Before we learn about the money, let’s get this question out of the way:
What Is a Desktop Developer?
Let’s have a look at the definition first:
A desktop developer is a software developer creating software applications for desktop-based operating systems like macOS, Windows, and Linux. In some cases, these applications don’t require an uninterrupted Internet connection.
Desktop Developer Skills
As a Desktop developer, you need to understand one or more of the major high-level programming languages such as Python, Java, C++, or .NET.
Also, you need to understand the basics of operating systems in the desktop environment you prefer, i.e., Linux, macOS, or Windows.
Finally, you need to have a good understanding of the toolchain to create, build, deploy, and test applications such as Git, Maven, programming IDEs and PyTest.
What Does a Desktop Developer Do?
A desktop developer is involved in a multitude of activities around the creation, development, testing, and launch process of desktop-based applications (software development lifecycle):
- Create applications using high-level programming languages such as C++, Java, or Python
- Debugging of faulty applications
- Speed and performance optimization
- Meetings and requirement analysis
- Agile and Scrum process implementation
- Technology selection
- Security analysis and optimization
- Privacy analysis and optimization
- Testing on multiple infrastructures and operating systems (macOS, Windows, Linux)
- Testing with unit tests and test automation
- Compatibility analysis and optimization
- Library creation and interface integration for reusability
In fact, here are the responsibilities of a desktop developer according to a job description that can be found here:
- Write and maintain well documented, high quality desktop applications for Windows and Linux platforms
- Build tests and integration tooling to ensure high quality code in an agile environment
- Collaborate on technical designs to meet product team and end user needs
- Research and propose solutions to problems across a broad range of topics, such as UI rendering, client-server communication, performance optimization, compatibility and more
- Work closely with team members and maintain a strong professional relationship based on communication, respect and trust
Desktop Developer vs Mobile App Developer
What’s the difference between a desktop developer and a mobile app developer?
- A desktop developer creates applications for desktop-based operating systems like macOS, Windows, and Linux.
- A mobile app developer creates applications for mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android.
Unlike desktop developers, mobile app developers tend to focus more on utilizing native sensors such as NFC and GPS for location-based applications, as well as more natural human-computer interaction means such as speech and touch.
Of course, there’s a two-way exchange of ideas and technologies because more and more desktop developers integrate ubiquitous computing technologies in their applications. And app developers use traditional “desktop” means of user interfaces such as virtual keyboards.
Desktop Developer vs Web Developer
What’s the difference between a desktop developer and a web developer?
- A desktop developer creates applications for desktop-based operating systems like macOS, Windows, and Linux.
- A web developer specializes in the development of websites or applications viewed on web browsers, mobile devices, and large desktop screens that are transported over private or public networks such as the Internet.
💰 Income: According to our income meta-study presented below, the average US income of a desktop developer is $100,354 whereas the average income of a web developer in the US is $88,054, so desktop developers make 12% more on average.
Unlike desktop developers, web developers use web browsers such as Chrome or Safari as underlying “operating systems” which restricts the functionality on the computer of the user but pushes the heavy computational load to a more powerful server infrastructure (see Cloud Computing).
This has led to the invention of the “thin-client” paradigm for application development.
Now that you know what a desktop developer is, let’s have a look at what you can earn next!
Desktop Developer Annual Income
How much does a Desktop Developer make per year?
The average annual income of a Desktop Developer in the United States is between $63,680 and $140,000 with an average of $100,354 and a statistical median of $99,627 per year.
This data is based on our meta-study of six (6) salary aggregators sources such as Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and PayScale.
Table: Average Income of a Desktop Developer in the US by Source.
Let’s have a look at the hourly rate of Desktop Developers next!
Desktop Developers are well-paid on freelancing platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr.
- Related Article: What’s the best freelancing platform?
If you decide to go the route as a freelance Desktop Applications Developer, you can expect to make between $28 and $50 per hour on Upwork (source). Assuming an annual workload of 2000 hours, you can expect to make between $56,000 and $100,000 per year.
⚡ Note: Do you want to create your own thriving coding business online? Feel free to check out our freelance developer course — the world’s #1 best-selling freelance developer course that specifically shows you how to succeed on Upwork and Fiverr!
But is there enough demand for desktop developers? Let’s have a look at Google trends to find out how interest evolves over time (source):
The trend remains stable over time—you can safely build your career around these types of trend patterns.
Also, if you examine the search interest for “Hire Desktop App” or “Freelancer Desktop App”, you can find that the trend is quite stable:
Learning Path, Skills, and Education Requirements
Do you want to become a Desktop Developer? Here’s a step-by-step learning path I’d propose to get started:
- Step 1: Introduction to Computer Science (~40 hours)
- Step 2: Introduction to Operating Systems (~40 hours)
- Step 3: Introduction to Java (~40 hours)
- Step 4: Introduction to C++ (~40 hours)
- Step 5: Introduction to Python (~40 hours)
You can find many additional computer science courses on the Finxter Computer Science Academy (flatrate model).
But don’t wait too long to acquire practical experience!
Even if you have little skills, it’s best to get started as a freelance developer and learn as you work on real projects for clients — earning income as you learn and gaining motivation through real-world feedback.
🚀 Tip: An excellent start to turbo-charge your freelancing career (earning more in less time) is our Finxter Freelancer Course. The goal of the course is to pay for itself!
You can find more job descriptions for coders, programmers, and computer scientists in our detailed overview guide:
Related Income of Professional Developers
The following statistic shows the self-reported income from 9,649 US-based professional developers (source).
💡 The average annual income of professional developers in the US is between $70,000 and $177,500 for various programming languages.
Question: What is your current total compensation (salary, bonuses, and perks, before taxes and deductions)? Please enter a whole number in the box below, without any punctuation. If you are paid hourly, please estimate an equivalent weekly, monthly, or yearly salary. (source)
The following statistic compares the self-reported income from 46,693 professional programmers as conducted by StackOverflow.
💡 The average annual income of professional developers worldwide (US and non-US) is between $33,000 and $95,000 for various programming languages.
Here’s a screenshot of a more detailed overview of each programming language considered in the report:
Here’s what different database professionals earn:
Here’s an overview of different cloud solutions experts:
Here’s what professionals in web frameworks earn:
There are many other interesting frameworks—that pay well!
Look at those tools:
Okay, but what do you need to do to get there? What are the skill requirements and qualifications to make you become a professional developer in the area you desire?
Let’s find out next!
General Qualifications of Professionals
StackOverflow performs an annual survey asking professionals, coders, developers, researchers, and engineers various questions about their background and job satisfaction on their website.
Interestingly, when aggregating the data of the developers’ educational background, a good three quarters have an academic background.
Here’s the question asked by StackOverflow (source):
Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?
However, if you don’t have a formal degree, don’t fear! Many of the respondents with degrees don’t have a degree in their field—so it may not be of much value for their coding careers anyways.
Also, about one out of four don’t have a formal degree and still succeeds in their field! You certainly don’t need a degree if you’re committed to your own success!
Freelancing vs Employment Status
The percentage of freelance developers increases steadily. The fraction of freelance developers has already reached 11.21%!
This indicates that more and more work will be done in a more flexible work environment—and fewer and fewer companies and clients want to hire inflexible talent.
Here are the stats from the StackOverflow developer survey (source):
Do you want to become a professional freelance developer and earn some money on the side or as your primary source of income?
Resource: Check out our freelance developer course—it’s the best freelance developer course in the world with the highest student success rate in the industry!
Other Programming Languages Used by Professional Developers
The StackOverflow developer survey collected 58000 responses about the following question (source):
Which programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year, and which do you want to work in over the next year?
These are the languages you want to focus on when starting out as a coder:
And don’t worry—if you feel stuck or struggle with a nasty bug. We all go through it. Here’s what SO survey respondents and professional developers do when they’re stuck:
What do you do when you get stuck on a problem? Select all that apply. (source)
To get started with some of the fundamentals and industry concepts, feel free to check out these articles:
- Freelance Developer – How to Code From Home and Earn Six Figures [Industry Report]
- How to Become a Python Freelancer—and Earn $1,000 on the Side? [A Step-by-Step Tutorial]
- How Adam Earns $5000 per Month as a Python Freelancer on Upwork [Month 4]
- Desktop Wikipedia
- Learn Desktop Google
Where to Go From Here?
Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!
Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation.
To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?
You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!
Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?
🚀 If your answer is YES!, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.
If you just want to learn about the freelancing opportunity, feel free to watch my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and learn how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.
 I used the following code to generate the income figure:
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt import numpy as np import math data = [90573, 108682, 89190, 63680, 110000, 140000] labels = ['Glassdoor.com', 'ZipRecruiter.com', 'USNews.com', 'PayScale.com', 'Talent.com', 'Comparably.com'] median = np.median(data) average = np.average(data) print(median, average) n = len(data) plt.plot(range(n), [median] * n, color='black', label='Median: $' + str(int(median))) plt.plot(range(n), [average] * n, '--', color='red', label='Average: $' + str(int(average))) plt.bar(range(len(data)), data) plt.xticks(range(len(data)), labels, rotation='vertical', position = (0,0.45), color='white', weight='bold') plt.ylabel('Average Income ($)') plt.title('Desktop Developer Annual Income - by Finxter') plt.legend() plt.show()
While working as a researcher in distributed systems, Dr. Christian Mayer found his love for teaching computer science students.
To help students reach higher levels of Python success, he founded the programming education website Finxter.com. He’s author of the popular programming book Python One-Liners (NoStarch 2020), coauthor of the Coffee Break Python series of self-published books, computer science enthusiast, freelancer, and owner of one of the top 10 largest Python blogs worldwide.
His passions are writing, reading, and coding. But his greatest passion is to serve aspiring coders through Finxter and help them to boost their skills. You can join his free email academy here.