If you’re a software engineer and the thought of relocating has crossed your mind more than once, you’re not alone. Software engineering is increasingly remote-friendly and international, so you have plenty of opportunities to advance your career, expand your horizons, or simply find the ideal work-life balance. But let’s face it, choosing between the best countries for software engineers is no easy task.
In this article, we’ll give you all the information you need to make an informed decision for your career and future. We’ve selected the top countries that offer high software engineering salaries, good quality of life, and numerous job opportunities.
Key Criteria for Selecting the Best Country
If you’re considering a move as a software engineer, it’s crucial to weigh the factors that will significantly impact your career and personal life. Here are the key criteria to keep in mind when selecting the best country for your software engineering journey:
Salary and Income Opportunities
The average salary of a software developer can vary dramatically from one country to another. That’s why you should research and compare the situation in detail, considering factors like cost of living and taxes. While it might be tempting to choose the highest paying country, steep living expenses can quickly ruin your hefty paycheck. It’s crucial to strike a balance between income and cost of living when making your decision.
Quality of Life and Work-Life Balance
High income doesn’t necessarily mean great quality of life. Factors such as healthcare, education, safety, and the general standard of living can significantly impact your happiness. Also, work culture and work-life balance can vary widely from country to country. This is even more crucial to consider if you’re relocating with your family or you’re planning on starting one in the future.
Job Opportunities and Demand for Software Engineers
A healthy job market with numerous opportunities will ensure your job security and career growth potential. And while there’s demand for software engineers worldwide, it’s crucial to research the countries where your specific expertise aligns with the market, ensuring that your skills are not only sought after but also valued.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies
Understanding the country’s immigration policies and visa requirements is crucial. Some countries have specific programs for skilled workers, making it easier for software developers to obtain work visas. Consider the ease of obtaining a work permit and the pathway to permanent residency if you’re after long-term settlement.
By carefully assessing these key criteria, you can make an informed decision about which country aligns best with your career aspirations and personal preferences as a software engineer. That will determine the overall experience you’ll have while working and living abroad.
Software Engineer Salary by Country: 10 Top Countries
Money might not be the most important factor, but if you’re looking into global career opportunities, it’s surely somewhere at the top of your list. Here are the highest paying countries for software developers and engineers based on salary per year:
1. Canada: $121,413
2. Switzerland: $117,859
3. The United States: $114,894
4. The Netherlands: $87,559
5. Denmark: $68,259
6. Germany: $65,098
7. The United Kingdom: $62,501
8. Norway: $61,973
9. Ireland: $56,359
10. Sweden: $44,900
Canada leads the list with an impressive salary of $121,413, closely followed by Switzerland and the US.
It’s interesting to note the significant drop in salaries as we move down the list, especially when comparing countries like Switzerland to Sweden. Factors like the local tech industry, the overall economy, and the availability of skilled professionals can all influence these variations.
Let’s explore each of these countries in more detail to find out the best opportunities for a software development career abroad.
The Best Countries for Software Engineers in North America
The tech industry has long been the driving force behind innovation and economic growth in North America. From the bustling tech startups in the United States to the welcoming tech hubs of Canada, the region offers numerous opportunities for software developers at all levels of expertise.
Canada can be an excellent choice for talented developers looking to relocate. Major cities in the country, like Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa, are home to a thriving tech ecosystem, including startups, established tech companies, and research institutions. Also, Canada actively recruits and welcomes international IT professionals. Its high average software engineer salary, combined with a lower cost of living compared to other countries on the list, can provide a comfortable life abroad.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Vancouver ($111,564), Toronto ($105,280), Ottawa ($99,232), Calgary ($95,662), Kitchener-Waterloo ($93,586)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $3,469
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: Canada is among the top countries with a high quality of life and a favorable work-life balance. The country is known for its safety and inclusivity and offers a publicly funded healthcare system. Canada also boasts extensive social benefits and safety nets, including unemployment insurance, parental leave, and retirement pensions. Plus, the country offers quality STEM education with a focus on research and innovation.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Moving to Canada as a software engineer can be relatively straightforward if you meet the necessary qualifications and follow the correct immigration pathways. Canada values skilled tech professionals and has several immigration programs to attract tech talent.
The United States
The US has a robust tech industry with a high demand for software engineers. Salaries, particularly in tech hubs like Silicon Valley, offer the potential for a high income. But while there are many opportunities, the US job market for web developers can be highly competitive. The high cost of living can also offset even the highest paid jobs.
Best States Based on Average Software Engineer Salaries per Year: California ($123,200), New York ($114,183), Oregon ($112,066), Washington ($113,833), Massachusetts ($111,192)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $2,839
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: The overall work culture in the US has a strong emphasis on productivity and long working hours, which can lead to high levels of work-related stress and limited personal time. It’s also the only country without paid annual or parental leave, and access to healthcare can be costly. Still, if you’re set on the US, consider Connecticut, Washington, and New York as the three states with the best work-life balance.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Work-related visas may be challenging to obtain. The application process is quite competitive and there are caps on the number of visas issued.
The Best Western European Countries for Software Developers
Many Western European countries boast a thriving tech market with numerous job opportunities, startups, and established companies. Software engineers in Western Europe generally receive competitive salaries, and the cost of living is often offset by higher wages, providing a good standard of living.
Switzerland can be an attractive destination for skilled professionals seeking a combination of a high income, a strong tech sector, and an exceptional quality of life. The country has a well-established technology sector with a focus on industries such as finance, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. Switzerland is also home to numerous multinational tech companies and startups.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Zurich ($131,676), Zug ($121,491), Geneva ($115,203), Vaud ($111,850), Lausanne ($109,078)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $2,837
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: Switzerland consistently ranks high in quality-of-life indices. It offers some of the highest salaries for software engineering, a strong education system, and a safe and clean environment. Still, the cost of living in major cities is quite high, particularly when it comes to housing, healthcare, and everyday expenses.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: If you’re an EU citizen, you can easily get a work permit in Switzerland. However, American and Indian developers face a more complicated visa process, requiring a job offer from a Swiss employer.
The Netherlands offers career opportunities, high earning potential, work-life balance, and a pleasant living environment that can be very appealing to software engineers. However, it’s essential to research the specific job market, visa requirements, cost of living, and personal preferences to ensure the country aligns with your career and lifestyle goals before deciding to move.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Utrecht ($92,499), The Hague ($91,091), Amsterdam ($86,476), Rotterdam ($85,595), Eindhoven ($82,134)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $2,035
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: The Dutch culture places a significant emphasis on work-life balance, with a standard workweek of 36 to 40 hours and generous paid leave entitlements. The culture values leisure time, outdoor activities, and personal well-being. That said, the cost of living in Amsterdam and Rotterdam can be high.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Non-EU and non-EEA citizens may need to pass specific immigration requirements to obtain a work permit or residence permit.
Denmark is an appealing destination for software engineers seeking a balanced and high-quality lifestyle. The country offers a thriving tech industry, competitive salaries, and a strong work-life balance. Danish culture values work efficiency, but also prioritizes personal time, resulting in a standard 37-hour workweek and generous paid leave.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Copenhagen ($79,678), Aarhus ($71,085), Odense ($69,503), Aalborg ($68,831), Esbjerg ($52,202)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $2,238
Most In Demand Programming Languages: C++, C#, Python, Node.js
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: In Denmark, work-life balance is highly valued and deeply ingrained in the culture. Danish employees are known for being efficient and productive, but they also prioritize their personal lives. Denmark also ranks among the best countries for work-life balance globally, according to the OECD. Only a small percentage of employees work very long hours, and full-time workers spend a significant part of their day on personal care and leisure activities.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: As an EU/EEA/Swiss or Nordic citizen, you can enter Denmark without restrictions. But if you plan to stay more than three months, you’ll have to acquire an EU residence document. Also, while living in Denmark, you’ll need a Civil Registration System (CPR) number.
Germany boasts a robust technology sector with a focus on innovation, research, and development. Software engineers in the country can earn high salaries, and the cost of living, while quite high in major cities like Berlin and Munich, is generally lower than in some other European tech hubs. The German IT industry has a high demand for skilled senior and junior developers in various industries, including automotive, manufacturing, and IT services.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Stuttgart ($68,258), Munich ($65,957), Frankfurt ($64,581), Berlin ($64,129), Hamburg ($62,566)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $2,048
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: Germany values work-life balance, with a standard workweek of 35 to 40 hours and generous paid leave. The culture values leisure time, family life, and personal well-being. Also, Germany offers a strong social safety net, including healthcare, unemployment benefits, and retirement pensions, which can provide security and peace of mind.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Germany has specific immigration requirements for skilled workers from outside the European Union (EU). Obtaining a work visa or EU Blue Card may be necessary.
The United Kingdom
The UK has a vibrant and rapidly growing IT market, particularly in cities like London, Cambridge, and Manchester. London is also a global financial hub with a huge demand for tech working professionals in the finance and fintech sectors. Software engineers in the country earn a competitive salary, and the cost of living, while relatively high in London, is more moderate in other parts of the UK.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: London ($83,813), Cambridge ($63,891), Bristol ($56,391), Manchester ($55,632), Birmingham ($52,779)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $1,954
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: There are efforts to promote a healthier balance between work and personal life. However, the actual work-life balance you’ll experience can vary depending on your employer and the industry. Some sectors may have demanding work hours. Still, many employers offer flexible working arrangements, including opportunities for remote developers.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Obtaining a work visa or sponsorship from a UK employer may be necessary. Also, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union led to changes in immigration policies and may impact the ease of movement for both EU and non-EU citizens.
The demand for skilled software engineers in Norway remains high, particularly in sectors such as telecommunications, energy, and finance. You can find a job as a Java or C# software developer. Aside from IT, the current trends in data science also leave the Norwegian market in demand for Python developers.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Oslo ($71,064), Trondheim ($64,987), Stavanger ($61,053), Bergen ($60,761), Kristiansand ($52,000)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $2,102
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: Norway has a standard workweek of 37.5 hours and generous paid leave entitlements. The culture values leisure time, outdoor activities, and personal well-being. Norway’s breathtaking natural landscapes, including fjords, mountains, and forests, offer ample opportunities for outdoor activities, enhancing the overall quality of life. Still, the cost of living in Norway can be relatively high in major cities like Oslo and Bergen.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Norway has specific immigration requirements for skilled workers from outside the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). Obtaining a work permit or residence permit may be necessary.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Dublin ($68,813), Galway ($60,187), Limerick ($55,229), Waterford ($54,167), Belfast ($43,453)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $2,580
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: Ireland is known for its high quality of life, with good healthcare, education, and safety. It’s also an English-speaking country, making it an accessible and welcoming place for international professionals. Keep in mind that the cost of living in Dublin is quite high, especially when it comes to housing and rental prices.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Ireland offers various work visas and immigration policies to attract skilled professionals, including software engineers, to live and work in the country. To qualify for Critical Skills Employment Permit, you must have a job offer from an Irish employer and meet salary and qualification requirements. One significant advantage of this is that your spouse or partner can also work in Ireland without the need for an additional permit.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Stockholm ($83,591), Gothenburg ($57,060), Malmö ($42,973), Uppsala ($40,880)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $2,469
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: Sweden offers a good work-life balance, with a standard workweek of 40 hours and generous paid leave. The country is known for its welcoming and inclusive culture. However, the cost of living can be high, especially in major cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Sweden has specific immigration requirements for skilled workers from outside the European Union. Obtaining a work permit or residence permit may be necessary.
The Best Eastern European Countries for Software Engineering
Software engineers are often outsourced from Eastern Europe to certain countries, but this region can also be a highly attractive destination if you’re considering a relocation. Eastern European countries offer a skilled workforce, competitive salaries, a growing tech industry, and a significantly lower cost of living compared to Western counterparts. So, they present not only outsourcing options but also opportunities for software engineers to pursue rewarding careers, benefit from a high quality of life, and contribute to the thriving tech ecosystems of these nations.
Despite the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and the uncertain political and security situation, the IT sector stood out as the only industry in the country that reported growth in 2022. Many Western countries hire Ukrainian developers for major projects due to their cost-efficient rates, high quality work, and growing talent pool. Still, moving to Ukraine as a software engineer may not be the best choice at the moment.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Kyiv ($65,000), Lviv ($58,000), Kharkiv ($55,000)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $1,009
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: The current conflict has created safety concerns and economic repercussions for Ukraine, including fluctuations in the currency exchange rate and potential challenges in the job market. Some regions in eastern Ukraine have experienced infrastructure damage, impacting daily life and access to essential services.
The IT industry in Bulgaria has experienced significant growth in recent years, establishing the country as a notable player in the global tech sector. Bulgaria has also gained worldwide recognition as an outsourcing hub, with many global companies choosing to outsource their software development projects with the help of IT recruitment partners like DEV.BG. The main reasons for this include the country’s well-educated and skilled tech workforce, combined with cost-efficient rates and low taxes.
But this country is equally a great choice if you’re a software engineer or a full stack developer considering a relocation. You can count on a high salary and a cost of living that’s significantly lower than in most Western European countries. It’s a good strategy for software engineers to make their first million.
Bulgarians are also known for their hospitality and friendliness towards foreigners, which makes for an easy integration.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Sofia ($26,811), Plovdiv ($19,381), Varna ($16,151)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $967
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: Software engineering salaries are among the highest in the country, and the monthly expenses for a single person can be lower than $1000 a month. Bulgaria’s unique geographical location offers exceptional opportunities for both winter and summer sports enthusiasts. In the winter months, the country’s picturesque mountain regions become a haven for skiing and snowboarding with visitors from around the world. In summer, Bulgaria offers opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. The country’s sea coast also has sandy beaches for water sports like sailing and windsurfing, providing a perfect summer retreat.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: Bulgaria is flexible in its immigration regulations, offering a range of visa options for foreigners. EU and EEA citizens also benefit from simplified immigration procedures due to the country’s EU membership. They can often move and work in Bulgaria without the need for special visas.
Romania has a rapidly growing tech industry with a focus on software development, IT services, and innovation. English is widely spoken in the country’s tech sector and business environment, making it accessible for international professionals. Still, fluency in Romanian can be an advantage, especially for your daily life.
Best Cities for Software Engineers Based on Salary per Year: Bucharest ($24,134), Cluj-Napoca ($20,325), Timișoara ($17,889)
Average Monthly Expenses for a Single Person: $1,044
Quality of Life & Work-Life Balance: While work culture can vary among companies, Romania typically has a standard workweek of 40 hours, allowing for a reasonable work-life balance. The country offers a lower cost of living compared to Western Europe, which leads to a higher standard of living.
Work Visas and Immigration Policies: EU citizens can move to Romania easily, compared to those relocating from other regions of the world.
What country is the best for software engineering?
The best country for software engineering depends on your priorities. Canada and Switzerland are two of the highest paying countries for such roles, and they also offer a great work-life balance. Meanwhile, the US has consistently been at the forefront of global tech progress, driving innovation and pushing the technological boundaries. As for Eastern Europe, Bulgaria stands out with high average salaries for software engineers and significantly lower cost of living.
Which country pays the highest salary for IT jobs?
Canada, Switzerland, and the US have the highest average salary for IT professionals. That said, these are also the top three countries with the highest cost of living.
Which country pays software engineers the most in Europe?
Switzerland pays software engineers the highest salaries in Europe. Its strong economy, high cost of living, and demand for tech talent result in exceptionally competitive compensation packages.