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Why do PHP Developers Earn So Low?

Compared to other languages



10:46 pm on Jul 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've been doing a little research on sites like Dice and Monster today. It is interesting to see that PHP developers earn on avg 1/2 of what Ruby on Rails and Python developers earn, and roughly 50% less than Java and .Net developers. PHP developers are even earning less than HTMl5 and JavaScript guys these days.

I have my own theories, but I'm rather interested to hear what others believe are the reasons for this. And as a related question - does that mean consulting companies should also be charging 1/2 as much for the same solution if it is developed in PHP, not Ruby on Rails?

Note - I'm being both facetious and sincere in asking that question.


12:32 am on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member eelixduppy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

If I had to guess I'd say there are more PHP developers than RoR developers. By laws of supply and demand alone that could account for the wage difference, no?


12:38 am on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

And that justifies a project costing 2x more to deliver?

I understand the tech dept may prefer more sophisticated tech stacks. But the tech dept typically is not a the top of the food chain of an organization. How can that be sold through to the people at the top - that they must pay 2x more for the same product, because of the tools the tech team prefers to use?

The obvious answer to that question is - better code which costs less to maintain. But that's not necessarily true! There are sophisticated OO patterns and MVC frameworks avail in PHP too... as well as sophisticated developers than know how to use them. And, anyone who has had to maintain a Java or RoR project and also had to maintain a PHP app knows that's total BS! It shouldn't be ... but it is. :)

The next obvious answer is performance - but in fact, PHP out performs RoR apps hands down! Numerous studies to support that.

So again I'm left with the same question ... why so much cheaper? Can it REALLY just be a supply/demand thing? And can that get so far out of hand as to have a 100% impact on cost, with no better fundamental reason other than that?


2:38 am on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I imagine the figures would be something like 100+ PHP developers to 1 .NET developer. To make something work in PHP doesn't require a lot of skill but to make something work in .NET, well I am still trying. Also, the resources for PHP are free. For Windows stuff you pay which sorts grain grain from chaff.


2:45 am on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Simple supply and demand.

Tons of PHP programmers out there and they're a dime a dozen.

Blame the PHP programmers accepting any old price just to get the job for the low rates.


3:33 am on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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programmers accepting any old price

Some of them are in countries where they are happy to earn in a week what some programmers want to be paid per hour.


5:02 am on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hmm. Okay but the problem with the supply/demand argument I think, is the availability of a reasonable substitute. Meaning, PHP5 with CodeIngitor is just as capable of creating sophisticated apps as Ruby on Rails, and thus it is a low cost replacement for RoR. Thus, shouldn't one place downward pricing pressure upon the other? I'm taking this from Porter's 5 Forces model.

So there must be another element to the equation. I like the point about .Net separating wheat from chaff with licensing cost. Yes that is probably also a factor - perceived quality. PHP does have a perceived quality issue.


5:06 am on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

PS - just read Objective C is more popular now than C++. Does that mean it will be as cheap as PHP soon? :)


5:18 am on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I happened to think of another reason for RoR and Python developers to maybe be earning more. They're the hot languages for startups right now. Ton of capital chasing startups these days. Probably partly a quirk of the dogmatic need to use of these languages in those companies (?), creating artificial supply constraint in that industry.

Also, I see a lot less offshoring happening among firms that use these languages. So yeah, I guess they've been associated with "doing things right" which implicitly means no cheap offshoring, and is also associated with higher end engineers.

One interesting quirk about RoR listings I've seen - they ALL seek senior level people with 5-10 yrs of experience. Quite ambitious when you consider how long RoR has been around. Haha.

So perhaps that is the rub. When someone seeks a RoR team... its really just code for wanting to work with senior on-site talent. No juniors and no outsourcing. And thus this drives rates higher, not just due to supply/demand but also because of percieved quality/branding that goes along with it.


3:40 pm on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Tons of PHP programmers out there and they're a dime a dozen.

As one who worked freelance for years, to add to this, the reason there are so many PHP programmers is it's so easy to learn. Too easy, IMO, and is a demonstration of "a little bit of knowledge is dangerous." Look around at many of the posts here - developers go straight from the tutorials to selling the services, without learning the basics of programming or security practices.

It's entirely possible to earn a decent living as a PHP programmer at a decent rate. But first you have to actually know what justifies a higher rate compared to the millions of "dabblers." I guess the same is true of anything in web works, static coding, CSS, Javascript, design, experience does show. Or not. :-)

This may sound pompous and elitist but it's not, everyone has to start somewhere, I did. But I started with my own projects first and it was a couple years before I really had a grip on what I was doing. I still wonder about it sometimes. :-)


4:43 pm on Jul 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hmm. Interesting point. I've heard the same said about SEO services. :)

But are end consumers of the services aware of this distinction? I see plenty of developers that know this ... but business stakeholders? And so who is hiring developers for 100% more money? Is it technologists hiring other technologists? Or perhaps in larger companies, the technologists have more authority to pay more for better tech and skills? Most SMBs and entrepreneurs I know will look at rates on oDesk and start from there.

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