So, you are a startup CEO aiming to build a great product and launch it successfully to reach the widest possible audience. Naturally, you want to do this cost-efficiently, so developing a server-side web application is a good choice. At least, this is what PayPal, Uber, LinkedIn, eBay, and other prominent companies did.
“Like many others, we slipped Node.js in the door as a prototyping platform. Also, like many others, it proved extremely proficient, and we decided to give it a go on production.” Jeff Harrel, Senior Director of Payments Products and Engineering at PayPal
Node.js is one of the best choices to build robust and performant web applications that run server-side scripts to produce dynamic web content. To use it, you will need to gain access to Node.js developers, either internally or externally. The decision to hire in-house might seem a no-brainer to ensure you get full control of the development process. However, as you need to spend your investments cost-efficiently, the need to pay a Node.js developer salary in-house can be quite a burden.
Below I will explain why hiring Node.js talents in-house in the US can cost a fortune, provide tables with data from credible sources showcasing Node.js developer salary sizes by region, and suggest ways to reduce these expenses, so keep reading!
Hiring a Node.js developer in-house
First of all, if you are located in the US, the decision to hire a Node.js developer in-house means the need to pay the highest salary in the world to attract and retain good talent.
According to Hired’s 2021 State of Software Engineers report, the demand for full-stack, frontend and backend engineers steadily grew throughout 2020 and formed more than 50% of all open positions. The average full stack developer salary rose by 3% in New York and by 5% in the SF Bay Area. This is not unique to the US as the trend is global. For example, salaries also grew by 6% in London and 7% in Toronto.
As the demand for Node.js engineers greatly outweighs the supply, hiring them in the US might prove quite difficult. Remember that salary is not the only expense you will have to pay to hire a Node.js developer in-house.
In fact, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics research among 6,300 private businesses, US employers in 2020 spent as much as 30% of their budget on various benefits (paid leave, various types of insurance, social security and medical care, retirement/ savings plans, supplemental pay, worker’s compensation, and other).
Thus, how much does a Node.js developer cost to hire? Well, according to PayScale, an average base full stack software developer salary is $78,967. However, in our experience, the actual costs can be up to 20% higher (due to cash bonuses and other extras). Add up the various benefits and be prepared to pay your Node.js engineer up to $119,624 a year.
A detailed breakdown of this figure shows that the total cost significantly depends on:
- Experience level
- Position type
Below I cover each of these factors in more detail.
As an example, based on that same PayScale report, software engineers in the San Francisco Bay Area earn 30% more than the median pay across the country. In Seattle, Washington, and New York, such talents earn 17% and 14% more, respectively. The lowest Node.js salaries can be found in Chicago, IL—5,5% less than the median salary across the country.
Naturally, there is a huge difference between the value that an entry-level Node.js developer and a senior-level software engineer can bring to your business.As you can see, on average, entry-level positions earn nearly half the salary of late-career specialists. According to PayScale, a frontend developer of the entry level with less than 1 year experience can expect the salary with tips, bonus, and overtime pay about $60,801 per year.
As you can see, on average, entry-level positions earn nearly half the salary of late-career specialists.
Even if you hire in-house, the position type can differ greatly. For example, as Twitter, Spotify, Salesforce, and other companies decide to go full-flexible and cut on office spendings, they can pay the money saved to their now-remote workers. The industry at large is following suit, with more than 113 jobs advertised per 100,000 of the working-age population offering fully remote employment with higher salaries in the US as of March 2021.
However, other major job portals like Glassdoor and Indeed provide different figures. For example, Glassdoor states that the national average Node.js developer salary is $88,028 in the US, with senior software engineers earning up to $114,000 annually.
At the same time, Indeed provides a much more detailed picture, with a backend developer salary reaching up to $119,583 annually.
Average Node.js developer salary across the US
I will now aggregate and reiterate the previously mentioned data to help you understand the reasons behind higher or lower costs to hire a Node.js developer team in various regions.
Keep in mind that these figures should be increased by 30% to cover benefits and, in the case of PayScale, by an additional 20% to reflect the true market situation.
Let’s split the situation by different US cities, as per PayScale.
Why are the costs so high? Because of several clear reasons:
- The majority of startups are based in the US
- The biggest investors are in the US
- The biggest demand for Node.js engineers is in the US
- The costs of living and employing talent are the highest in the US
So, skilled professionals can pick and choose, and the companies that want to attract and retain talent have to raise salaries. However, moving your R&D center from the Bay Area to Portland might not be the only solution. Let’s take a look abroad and see what major outsourcing hubs have to offer.
Node.js developer salary spread globally
The United States is by far not the only location where Node.js engineers reside, so you might want to search abroad. Firstly, I will give an overview of some European countries based on PayScale data and will add information related to Israel for comparison.
As you can see, hiring Node.js engineers in Europe comes at about half the price of building such a team in the US, aside from in Israel, where the costs are comparable to the US. But what about the global situation? The following is based on the 2021 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, as well as findings from PayScale and Glassdoor.
As you can see, when outsourcing to Europe, you can save up to 20–-30% while still engaging experienced Node.js developers for your project. On the other hand, hiring Node.js engineers in South America can help you save up to 70–-80% on salaries—but you must consider the risks for your project because of different languages and business culture.
Average Node.js developer salary in Western Europe and Israel
Take a look at the median Node.js developer salary in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, and Israel.
As you can see, West European software developers have an income comparable to their US-based colleagues.
Node.js salaries in Eastern Europe—Poland, Ukraine, Romania
In contrast to Western Europe, Eastern Europe has a much lower cost of living, thus offering much more competitive salaries. The following data on Node.js salaries is based on Glassdoor, No Fluff Jobs, and Djinni.
While you might think that hiring Node.js engineers in Eastern Europe is risky, as good services should cost a lot more, the truth is simple: the cost of living is much lower there, and the taxation system is geared towards IT specialists, allowing them to cover their expenses while asking for much lower wages. But this does not affect the quality of their services, as Ukrainian and Polish developers have received multiple rewards from HackerRank and often retain top positions globally in their respective domains.
Factors increasing Node.js developer salary: skills and experience level
As I mentioned above, Node.js engineers of different seniority can drive differing value to your business, which greatly impacts the cost of their services. Let’s take a closer look at how the seniority level affects the salary of a Node.js specialist based on PayScale and Glassdoor US data.
Why do the salaries fluctuate so much? Because different seniority levels imply differing Node js developer responsibilities.
Let’s now take a closer look at what to expect from a junior, middle, and senior Node.js developer.
Skills to expect of a junior Node.js developer
- HTML5 and CSS
- Node.js syntax and any framework (like Express.js or Koa)
- basic JS principles and paradigms, like HTML DOM and events
Most importantly, a junior-level developer must aspire to learn the language better. To ensure they don’t make costly mistakes while doing so, it is a good practice to assign a more experienced mentor to them—a middle-level Node.js developer.
Skills to expect of a middle Node.js developer
After gaining some practical experience, Node.js developers learn more advanced programming techniques, can work without constant supervision, and solve most tasks without issues and escalations. To ensure such talents can deliver on their promises, they must have the following skills:
- 2+ years of practical Node.js development
- Working knowledge of REST paradigm main concepts
- A good understanding of one or more programming languages other than JS—PHP, C, Python, Ruby, etc.
- Hands-on experience with TypeScript or CoffeeScript (and the will to progress with them)
- A firm grasp of Docker, AWS, PostgreSQL/MySQL, and similar DevOps tools to support streamlined and efficient code delivery
Naturally, middle engineers should also be caring tutors for junior specialists and dedicate effort to helping entry-level Node.js developers to progress. Instating a rewarding mentorship program can help form a productive long-term partnership within the team.
Skills to expect of a senior Node.js developer
If middle engineers are the backbone of your team, senior software engineers are its heart and moving muscle. Due to their in-depth software development knowledge, they should be able to solve any complex issue, delegate tasks to middle and junior colleagues efficiently, and help the product owner steer the project in the right direction. Naturally, this requires quite a diverse skillset:
- 4–5+ years of commercial experience with Node.js
- In-depth mastery of TypeScript/CoffeeScript
- Working knowledge of React, Angular, and various JS frameworks
- Firm grasp of the GOF patterns and SOLID principles
- Mastery of a couple of programming languages
- Experience with building RESTful APIs
- In-detail understanding of OAuth and other security requirements for building web-facing services
Finally, a senior Node.js developer must also be a system architect and follow software design and delivery best practices. They must keep their skill sets honed and constantly learn the latest relevant technologies.
Now that you know what to look for in Node.js engineers of various seniority levels let’s discuss the employment models you can follow when engaging them.
Hiring in-house developers
Naturally, this is the first option that comes to mind. When your developers sit in a room on your premises, you have direct control over their workloads and can easily keep tabs on your project. This also helps evaluate their productivity better and solve work conflicts that emerge, if any.
The challenges of this approach are also multiple:
- It takes time and resources to hire in-house, and you run the risk of not getting a good match for the role
- When a group of talents is assembled, it takes time and effort to transform them into a team
- If an in-house developer quits, their part of work goes on hold (unless the peers can handle it), which can affect the success of the project
- You have to pay for any idle time too
This is a good option for a larger company that aims to provide its product as a service and intends to keep product knowledge in the team. Unfortunately, it is also the most costly option, so many companies opt for a cheaper option, which is...
Hiring freelance developers
This way, you rely on the freelance platform to find someone with the most relevant skills and can remotely work on your project and deliver it successfully. By doing so, you avoid the hassle of recruitment, HR, and legal obligations. You just hire an engineer to do a certain job on time and pay them only when (and if) the job is done well.
However, the challenges of this approach can also be significant:
- Unless you have in-house Node.js expertise, it can be hard to test if the selected freelancer really fits your requirements—freelance platforms like TopTal and Upwork have review systems in place, but it is still hard to choose a reliable contractor there
- Quite often, freelancers delegate your tasks to their peers, which can lead to compromising the quality of the deliverables
- You have to closely manage and oversee the freelancers, which requires devoting significant resources to remote project management
- When they finish the project and leave, their expertise is lost from your team
Thus, hiring freelance Node.js developers might help save money, but will definitely cause managerial overhead. It is best to do so for minor tasks or for tasks with tight deadlines, or if you can’t go with a better option, namely…
Hiring Node.js developers from a development agency
This is called outstaffing—when you hire specialists from your technology partner to deliver certain services, but the project management remains in-house. This helps augment your team with point-of-need skills and deliver important project aspects without investing too much time and effort. The agency guarantees the completion of the tasks you order and must replace the developers if anything goes awry.
There are a couple of disadvantages to this approach:
- You need to monitor and oversee project progress on your side, as such developers act merely mechanically. You must coordinate their effort with your in-house team internally, which results in extra managerial overhead
- As every such specialist is responsible only for their part of work, contacting them again in the future might prove difficult. Should they quit the agency, you will need to dedicate additional effort to onboard replacements, should the need for any adjustments arise
Think of it as visiting the barbershop. You get one-time services and pay for them—and nobody has any long-term obligations. This is best for quickly addressing the challenges your project faces, but it comes with its own caveats. If you wish to ensure you stay on the safe side, it’s better to go for a more direct and holistic approach and delegate the product development to a dedicated team from start to finish.
Hiring a dedicated team from an agency
When deciding to go with a team from a development agency, you get the best of both worlds and avoid all the pitfalls. You gain instant access to skilled Node.js engineers who already work in established teams using polished workflows and have ready solutions for most typical challenges. This helps significantly cut development time and budget without endangering the quality of the resulting product.
A dedicated team from your contractor integrates with your workflows and uses the same project tracking systems and communication channels as your in-house talents to minimize operational overhead for you. You pay only for the results delivered, and when the team completes the project, they provide developer documentation to transfer knowledge to your in-house specialists.
The downsides of this approach are few, and they can be easily mitigated:
- You need to select a team actually able to deliver on their promises. This is best done by requesting references to successfully accomplished projects similar to yours. Dig deeper than simply reading the website and Clutch reviews—contact previous customers of this agency in person. Talking with them will help you understand both how the team delivered the results and how the company performed from the project management standpoint
- You need to coordinate the collaboration between the teams to ensure everything goes to schedule. This is best solved by working with a dedicated project manager on your or the agency’s side. This person will oversee project progress and report to you directly so you can keep your finger on the pulse without micromanaging
This is the best solution if you want to save money while ensuring a high quality of the resulting product. The best use cases for this approach are long-term software development partnerships with post-release product support.
I’d like to briefly recap all the above. Selecting Node.js for your next project is a good way to ensure the high performance of the app and a positive end-user experience. To do this cost-efficiently, you will need to gain access to decent Node.js expertise. As the way you employ the required resources significantly affects the resulting Node.js developer salary, you might want to consider working with specialists abroad to save costs.
You can select hiring in-house (locally or remotely in the US), working with freelancers, hiring remote specialists for one-time tasks—or work with a dedicated team legally obliged by SLA to deliver the project successfully. This way, you can pay $33,360 instead of $119,583 without compromising the resulting product quality. The latter approach brings the best results if you select a reliable technology partner.
Altigee is such a partner. We are well-known as a trustworthy development agency that delivers on its promises. We will gladly provide references from our previous customers to help you make an informed decision. Feel free to contact us and submit any inquiries, we will be glad to assist you!