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Those Software-Engineer Dollars Do Well in S.D. Comparatively

San Diego doesn’t have the most software engineering job openings in the nation.

The ones it has, however, are definitely worth grabbing.

A recent study from Codementor shows that software engineer dollars go further in this corner of California than they do in many other cities.

The study looks at what its authors dubbed “real earnings.” That is salary minus taxes, Social Security, living costs and rent. And speaking of rent, the Codementor study assumes the software engineer is living alone.

Real earnings in the region amount to $31,400, putting San Diego eighth on the list of 21 cities surveyed (see chart). The survey assumes the software developer is paying rent of $1,833.

The bad part about San Diego is that software job openings are scarce. Study authors found only 5,600 of them — less than many other major markets.

San Francisco looks enticing. There are 17,000 software engineering jobs in that city. The average monthly rent of $3,272 gobbles up a good deal of take-home pay, however, so real earnings amount to $21,600.

Los Angeles offers more than twice the number of job openings of San Diego (12,000), but less in the way of real earnings ($25,100). Authors assumed a monthly rent of $1,931.

Washington, D.C. seems to be the Venus Fly Trap of software engineering. Among the cities surveyed, it has the most job openings (32,000). But once the area snatches you up, real earnings are at the bottom of the list ($15,900). New York City offers a similar environment, with 22,500 jobs but real earnings of $17,600.

The top region for take-home pay is Seattle, where real earnings are $45,100. Seattle offers 12,400 software job openings.

The market that is synonymous with information technology — San Jose — offers 20,100 job openings and real earnings of $33,800. Both numbers are better than San Diego’s. The study assumes the San Jose software developer pays a rent of $2,424 per month — some 26 percent lower than the San Franciscan’s rent, but more than 1.3 times the San Diegan’s.

Quality of Life

Of course, it isn’t all about money. A person has to balance the dollars and cents of a situation with quality of life. Codementor used data posted by Numbeo to rank that intangible.

The rankings showed San Diego’s pollution is low, traffic commute time is moderate, the cost of living is moderate, safety is high and climate is — you guessed it — very high.

San Jose does worse with safety and pollution, both listed as moderate. Commutes in San Jose are reportedly better. (The statistics probably assume a person is not driving in from the San Joaquin Valley.)

Work-life balance is a phrase that Christopher Duflo came back to repeatedly when he spoke recently about why he works in San Diego.

Duflo, 29, grew up in Connecticut. He spent four years in New York City and then chose San Diego for a change of pace. He attended Origin Code Academy downtown and has been writing code for election software company Everyone Counts for a little more than a year.

His salary is in the low six figures, and he realizes he makes less than he would make in New York or Silicon Valley.

But he likes the chance to surf five days a week.

San Diegans probably don’t put in as many hours as his peers in New York or Silicon Valley, Duflo said, but San Diego’s quality of life seems to show in the quality of work that his local peers produce.

Transplants Get Better Offers

Interestingly, a person looking for a job in San Diego stands to get better pay if he moves from somewhere else.

The 2017 State of Global Tech Salaries, a survey compiled by Hired.com, reported that people moving to San Diego from other parts of the country can command a 7 percent premium in salary. The average salary offer to a local resident was $103,000 while the average salary offer to an out-of-town resident was $110,000.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the reverse is true. Locals get the bigger salary offers (averaging $135,000) while people from other parts of the country get offers that are 10 percent less (averaging $122,000).

Both the Codementor and Hired surveys show that salaries outside the United States are generally lower. Oslo, Norway and Tel Aviv, Israel both ranked highest in real earnings, at $28,200 and $22,900 respectively. Also scoring well were Berlin and three Canadian cities — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Living in Warsaw or Moscow leaves software developers with less than nothing. They owe $5,600 and $6,700 respectively.

Codementor is an on-demand marketplace for software developers. It is part of Peeridea Inc., based in Sunnyvale.

Hired is a San Francisco company that offers a career-matching platform. Its study has a unique perspective. Since the cost of living in San Francisco is so high, the study expresses salaries from other cities by their buying power in San Francisco. For example, a person making $112,000 in San Diego could have the buying power of a San Franciscan making $179,000.

That $112,000 figure is what Hired pegged as the average software engineer’s salary in San Diego in 2016. That average salary actually declined almost 5 percent from 2015.

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