building a whole course sounds like too much, try premium digital downloads. This can be as simple as a high-value process or piece of education in an ebook. As long as you have knowledge people want to learn, you can package it as an ebook, guide, or PDF packet and sell it easily through your own website or an ecommerce platform like Shopify.

Similar to creating web themes or pre-recorded courses, this is a make-once, sell-many opportunity that could generate significant profit margins.

Monetize a YouTube channel

If you have knowledge to share but aren’t comfortable charging people for a course, create a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing your experience with video tutorials. Once you reach a big enough audience, you can monetize your channel with ads automatically placed by YouTube or through sponsored posts. You can even advocate for other people’s courses, drawing affiliate revenue if you send students their way.

Monetizing a YouTube channel takes a lot of work, both to set up and to keep successful. Make sure you’re posting frequently and engaging with your audience. The other thing to remember is that most YouTubers don’t make money right at the start. You’ll have to do a lot of community building and content creation before you get the opportunity to monetize.

Front end web development presents a thriving career opportunity

The first step to becoming a front end developer is picking up the right skills and learning relevant programming languages, whether self-taught, through a bootcamp, or taking a course. From there, finding the right role is a mix of your desires, what a company is looking for, and, of course, the money part of the equation.

Curious about what it takes to become a front end web developer? Check out Wave’s guide to a successful career in front end web development.