Lawyer vs. Software Engineer Salary | Income Explained On 2023


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Do you think lawyers make less money than software engineers? Let’s learn lawyer vs. software engineer salary.

Software engineering is one of the fastest-growing professions in the world. In fact, according to the (BLS) Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings for software developers has increased by nearly 20% since 2010. This growth is expected to continue through 2020.

In this blog post, I will compare the salaries of software engineers and lawyers.

Software Engineer Income 

Lawyer vs. Software Engineer Salary

You can input your current compensation and the same years of experience for each role. There’s a handy map that breaks down the results by location, so you know how much your neighbors are earning.

The average software engineer is currently making $80k per year. That breaks down to $60k when including bonus, benefits, and profit-sharing while it comes out to around $70k excluding those items. The highest-paid 10% earn an average of $95k, and the lowest-paid 10%, including the bottom 10%, earn $37k on average.

So if you’re wondering why people work for free or at least for very little pay right now, the most probable reason is that there’s just a lot more demand for jobs right now. However, we have seen huge increases in previous recessions, and I believe many of us will be working for free once again soon. How long until all jobs worth having get outsourced? Nobody knows.

Lawyer Income

There are no data available yet, but from what I’ve heard, good lawyers may start out being paid quite a bit less than their peers in other industries. In my opinion, the best way to build a high-paying law firm would be to specialize early on and then grow into new areas later.

So far, it seems that’s not happening, so expect to see a big income lag, software engineers in general. Also, keep in mind that only the top 5-10% of the profession earns $250-$500k+ on average.

Differences in Role of Software Engineer and Lawyer

Lawyer vs. Software Engineer Salary

Both roles require extensive education, with software engineers needing about 4-5 years of college while lawyers need 7-8 years. Both also need to pass licensing exams before they can practice their profession. However, the skills required to become a lawyer vary dramatically depending upon the type of license you want.

Additionally, software engineers are considered “technology professionals,” which means they must learn new technologies as needed. Lawyers do not need to learn any technology unless they begin practicing law. However, even after passing the bar exam, software engineers still need to acquire specific programming languages, databases, operating systems, etc. Some lawyers who don’t focus on the tech learn these things anyway, but many don’t.

 LawyerSoftware Engineer
Common NameCounsel, Attorney, or a Solicitor Developer, Computer Engineer, programmer
DescriptionSomeone who practices lawSomeone who handles computer programing
DutiesA lawyer who advises clients and defends them in court may represent himself if he chooses. A lawyer prepares a legal document (a brief) for his client.A Software Engineer is someone who applies the principles of programming to create programs for computers.
IncomeThe profession can earn around 250 USD – 500K USD per annum without other charges  The Profession can earn you 37 to 95 K USD per annum without other charges 

Who travels more often for Work?

When comparing the two, one of the biggest differences is the level of responsibility that goes along with the field. While both roles involve some degree of client interaction, the legal industry involves dealing directly with clients over time in addition to handling cases.

And unlike lawyers, software engineers have direct control over the product they’re creating. They can determine whether it’s efficient, effective, and scalable. As such, programmers tend to have higher levels of autonomy and self-determination than lawyers.

Additionally, software engineers often go into debt to attend coding schools where they spend a lot of money and time training them to be better problem solvers. These factors result in roughly 2-4 times the median salary in the US.

Who has better Family life and Income together?

Lawyer vs. Software Engineer Salary

Both roles require a great deal of intelligence, but software engineers generally have more opportunities for creativity and problem-solving. They can use their brains to invent and create new products while lawyers solve problems in real life. Of course, there are always exceptions.

However, a great software engineer doesn’t necessarily make a great lawyer. Some software engineers can code something brilliant in the time allotted as others can’t. I believe that software engineers have more potential to make money because of the scope of creativity and ingenuity that they possess.

Additionally, I firmly believe that lawyers can sometimes be unethical simply due to the constraints of their industry. It depends on the person, though.

Gross Payout Comparisons

One thing that stands off the page is the huge difference between the salary ranges for the two occupations. The median software engineer makes around $75k annually, while over $190k for lawyers.

It would help if you remembered that some lawyers make more than this, but the point stands. The median software engineer makes almost 50X as much as the median lawyer at the low end. It’s incredible especially considering law firms typically charge $350-$700. They’re forced to learn by doing, though, so this isn’t necessarily bad.

Also, keep in mind that software engineers spend time every day solving problems while lawyers typically answer questions—many programmers makeover 200K per year to afford to take time off without worrying about losing money.

On the flip side, software engineers often have to work 60 hour weeks, so they can’t always take the extra time off when they feel like it.

Also, it would be interesting to see where the salary gaps lie within various states. The national average is pretty close, too; however, the variance is large.

Disclaimer: All numbers were taken directly from BLS data. It is a factor in tax deductions or other perks. However, a simple calculation shows that the difference is negligible. If anything, it makes software engineers appear better overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who earns more lawyer or software engineer?

It’s also important to note that attorneys aren’t generally given bonuses if their companies perform above expectations, unlike software engineers. Furthermore, most law firms offer stock options rather than bonuses, meaning they cannot depend on an employee to make them rich.

If their company does well, they might put a portion of their earnings toward retirement accounts or save some money match rates).

Additionally, like other professions, a lawyer’s success depends largely on their geographic area. Some cities have more legal jobs than others, so they have higher incomes.

I don’t think either of these professions makes sense anymore. Since both are highly skilled, educated, and respected occupations, likely to be merged, that would mean significantly lowering wages for lawyers and raising the pay for software engineers at first.

Still, over time, this could create something similar to a middle-class worker where everyone has a decent living.

Do lawyers get paid more than engineers?

Is becoming a software engineer comparable to becoming a lawyer? It depends on the city and areas and what kind of lawyer you plan to be. If you’re looking to make $100k+, become a lawyer, most people won’t ever hit that mark.

If you’d rather make $120k+, become a software engineer, you’ll likely make more money doing something else, such as getting married or buying a house. Either way, good luck!

Does a software engineer earn more than a doctor?

Software engineers are earning more than doctors. A typical software engineer will earn around $150k per year, while a doctor will only make $80k. It means that a software engineer will easily outlearn a doctor even after accounting for taxes, insurance, and other benefits. You can use Glassdoor to find your local market value.

Which is harder, law or CS?

This question lies on a false premise. Software engineering requires many math skills, whereas law involves much less. Also, software engineering is extremely broad—many different software engineers, including web developers, mobile app developers, database administrators, and more.

Lawyers usually specialize in one type of practice which helps them focus on a specific set of skills.

How do I decide between being a software engineer or a lawyer?

It would help if you didn’t choose between the two because there isn’t a choice. Both require a college degree, and most employers prefer someone with experience over someone who just graduated. The best thing is to learn as much about each field as possible and see which one interests you the most.

Which one is a better lawyer or engineer?

Lawyers and software engineers are very different professions. While it’s true that both require a college degree, it’s not always easy to tell which career path you want to pursue. For example, a lawyer may work in a large firm and spend most of her time writing briefs and arguing cases before judges.

On the contrary, a software engineer may work in a small startup and develop new products from scratch. In addition, lawyers tend to specialize in certain areas of law, whereas software engineers often work across multiple disciplines.

Key Takeaways

While it’s easy to look at the above numbers and think that software engineers aren’t getting paid enough, that isn’t true compared to similar fields. Compared to a typical doctor, lawyer, and accountant, the average software developer makes about 10x less.

But, if you add in the cost of living and the risk involved in starting a company, it’s not surprising that more entrepreneurs choose to enter the legal profession rather than software development.


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