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I'm currently a developer who recently applied for a project manager position at my company. I was told that being a PM in my company will make me earn less than what a developer will earn. I did however proceed with the application.

While doing some research I came across the following question. To sum up some of the answers it states that a PM should not earn as much as a developer as it's the developers that do the hard work.

How true are these statements when comparing salaries in other IT companies? And are PM's more valued than what one would originally think?

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"the hard work". I've always wondered what that means... Its an entirely subjective phrase. I'm sure a landscaper would argue that both jobs are quite comfortable. –  Andrew Clear Aug 31 '12 at 14:39
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Developers who work for a great PM would never complain about how much he/she is paid, unless it is not enough to keep them around. The world is full of low quality managers, project and otherwise. –  Andrew Clear Aug 31 '12 at 16:24

8 Answers 8

According to glassdoor.com, the average PM salary is $66,048 while the average programmer salary is $43,658.

However, the relative salaries are going to depend greatly on perceived programmer skill, PM duties, company culture and negotiation skill.

Successful project management is a science and in demand skill in its own right (PMs require both project management skills, something which there are a number of professional certifications for, like PRINCE2 and PMP, and a bit of knowledge about the domain the project is in), and it sounds like your company may not fully appreciate what a good project manager can do.

However, project management is a difficult field to get into; you need experience to get a job, and you need a job to get experience, so if you want to be a project manager elsewhere, an offer to get a first job in project management is valuable even if it means temporarily getting paid less. I'd suggest reading some literature (e.g. the PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge, Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, The Agile Manifesto, and books on popular agile methodologies like XP, Scrum and so on). If it sounds like you, taking the job could be a good opportunity, because it will help you to get a PM job elsewhere. Don't forget that developing yourself as a good PM takes just as much effort as a programmer, so keep up with opportunities to learn new methods and get certifications.

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Hey a1kkm, just curious, those salary numbers, was that ran against a specific region or industry or just in general? I was thinking that adding links to the results on glassdoor.com would be a cool way to keep this post continuously up to date. –  jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 3:46
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Hi, any update on the reference links? I ask because I'm really interested in keeping this up to date, and the links would rock! :) –  jmort253 Oct 6 '12 at 2:26
    
I usually check salaries @ ActiveTechPros. Average annual salary for Project Manager in United States = USD91,175.64. Average annual salary for IT Strategist / Architect in United States = USD105,148.57 –  Tiago Cardoso Dec 19 '12 at 12:19
    
As a side note, is important to highlight that defining 'developer' is quite complex. In my above comparison I assumed architect as the highest level in the development career. –  Tiago Cardoso Dec 19 '12 at 12:26

Developers are always going to tell you their work is harder/more important than PMs or BAs. And PMs will say their work is harder/more important, as will BAs, as will Accountants, as will Legal, etc. At the end of the day, on a team everyone's work is important because without it the team is more likely to fail. The relative importance will vary from project to project and company to company because of:

  • The relative availability in your area of qualified people to fill a given role;
  • Corporate culture, and therefore prejudices about who should earn what;
  • Corporate needs and project criticality;
  • Individual capabilities and level of experience.

Think hard about whether this move is right for you. PM work requires a very different skill set than developing software (way more emphasis on soft rather than hard skills), and it can be too easy for you to dive into details when you should be more focused on the big picture.

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Comparing one job family with another in an attempt to make sense of it is futile. In that other question, the justification that one should make more money because they "work harder" shows a lack of intelligence, analysis, maturity, and general wherewithall.

First, hard work is relative and subjective. That would be an argument that would never end. Second, pay has NOTHING to do with that. Variables including supply and demand, the existence of a monopoly and monopsony, the ratio of marginal revenue product and marginal resource cost affect where a salary and wage fall.

It does not matter about rank or perceived hard work or skills involved or number of years of education or how well you negotiate at the table.

Pay certainly and realisticaly has a lot to do with your choice of your career; however, unless you are comparing a job that pays above $200K and below $50K, the deltas really become inconsequential over time and will never justify one's happiness and perceived content in his/her career. Chase that.

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From personal experience in the UK (and particularly in the not-for-profit sector) I would say that PMs and Developers of a similar level of experience and seniority tend to earn a similar or equal amount.

The skillsets are very different so it's pretty hard to compare the two roles fairly. You also have to take into account current market conditions and business requirements (as David Espina pointed out). A developer who knows a business critical legacy programming language might be worth a small fortune to one company but considerably less to another, for example.

Where I think the divide really begins to show is disparity between Project Managers and Programme Managers. The latter often earn considerably more than both the majority of project managers and developers but, again, it's all about the skillset. A programme manager might have considerable budget responsibility and strategic influence. While a developer is still essential in the projects a programme manager is responsible for, the truth is that businesses tend to reward those who play a stategic role more highly than those who play (for want of a better phrase) an operational role.

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In some companies, the project manager is seen more as a coordinator. it will depend on the job functions. In general though, my experience, is that PM is the pre-entry to management positions that are part of the company hierarchy and hence more valued. Companies may or not have a technical and management career path, you should ask about it and it will help you to understand what can you expect from your PM position.

To be honest, I am glad that your company considers that developers do the hard work, as usually it is underestimated. Nevertheless, I think that a good PM is essential for a project to be successful: planning, team management, technical direction( sometimes the architect does this), global perspective, risk management are key tasks of the PM.

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Determining management effectiveness is more difficult and time consuming than determining entry-level developer effectiveness.

In my experience, accountability in project scope and duration and the requirement of leadership are key differentiators between the roles. Junior managers tend to get lower salaries because proving anything about their effectiveness is hard. Your first PM gig is a trial run and the fail rate is high.

As you consistently demonstrate the traits your company values, you earn accountability for greater project scope (people/$, hard resources, priority, etc.) and duration (week, month, quarter, year...five years).

If you do well, your company prospers by your planning and execution. Ideally you get recognition through more cool projects and a competitive salary.

This post ends with a reference to "great" programmers. Assuming that's the top 1%, it's not a meaningful metric. Aspire to be a great manager rather than earning a specific amount of money and you'll probably win on both counts.

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I was a Sr. Developer for 8 years before I became a PM. A good PM is a very valuable asset for the success of a project. I was offered a PM position within my development team as my manager believed that I had the right balance of management and technical skills to be a successful PM.

The skill sets for a developer and a PM are very different and I am not sure I would even say developer does all the hard work and the PM doesn't as I have been on both sides now. It is easy to sit behind a desk and type away your code without interacting much with the higher ups. But when it comes with interacting with the higher up's(as high as CEO's), delivering the bad news that the delivery date is going to slip and the cost is not going to be met is not a easy thing :-)

At the end of the day, you need to make the decision and trust your capabilities and make sure that is the correct path you want to choose in your career.
In terms of compensation, I believe it is pretty much the same for a Sr. PM and a Sr. Developer.

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You have any information to back up the statement about compensation being equal? Is that what you personally found when moving from a Sr. Dev to a PM? If so, you should indicate that in your answer. :) (As an aside, I edited out your signature as we don't use those here. Please see Can I use a signature or tagline for details.) –  jmort253 Oct 6 '12 at 2:31

I think the main factor with pay disparity between disciplines is the number of people who want to do the job.

Most BAs or PMs have come via some other path. I'm guessing that if you did a survey of all people starting university this year, there'll be quite a lot of people who want to do software development and very few who say "when I grow up I really want to be a BA or PM".

Supply and demand.

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