IT engineering jobs are available all over the world. There is an increasing demand for professional software developers. This means to you that you can select between more opportunities than ever before, provided that you are willing to apply for jobs outside your hometown.

Researching market expectations have never been easier. There is an increasing amount of information on the Internet. This means to you that you will sometimes exactly know the salary range budgeted by your employer.

If all this information is true, how come so many people struggle with salary research?

Developer for Hire

Developer for Hire!

Sergio, the hero of this story, wanted to end up in the city where I was, in Berlin, Germany. He had five years of experience in Enterprise Java.

According to my research, the median salary belonging to a developer with his exact skills is around €58.200, with a potential of earning even 82k in the top 10 percentile based on market data. Plus bonuses.

Sergio made a big mistake. He based his research on outdated data. He completely disregarded trends.

In Berlin, rental prices have massively gone up. Demand for software developers is continuously increasing. This implies that the market is willing to pay more for software developers than before. Some of the salaries Sergio saw in forums were outdated. He failed to make proper research.

He burned salary data in his mind, thinking that he will need some luck to reach the €50.000 mark, and earning €55.000 would be like winning the lottery.

Sergio thought for a long time about the range he should ask for. Based on the data available to him, he went for €48.000 to €52.000. This was a range far too narrow. He limited his potential earning ability. On some level, this amount was a big improvement for Sergio, as his salary back in his home country was worth a lot less.

One of the companies asked Sergio his current salary, and he answered the question. The hiring manager obviously concluded that he would be very happy with any amount inside his range. This is how many hiring managers think. This is a game with a deck stacked against you.

As Sergio is an excellent professional with above average skills, he only had to start the interview process with two companies, and got an offer from both of them.

He had to choose between €54.000, and €50.000 during probation, €53.000 afterwards. As Sergio got emotionally attached to the second company more, he chose the latter one. He managed to develop a very good connection with his future colleagues. He could already envision a great future with the company.

Although Sergio was quite happy at this point, he didn’t realize how much lack of research cost him. Even if he chose the other option, he would have left at least €10.000 euros on the table. Sergio had no idea that he could have earned 25% more right away!

The Plan

The Plan

Let’s see what you can do in this situation.

Based on the story, you can conclude that you are looking for salary data of a Senior Java Developer with at least five years of experience, in Berlin, Germany.

Go to, and research your options.

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The median is €58.213 at the time of writing the article. Assuming there is an uptrend in salaries, you should be looking for slightly more if you are an average developer.

Given that Sergio knew he was better than average, chances are, he could end up with at least €64.000, if not €70.000 or more.

If you add your degree, your skills (J2EE, UML etc.), your certifications, filter based on the size of the company, you get even more accurate results.

Looking at the graph, I concluded that there is a lot of room if you want to reach for the stars, and the bottom is more crowded. If your goal was to target the top 25%, you would earn at least €16.000 than Sergio at the bottom 25%.

Researching Payscale is worth every minute you spend on it. Based on just five minutes of research, Sergio could have increased his salary by a whopping €1.000 per month.

If you want to go even further, deepen your research. I would continue with Glassdoor. Then StackOverflow Jobs. I would start reading job ads that are relevant to my position. I would then look at other job boards with current applications. Many companies expose their salaries. Investing time in researching the market pays off.

What happened to Sergio?

Once he became educated about salary ranges, he didn’t believe he could turn things around at his company. He went in with a poisoned mind on a daily basis, and already started hunting for jobs.

Things like this happen in life. We have all been there, thinking our situation is gloomy, and the change is impossible. It’s like when the baby elephant learns that he is tied to a pole. Once the elephant grows up, he could just walk away and take the pole with him. Yet, the elephant learned during his childhood that it was impossible to walk away.

This is called learned helplessness, and it is one of the mental obstacles we put in our own way. If you are interested in discovering and removing these obstacles, check out my book, The Developer’s Edge.


Back to Sergio. I was in touch with him when he started interviewing. I asked him how well he was doing in the company. He said, people were listening to his advice, he is very structured, and his lead has been praising him for a while in front of everyone. He was seen as the most efficient and most senior developer in the team. Others were initially hesitant to welcome him, but after a while, they turned to him for advice on a regular basis.

My second question was, how good his relationship is with his lead. Sergio said, they went out for lunch several times a week. He thought his lead was a great guy, except that he was frugal, and he did not want to reward Sergio for his performance.

I made Sergio aware that his lead may not even be aware that Sergio was unhappy, as he just got a 3k raise, and people generally don’t focus on the salary of the person they talk to.

Given that Sergio wanted to resign, he had little to lose. He was just far too embarrassed to say anything, as he knew everyone else thought he was happy, and according to his thoughts, he would look too greedy by asking for €70k.

I eventually suggested that Sergio should admit his mistake, showing courage and vulnerability at the same time. Sergio met his lead, and said, he had made a huge mistake while researching salaries for Berlin. Given that he knew he was at least at the top 25% of all senior JavaScript developers, he should have been earning at least €70.000, if not more. Sergio added that he felt undervalued on a daily basis, and he knew it was all because of his mistake. He asked his lead if there was a way to reach this level, and if yes, what key results he would have to deliver to make sure he was worth his salary.

Sergio got a salary of €65k, and instantly became the top earner among Java developers there. Once he completes his key project, he will get a raise to €72.000. From a bottom earner, Sergio catapulted himself to the very top.

Lesson learned. Sergio’s cost: €10.000

Lesson Learned

This article may save you a lot of money.

Sergio spent more than half a year earning a lot less than the amount he is earning.

Always do your research. If you are working for a company that has branches in different cities, and the company is offering a transfer, never settle for the amount the company is offering you. They know your salary. They don’t care about cost of living, and often give you an offer that looks attractive based on your current salary.

Remove your mental blocks, and believe that you could earn a lot more than you think.

Sergio could have left a company he really liked

The €10.000 tuition fee is just peanuts compared to the option of Sergio leaving the company he really liked. He can now make a difference there. Now that his salary situation has been settled, he goes in with a grin on his face every Monday. I am quite certain, this was not the last big raise for Sergio.

If you are interested in making some changes in your own career, download the Professional Software Developer’s Roadmap to an Effective Salary Negotiations. Sign up in the form below!

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