Are software engineers happy?

Overall software engineers are happy with 70% of them stating they are happy at work and 79% not actively looking to change jobs. Software engineering provides a good salary, challenging work, and good career advancement. It makes sense that software engineers are satisfied with their work which then has a positive effect on their life as a whole. 

Resignations are at a high with 4 million Americans quitting in 2021 and tech also saw a 4.5% increase in resignations. However, the reasons for developers changing jobs are complex, and not always down to how happy they are. Money, opportunity, and personal development in terms of available technology all play a key role.

Less than 15% of software engineers said they were unhappy which is a great sign if you are looking to get into a tech-focused company. However, the reasons for loving or loathing a career aren’t always straightforward Let’s explore why software engineers are happy and then whether they enjoy life as a result of their careers. 

Are software engineers happy?

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Software engineers are generally very happy with 70% of them reporting high levels of happiness. StackOverflow notes that only 14.4% of software engineers state they are unhappy which is relatively good for an industry that is growing rapidly and yet to mature.

However, results on software developer satisfaction vary by survey. Career Explorer surveyed a far bigger sample size of developers. They found the average rating for happiness was only 3.2 stars out of 5. It puts software engineers in the bottom 46% of careers overall.

StackOverflow’s research samples fewer people but is more up-to-date, so there are pros and cons to both approaches. But it’s safe to say that software developers are happy with their work. Even on an anecdotal level, you won’t hear many people working in tech bemoan the industry. 

The industry is so competitive that poor working conditions result in people leaving for better companies. The standards have increased dramatically in tech and mean that most software developers are treated well The salaries and packages are also good, and offer people a high standard of living.

Location and software engineer happiness

Location seems to have a big impact on happiness. Developers in Spain, India, Germany, the United States, and the United Kindom report being the happiest. Spain has the happiest developers, with 90% stating they are satisfied, with India (73%) and Germany (70%) taking the other top spots. 

The differences between developers in different countries are interesting. Developers in the U.S. and UK are around10% less happy than those in India, and 22% less happy than those in Spain. 

Again sample size and specific job role need to be accounted for but it’s an interesting pattern to see two European countries at the top of a software developer happiness survey.

Why are software engineers happy?

Software engineers are happy because of their salary, work-life balance, career opportunities, and the flexibility that comes with the job. A positive experience at work also helps a person’s general well-being which explains why 70% of software engineers report being happy. 

Working in software development is perfect for people who love problem-solving and working in teams. The growth in the industry has also put tech employees in the driving seat. There are more jobs than suitable candidates so tech people have been able to negotiate better salaries and can move jobs more frequently for better perks. 

The reasons why software engineers are happy may include: 

  1. High salary and perks
  2. Career opportunity
  3. Flexibility
  4. Work-life balance
  5. Remote working
  6. Meaningful work
  7. Career autonomy 
  8. Enjoyable work

Let’s explore each of these in detail and give you an insight into what makes software engineers so content with their careers and lives.

Salary and perks 

A large salary was the number one reason given for happiness among developers. The median salary for a software developer in the United States is $110,140 and the industry is set to grow by more than 20% in the next decade. The industry outlook combined with a high salary makes software engineering a good career path. When a job pays you well it makes a lot of other areas of your life easier and explains why software developers report such high levels of happiness. 

Many companies are also offering additional perks like bonuses and shares to remain competitive with big tech companies. Overall, it puts programmers among the highest earners in the U.S. and makes retiring early a real possibility for many. 

Career opportunity 

The tech industry is still in its infancy compared to more established fields like law and medicine. It means the average age of software engineers is considerably lower than comparable roles in other fields. For young, driven developers there is a lot of opportunity in terms of career progression. 49% of developers put opportunity as a key reason for their current happiness.

Also, technology changes rapidly so there are always new avenues to explore and ways to improve. 

Flexibility 

Companies have had to become more flexible to accommodate a workforce that prefers working from home. Office hours have also shifted and now many office workers are allowed to choose their own hours. The amount of flexibility software engineers have available to them is a key reason for their happiness, with just over half of them mentioning it.

Pioneers like Netflix, Facebook, and Google have all made the workplace easier for their staff. People can choose to log in from wherever they want and at the times that suit them best. It is a trend that is slowly permeating the tech world and will only make people happier. 

But it is also worth mentioning that there are so many jobs for developers that they have a lot of flexibility to move around. People in other careers aren’t as fortunate and can just switch to an even better paying job on a whim.

Work-life balance

Behind salary, work-life balance was mentioned the most by developers. While working 60+ hours a week is glamorized in movies and on TV, most people want the exact opposite. A good work-life balance leads to better mental health and longevity for employees. 

Work-life balance is unfortunately completely dependent on the company you work for. Some businesses try and squeeze more time out of you each week while others are happy for you to take a few extra hours off on a Friday. 

Getting to do the things you enjoy outside of work is crucial for personal happiness. So make sure you work for a company that respects that.

Remote working

Working from home has taken the office world by storm. Most software engineers now prefer to do a majority of their work from home. The ability to work remotely or using a hybrid approach has now almost become a requirement. You get to spend more time with your friends and family, and less time traveling.

More time to do what you love means increased happiness. It ties in nicely with flexibility and work-life balance, and remote working is central to these. 

Meaningful work

The cool thing about software development is that you get to make products that help people. It may make a task easier, make people smile, or reduce the amount of burden on their day-to-day. Whatever the outcome you get to work on things that are meaningful and have an impact. 

Giving meaning to your career is incredibly important. It improves motivation and overall happiness which explains why developers report being so content. 

Career autonomy

If you are a driven and focused developer, the world is your oyster. You can stick with one company and work your way up. Or once you have the experience you can start a company to solve a specific problem. Alternatively, you could go the contracting or freelance route and have total control over your time. Programming is like a trade, once you have the skills you can take them with you and go off on your own. 

There are so many routes available and it means that software developers have a high degree of career autonomy. Even if you don’t want to jump ship completely, it is normal for most developers to have a side gig to flex those entrepreneurial muscles.

Enjoyable work

In most businesses, the work a software engineer will do varies from project to project, and feature to feature. You may be more stakeholder focused on one project and in the weeds with the code in another. The work is relatively varied and you always get to build cool stuff at the end of it.

Most people that get into tech enjoy coding as a hobby. It isn’t often that people then go on to be paid six figures to do their hobby. Developers are lucky in that regard. 

Enjoying your work is crucial to being happy in life. 

Do software engineers enjoy life?

Whether you enjoy life as a software engineer depends a lot more than just the things going on at work. A good salary, challenging work, and a good work-life balance make software development a great career for anyone looking to enjoy life. However, it doesn’t guarantee happiness, that has to come from the individual. 

A good job doesn’t guarantee you are going to enjoy life and be happy. Finding meaning in life is a great way to find happiness. Luckily, a lot of developers derive significant meaning from the things they create which helps them become happy. 

The benefit of software development is that it offers: 

  • A great salary
  • Varied work
  • Continuous learning
  • Flexibility 
  • Challenging work
  • Good opportunity 
  • Side gigs 

These don’t guarantee you are going to enjoy life outside of work. But they certainly help improve your chances of being happy at work. Being a software engineer is fun and tends to provide high levels of satisfaction. 

As a software developer o enjoy life outside of work you need to: 

  1. Have hobbies – do things you enjoy and do them frequently. Get away from the computer for a while and do other activities you like. Even if coding is a hobby it’s important to step away from the keyboard now and then.
  2. See friends – close relationships with your friends is vital to enjoying life. Give yourself some time to relax with the people with who you can laugh and joke around. 
  3. Appreciate family – your family forms part of your closest support network and the overall community. They can seem burdensome at times but take a break with them. A close-knit family unit can certainly lead to greater stability and happiness. 
  4. Exercise – if exercise was a drug everyone would do it. It makes you healthier and releases endorphins that make you feel great. Long term if you want to be happy and healthy incorporate some form of exercise into your routine. 
  5. Food – echoing the sentiments of exercise, eating well also makes you feel great. It isn’t about dieting all the time but just eating stuff that is healthy and hearty will also improve your mood. 

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