The 2015 Stack Overflow Developer Survey

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If you’re reading this, you’re probably a male developer in your late twenties who’s been doing the job for up to five years. You taught yourself to program, use a Windows PC with Notepad++ and class yourself as a full-stack developer. You use Git and JavaScript frequently and drink two cups of coffee per day.

That’s the profile of the average Stack Overflow developer from their 45-question 2015 survey. It received 26,086 responses from technically-minded people in 157 countries. Let’s look at the results in more detail…

Developers, Developers, Developers

How many developers are there in your country? The highest is Luxembourg with 39.8 developers per 1,000 people (perhaps you know someone who’s a 0.8!) Several Scandinavian countries come second with 35 developers per 1,000 while Somalia, Chad and North Korea have the fewest.

The average developer is 28.9 years old. They tend to be a little older in Western countries and younger in developing countries: 31.6 for the US compared to 25 for India.

Depressingly, 92.1% of us are male. Development has a gender balance problem but I doubt it would reach 50-50 even if discrimination were not a factor.

Skills and Experience

A third of developers have between two and five year’s experience. A quarter of respondents have more than eleven years knowledge.

The majority of women have less than two years experience. I hope this means more women are entering the industry and the gender gap is closing. Alternatively, it could mean women rapidly move on to other roles?

How did you learn programming? 42% of developers are self-taught. The remainder had some form of education or on-the-job training. I suggest we’re all self-taught. Syntax and techniques can be demonstrated but you only learn to program by doing it.

This is reflected in the next statistic: 70% of us spend at least two hours per week programming for a hobby or side project. The best developers love development: they’d do it even if they were working in another industry.

I have seen employment contracts stating you’re not allowed to work on other projects and all your code — whether written inside or outside of work — belongs to your employer. It’s short-sighted. Your employer benefits from your extra-curricular activities. If they can’t accept it, there are plenty who will.


Of the sectors we work in:

  • 25% is software development
  • 17% web development (I’m not sure why that differs to “software”)
  • 8% banking
  • 7% consulting
  • 7% media/gaming
  • 5% education
  • 4% telecoms
  • 3% government

A large 20% is “other industries”. We are fortunate that IT applies across almost every sector. I’m struggling to think of an industry which isn’t touched by technology in some way.

Two-thirds of people are full-time employees. 9% are freelance workers and 16% are students using Stack Overflow to cheat on their next project!

You’ll be pleased to hear we’re well paid compared to other jobs. Salaries average $99,000 in the US, $60,000 in western Europe and $25,000 in eastern Europe. When compared to the cost of living, the best place to work is … the Ukraine! Your salary will buy 22 thousand Big Macs per year. Impoverished US developers receive fewer than 19 thousand!

29% of people work remotely at least some of the time and 50% stated it was important. If you don’t mind, be aware remote workers earn 14% more than average while office workers earn 20% less. Part of this can be explained by freelancers who receive higher hourly wages but aren’t entitled to vacations, sick leave, pensions and other perks.

Those with the highest Stack Overflow reputations earn up to 35% more. I wonder how they manage to answer so many questions and do a full-time job?!

Job Satisfaction

76% of us are satisfied or love our jobs. Mobile developers living in Iran and the Netherlands are the happiest!

11% are dissatisfied or hate their job. The most miserable are product managers, data warehousing experts, graphics programmers and back-end developers. My advice: do something about it. Life is too short to do a job you hate. Your skills are in demand and there is more than enough work to go round.

Technology Type

Of the respondents:

  • 32.4% classify themselves as full-stack developers
  • 10.1% back-end developers
  • 6.0% front-end
  • 9.1% mobile
  • 8.3% desktop

I was a little surprised but pleased by the full-stack result. The web industry is diverging into specialisms; you can make a good living doing just content, CSS, graphic design, PHP/database or front-end JavaScript. That said, it’s difficult to work on an application if you don’t appreciate how the whole solution fits together. Most of us remain webmasters!

On mobile:

  • 44.6% work on Android
  • 33.4% work on iOS

20% didn’t specify a platform — perhaps they’re mobile web developers?

Development Languages

JavaScript is the most-used language. 55% of developers use it plus 13% use Node.js and 13% use AngularJS. Of course, JavaScript is required by nearly every web development project. Similarly, SQL is second highest with 48%. Java is the next at 37.4% followed by C# at 31.6% and PHP at 29.7%.

Most languages pay a comparable salary although PHP is typically 10% to 20% less than others? If you want the big bucks, consider moving to Ruby, C#, Objective-C or Node.js. If that’s still not enough, Apache’s Cassandra database and Spark data processing systems will earn you 50% more than average.

Just because you’re using a technology, it doesn’t follow you love it. Swift has the highest satisfaction rate although it’ll be interesting to see how that changes over time. The technologies we’re keen to learn include Android (18%), JavaScript (15%), Python (15%), Node.js (15%) and AngularJS (13%).

The technologies which make us shudder include Salesforce, Visual Basic, Perl and … WordPress. Perhaps that owes more to it’s success — WordPress powers almost one in four websites.


Mac OS is used by 21.5% of developers. This surprised me: attend any tech conference or geek meet-up and the majority have a Mac. Or are they more eager to show them off?!

While you see fewer of them in the wild, many more developers use Windows. 34% are on version 7 and 19% are on version 8. Another 20.5% use Linux and more than half opt for Ubuntu — a considerable achievement.

Notepad++ is the most popular editor with 35% of respondents using it. Sublime Text has a respectable 25% followed by Vim at 15% and Emacs at 3.8%. That said, the choice of editor often depends on the role; desktop developers opt for Notepad++ while Sublime Text is preferred by front-end developers.

52.5% of respondents and the majority of front-end coders prefer a dark theme. A light theme is the choice for 40% of respondents and desktop coders. Mobile developers have no significant preference.

Controversial Statistics

The holy tabs vs spaces war has been won by tabs with a 45% to 34% margin. Some developers use both. 5% didn’t understand the question — or had more interesting things to do with their life!

A healthy 70% of developers use Git. 37% use SVN. But a worrying 9.3% don’t bother with any source control. Ouch.

Finally, we drink two to three cups of caffeine-powered beverage per day. Really?

Do you match the Stack Overflow survey profile? Do you agree with the results? Why do you think PHP developers accept lower salaries? Are you drinking two cups of coffee before you even start work?

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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