Earlier this week, Ryan Sullivan – a twitter-friend of mine – sent out the following note:

An interesting observation, isn’t it? Especially for those who work on WordPress full time, work with WordPress full time, and/or those who have come to WordPress from other backgrounds. Specifically those in software development backgrounds.

Straight up, I’ll say that I don’t know why a WordPress developer salary is less than any other [insert whatever type of] developer salary is here, but I have my thoughts and speculations (as I’m sure you do, as well). And as I – and many others – have been talking more and more about trying to force a shift in the WordPress economy, this seemed like a timely thing to share.

A WordPress Developer Salary

First, forget all of the semantics that come with nailing down salaries. Cost of living varies from region-to-region, level of experience influences a salary, and the success and/or size of company has a lot to do with it, as well.

For purposes of this post and those following, put those aside and normalize them or do whatever you need to do in order to try to think purely about WordPress as an application, and what all it entails when writing code for solutions that sit on top of it.

WordPress Developer Salary

The state of the industry.

Here’s the thing: there a lot to say about this particular topic. At least as far as I’m concerned. So rather than try to actually cover it all in a single post, I thought I’d break it up into smaller topics.

At this point, I’m looking to talk about:

  • What is content management, anyway?
  • The skills of a software developer
  • Software development with WordPress
  • Themes, plugins, and applications
  • Programmers and implementers
  • …and perhaps a little bit more

But rather than lead up to some type of pseudo-grand finale, why not just lay out exactly why I think WordPress salaries are set where they are and then explain my reasons for thinking so in future posts?

Ultimately, I believe that the reason WordPress developer salaries are lower are for one or all the following reasons:

  1. The industry isn’t yet aware of what can be done with WordPress. It knows it’s used for blogging and/or content management, but that’s not the same as development, so those responsible for hiring do not believe a salary should not be equal to that of a developer.
  2. Those who develop solutions using WordPress may actually be more implementers than programmers and thus lack the skills to solve problems through the use of code (rather than pre-existing solutions), so their salary should not be equal to that of a programmer.
  3. The WordPress economy has not matured enough to educate the industry or the implementer that there’s more than can be done with WordPress and that classical software development and software engineering techniques can be employed within the context of WordPress.

Until those three things change, we’re not going to see competitive salaries for, say, Rails or .NET developers and WordPress developers unless those who are doing the hiring already understand all of the above and those who are looking to fill those positions understand all of the above.

And that’s the short if it. Those are the three reasons I think that a WordPress developer salary is less than that of someone who works with another set of languages.

Just Too Simple

But that leaves out a lot of information, doesn’t it?

Rather than write a 2,000 post that few people will have the time to read (let alone want to read), I thought I’d break it up into a small series of posts that looks at each aspect of this a little bit differently.

To that end, I’ve given you my three reasons for why I think a WordPress developer salary is less than what some expect it to be, and about which I’ll elaborate more in follow-up posts.

In the meantime, I’m still curious as to why you think a WordPress developer salary is less than that of its equivalent in other languages.