Is it worth relocating to London as a software engineer? - Oxford Knight (2023)

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Is it worth relocating to London as a software engineer? - Oxford Knight (1)

Introduction

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. – Samuel Johnson.

Now, whether you take your truth from the lyrics of The Clash; that “London’s Calling from the far away town,” or from the words of Samuel Johnson; that “London is a great city, and a city where there is a home for everyone”, I am still surprised by the number of software development professionals I speak to who are reluctant to make the move and call the nation’s capital home.

Whether that stems from fear of the unknown, or the myths around how much it costs to call yourself a Londoner, I’m not sure, but in this blog I am going to shed light on some of these myths and reveal the truth about living in London.

While most people will be able to take something from this blog, it is primarily aimed at those software engineers who would be classified as tier 1, or top of their field; those capable of passing an interview at the likes of Facebook, Google and Bloomberg. Not sure if that’s you? A good place to start is: www.quora.com/What-is-the-software-engineering-interview-process-like-at-Facebook-London

Myth 1: London is way too expensive

Well yes, London is expensive – easily the most expensive city in the UK (16% pricier that Coventry which ranks 2nd); BUT when you compare the overall cost of living in London to other cities globally, London ACTUALLY featured a measly 22nd in 2019, with Hong Kong, Singapore and Paris taking the joint top spot.

Is it worth relocating to London as a software engineer? - Oxford Knight (2)

Let’s start by examining the cost of living in London for a software engineer, beginning with what a software engineer earns. The good news for any software engineer is that, on average, you’ll earn well above the average mean salary in London. (Government statistics show this as £36,000 for 2020, while the average for a London-based software engineer is £52,900 in 2020.)

(Video) A Day In The Life Of A Software Engineer in LONDON UK

Many developers who are toying with the idea of London tell me: “Finance isn’t my first choice, but I’m looking at working in finance in London because it pays more.” Well, yes – traditionally the financial sector boasted the highest compensation. HOWEVER, more recently we have observed top-level London technology companies competing on salary with leading hedge funds and banks when hiring the best developers. So, if you’re a developer thinking finance isn’t your first choice of industry but you want maximum earning potential, this is further proof that London is the place for you!

What does a typical software developer offer look like?A recent offer from a leading hedge fund for a software developer with 10 years of experience included:

  • £120k basic salary
  • £80k guaranteed minimum bonus
  • £20k sign-on bonus

Which puts the first annual minimum compensation in London at £220k. Another offer received recently, from a large non-financial tech company for a tier 1 senior engineering candidate (relocating to London may I add), was for £150k base plus equity.

So what’s the bad news? These offers are at the top end of what we see for tier 1 candidates in London, and not necessarily the norm. More typical salaries for a VP-level developer in one of our tier 1 banking clients – and increasingly within start-ups and tech companies – would start from £85-90k. But even after tax that still leaves you with £58,039 disposable income (and that’s before any bonus or additional compensation is paid!!)

But it’s not always all about the money! Most permanent software development jobs in London come with a range of additional benefits, including:

  • Private healthcare – often with the option to add your family!
  • Life insurance
  • Pension – it is now legally compulsory for all employers to contribute at least 3% to employee pensions
  • Paid holiday / sick days – minimum of 25 days
  • Gym membership

Oh, and if you’re worried about your rights as an employee in London, don’t! Britain has some of the most extensive laws and policies globally to protect the rights of all employees. None of this hiring and firing you see in the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’. Don’t believe me? Take a look:citizensadvice.org.uk/work/rights-at-work

What about long-term growth?Well, it’s not only strong initial salaries the London technology sector has to offer, but, due to the strength of the technology industry in London and the demand for strong developers, you can also look forward to some of the fastest and strongest career progression anywhere in the world (which, might I add, has only grown since Brexit). London is second only to the US (which has other issues, such as visa limitations, and higher tax payments, etc.) when it comes to strength, investment and opportunities within technology. In fact, in 2019, the UK received the largest amount of global investment into technology; a whopping £10.1 billion, beating both the US and China! All of this means your opportunities for promotion, pay increases and new projects are never-ending.

When you are ready to move on or to examine future options, speaking to a recruiter is always a good place to start. Even if you aren’t actively looking, we are always happy to give you an update on the London market, help with interview prep or we can even provide a free CV review.

Myth 2: I have children, and the school system is overcrowded and expensive

This is one of the funniest comments I hear; the UK actually boasts some of the highest standards of free education in the world, available to all children aged 5 – 18. It also comes with a list of extensive laws in place to ensure the standards remain high; for example, legally, class sizes in London cannot exceed 30 children.

(Video) a day in the life of an OXFORD UNIVERSITY student

But if that’s not enough assurance, then you can always choose private school. While there is little wrong with the state-provided education system in London/UK, generally speaking, those who can afford to send their children to private school in London do. Private education usually offers benefits such as: smaller class sizes, a wider range of extra-curricular activities and, statistically, a better chance at getting into a top level university (according toThe Independent, private school pupils are twice as likely to attend a red-brick university.

And the cost? Well, the average private school fees in London start at around £13,341 a year for one child (with most schools offering discounts for siblings at the same school). While we see the odd exception, most companies don’t include covering the cost of private schooling in the terms of a software developer job offer. This is because they don’t need to due to the high standards of state-provided education. The proof? My sister attended state-funded school for her education and achieved straight A*s – well-surpassing my own private school education results.

If this hasn’t reassured you sufficiently, then check out the Office for Standards in Education website for more information on specific areas and schools: gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted.

Myth 3: I can get a much nicer (and bigger) house for my money elsewhere

This comment is like saying, “I can buy 25 bottles of Cava for the price of 1 bottle of Dom Perignon, so why would I buy the Dom Perignon?”

Yes, true, and you could buy a mansion in rural Bulgaria for the cost of a 1-bed flat in London, but the quality of living, local services and facilities will be non-comparable, not to mention the commute would be horrible!

So a rough guide to affordable renting/buying is below…

We all know that renting or buying a property is the largest expenditure you will face wherever you live, and in that respect London is no exception. Rents in London are on average the 18th most expensive globally. If you are moving by yourself and looking to rent in London, there are now numerous sources to find properties; with online services such as Airbnb monthly rentals and SpareRoom becoming increasingly popular. The property market in London is always booming and actually boasts one of the highest ratios of estate agencies-per-resident ratios, with 66.5 agencies per 100,000 residents, so there are always options available to you!

While there is an abundance of sources for properties, the exact cost really depends on the style of property you are after. While average prices in London can dip as low as £450 per month for a double bedroom flat share in North/West London, to rent just a one-bed property can cost as much as £1100 a month, with inner central London costing on average £1300 per month for a one-bed flat.

Is it worth relocating to London as a software engineer? - Oxford Knight (3)

(Video) Rick van der Ploeg (Oxford University)

However, another great thing about London is the choice in location!! Many people when they move to a new city will already have a rough idea of where they want to live; be it close to work, friends or a favourite pub, for example. London boasts one of the world’s most efficient transport networks – which means you can live 30 miles away (where rent is cheaper), and only be a 30-minute commute from the city centre.

Is it worth relocating to London as a software engineer? - Oxford Knight (4)

Another one for the pro-London list?

London has one of the best public transport systems in the world! You can travel by bus, tram, boat or tube, and for those of you considering a relocation with a family, children aged 0 – 11 travel for free on all Transport for London (TfL) transport.

The tube is traditionally the most popular form of transport in London, and by far the fastest and easiest way to travel; with some neighbouring stations (such as Covent Garden and Leicester Square) being only 260m from each other. However, other methods such as cycling are becoming increasingly popular, and with public-use ‘Boris Bikes’ on nearly every corner, it’s never been easier!

And briefly: what if you aren’t moving on your own?

Moving with your family? We would recommend renting for at least your first year in a new city, before committing to buying a property. On average, three-bed properties in London will cost anything from £1,312 pcm to a whopping £5,000 in areas such as Mayfair. To give you more of an insight, the link below has a more detailed guide to the cost of renting in London, with an interactive map, so you can narrow down options by location, cost and size. london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housing-and-land/improving-private-rented-sector/london-rents-map

Myth 4: Taxes are too high

Tax, everyone’s favourite subject. (If you would like to spend the next 3 hours reading about taxation rates in the UK then I’ll refer you to the government website:https://www.gov.uk/browse/tax.)

But in simple terms: middle-class British (and London) residents – according to a survey done by the Guardian in 2018 – actually enjoy some of the lowest overall taxation rates globally across all advanced countries – including Australia, the US and Europe (this includes comparing property, income and duty tax). And if you want to get really thrifty and pay less council tax every month, move to Wandsworth, Hampshire, or Hammersmith – residents pay some of the lowest council tax across the whole of the UK!

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Do also bear in mind that the comparatively low tax you will be paying in London funds the free, world-class education for your kids, your free healthcare, as well as defence and police funding to ensure your safety too.

Myth 5: Brexit means Brexit!

Well that’s one myth I’m not even going to attempt to address, but suffice to say, nothing has changed and from what we are seeing nothing big will! But, if it does after our formal exit from the EU on 31st Jan, I’ll be back to add to this – in the meantime, if anyone needs further information there is a special section of the government website to answer all of your questions: https://www.gov.uk/transition

Myth 6: It’s not my home country

While I’m not going to try and convince you that London will feel just like your home country if you move, London does boast one of the most ethnically diverse cultures in the world. Nearly every nation has a ‘home from home’ in London, whether that’s Russians in Kensington, Chinese in Chinatown or Brazilians in Bayswater. There are even Polish nightclubs and pubs selling only Polish beer, so while no, it is not your home country, city or town, you don’t need to look far to find your favourite flavour of pierogis anywhere in London.

If that’s still not as good as the real thing London has the busiest airport system in the world, with 6 major international airports in the city alone and another 34 across the UK. Combine that with as many as 9,000 flights leaving the UK a DAY in 2020, home is never too far (or too expensive) to get back to.

Visa Admin:

As of January 2020, there have been no changes to who needs one, and how to go about obtaining a working visa in the UK. If you require tier 2 sponsorship to work in the UK, then my advice is to speak to a recruiter or apply for jobs at bigger firms first.

If you are unsure whether you need a visa or an employment letter to work in the UK, or who in your family may need one, there is an easy questionnaire found here https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa, which should cover every possible nationality and scenario.

Myth busting: to sum up

(Video) Windows into London | Oliver O'Brien | TEDxCourtauldInstitute

Hopefully this has gone some way to dispel some of the myths around relocating and living in London as a tier 1 software engineer. If not, well there are a number of helpful guides here: familymovingtolondon.com/,expatforum.com/expats/britain-expat-forum-expats-living-uk/, which can help to answer any other questions or concerns you have.

In addition, if you are a software engineer and you are now interested in a move to London, then feel free to give us a call on 02031379570. We will be happy to tell you about the current market (and bust any other myths about London life you may have).

Oxford Knight is a technical recruitment agency. None of our consultants have written a line of code... yet. We apologise if this article doesn’t keep some purist happy, but we’re trying to build a new generation of technical recruitment agencies…. We listen, participate, and deliver.

FAQs

Do software engineers make good money in London? ›

While there is no minimum salary for a Software Engineer in the London Metro Area, GB, the average salary is £101,986. The highest paying company for a Software Engineer in London Metro Area, GB is Hudson River Trading with an average salary of £331,200.

Are software engineers in-demand in London? ›

Software engineers & UX/UI experts most in-demand as UK tech jobs continue surging into 2022.

How much does a software engineer earns in London? ›

The average salary for Software Engineer is £58,101 per year in the London, United Kingdom Area. The average additional cash compensation for a Software Engineer in the London, United Kingdom Area is £8,269, with a range from £1,575 - £43,402.

What is the highest salary of software engineer in UK? ›

Highest paying cities for Software Engineers near England
  • London. £65,999 per year. 4.4k salaries reported.
  • Manchester. £51,342 per year. 1k salaries reported.
  • Birmingham. £48,160 per year. 545 salaries reported.
  • Leeds. £48,122 per year. 485 salaries reported.
  • Bristol. £46,648 per year. 714 salaries reported.

What is the average salary in London 2022? ›

London Salaries in London Area

The average salary for London is £44,121 per year in the London Area. The average additional cash compensation for a London in the London Area is £6,760, with a range from £1,174 - £38,927.

Are software engineers paid well in UK? ›

Ans. Software engineers in the UK can earn as high as £112,182 per year. However, it depends on how many years of experience they have, the kind of position they apply for, which is the location of the job, and others.

Is London a good place for software engineers? ›

Well, it's not only strong initial salaries the London technology sector has to offer, but, due to the strength of the technology industry in London and the demand for strong developers, you can also look forward to some of the fastest and strongest career progression anywhere in the world (which, might I add, has only ...

What is the best country for software engineers? ›

Which country has the highest demand for software engineers? Overall, software development is the most in-demand profession in the world. According to PageGroup, the countries with the highest demand for software developers are Canada, Australia, Russia, Sweden, and New Zealand.

What is a software engineer salary UK? ›

£48,865. The average salary for a software engineer is £48,865 per year in United Kingdom. 17.4k salaries reported, updated at 21 October 2022.

What is a good salary in London? ›

A single person living in London would need about £50,000 a year; A couple should be able to get by with £60,000 a year; A family of four would need an average income of £70,000 to cover the cost of living in London.

What is the highest paid jobs in the UK? ›

43 Highest Paid Jobs in the UK in 2022
  • Chief Executive Officer. Average Salary – £77,711. ...
  • Entrepreneur. Average Salary – £101,000. ...
  • Chief Financial Officer. Average Salary – £97,646. ...
  • Lawyer. Average Salary – £48,414. ...
  • Orthodontist. Average Salary – £77,757. ...
  • Information Technology Manager. ...
  • Cybersecurity Specialist. ...
  • Accountant.

How much does a junior Software Engineer make in London? ›

Average £76,454 per year.

How much does a mid level software engineer make London? ›

The average salary for Software Engineer is £58,101 per year in the London Area. The average additional cash compensation for a Software Engineer in the London Area is £8,269, with a range from £1,575 - £43,402.

Is software engineering in demand UK? ›

Software development is one of the most in-demand professions and the UK is a great place to start your career if you want to work in that field. The average salary for a software developer ranges from £30,000 to £90,000 per year. The UK's job outlook is on the rise.

How much do you need to live in London? ›

What is the annual average cost of living in London? In 2022, for a single person, the average cost of living in London clocks in at £2790 per month. This is almost £800 more to find per month than the UK average. This means that the annual average cost of living in London for a single person is £33,480.

Is 50k a good salary London 2022? ›

£50,000 isn't a high salary for London but high enough to cover all your living expenses. In fact, it's very close to the average wage across the city (£53,700). With a gross annual salary of £50,000, you will take home £37,537 after taxes, which is around £3,000 a month.

Is 100k a good salary in London? ›

The simple answer to this question is yes, a salary of 100k + does still put you in a relatively select group at the top of the UK earners list. Whilst those at the very top of that heap are touching seven-figure salaries, the proportion of those on more than £100k continues to grow.

Is 120k a good salary London? ›

Average Salary in London

A person making $120,000 a year in London makes 174.8% more than the average working person in London and will take home about $84,322.

Which is best for Software Engineer UK or US? ›

US is best place to be a software engineer, salary survey finds.

How can a software engineer move to the UK? ›

There are several Visa options for software developers wishing to relocate to the U.K. They include the skilled worker Visa and an entrepreneur startup visa. Biometric data may be required to process a Visa application and subsequently grant a work permit.

Where can I earn more US or UK? ›

the UK. Average salaries in the US stand at $83,886 per annum in 2022, while it's $4,154 per month after tax in the UK. States within the European Union earn almost equally since the economy is regulated, while in the US, salaries are competitive, and most people earn above average.

Where do techies live in London? ›

Old Street has by far the highest concentration of tech companies in London. For those that know the city, this should come as little surprise. The Old Street Roundabout, which is located in East London, is also referred to as Silicon Roundabout due to the high density of startups located in the area.

Which is the IT hub of UK? ›

London is not just the most popular city in Britain for tech talent, but for the whole of Europe, boasting more than 40,000 tech companies in the inner city alone — and more software developers than either San Francisco or New York.

Which city is best for IT jobs in UK? ›

Best UK cities for tech jobs
  • London.
  • Manchester.
  • Edinburgh.
  • Reading.
  • Bristol and Bath.
  • Birmingham.
  • Brighton.

Why are software engineers paid so little in the UK? ›

One reason software engineers get paid less in the UK is that many UK-based companies are recruiting from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, which can be much cheaper than hiring an employee from America. The lower cost of living in the UK also plays a significant role in this pay gap.

Which country is No 1 in software engineering? ›

1. China. The software development market in China is flourishing like never before, with technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence taking the front seat.

Which countries pay more for software engineers? ›

Average Software Engineer Salaries in 2022: The Top Paying...
  • United States of America $95,879.
  • Switzerland $90,462.
  • Canada $71,193.
  • United Kingdom $68,664.
  • Sweden $66,750.
  • Germany $61,390.
  • Netherlands $58,348.
  • Belgium $54,603.
7 Feb 2022

Do software engineers work long hours? ›

As a software engineer, how many hours do you usually work a week? About 40. Sometimes more. Occasionally less.

Is software engineering stressful? ›

Surprisingly, the job of a software engineer is relaxed and with low levels of stress despite the many challenges that come along in the profession such as working long hours, working on legacy code, dealing with bad managers, or having tough clients.

Which field is best in software engineering? ›

In-Demand Software Development Skills
  • Full Stack Developer. As per Indeed, full stack developer is one of the most in-demand job postings categories by employers of recent times. ...
  • Python Developer. Source – Payscale US. ...
  • Java Developer. ...
  • Cloud Engineer. ...
  • Scrum Master.
14 Sept 2022

How much does a software engineer earns in UK? ›

The average salary for Software Engineer jobs is £62,500. Read on to find out how much Software Engineer jobs pay across various UK locations and industries. We have 1529 jobs paying higher than the average Software Engineer salary!

Is software engineer good in UK? ›

The United Kingdom has the most competitive and advanced computer science, software engineering, and information technology fields in Europe. There are around 2,000 software companies in the UK and about 100,000 people working in this field. The UK has a prestigious reputation for computer science.

Is UK good for software jobs? ›

Software Development is a popular career and the UK is a great place to be in that industry. The UK has a projected growth rate* of 16% for Software Developers by 2022. The average salary** ranges from £42,000 - £46,000 per year.

How much does a junior software engineer make in London? ›

Average £76,454 per year.

What is a decent salary to live in London? ›

What is this? Finally, for a standard, comfortable life in London for a single person, you would need a salary of at least £40,000 a year. For a couple, you need to earn at least £60,000-70,000 if your partner doesn't work. That's about £3,624 – £4,108 in the household income.

Which country is best for software engineer? ›

Which country has the highest demand for software engineers? Overall, software development is the most in-demand profession in the world. According to PageGroup, the countries with the highest demand for software developers are Canada, Australia, Russia, Sweden, and New Zealand.

What is a good salary in London? ›

A single person living in London would need about £50,000 a year; A couple should be able to get by with £60,000 a year; A family of four would need an average income of £70,000 to cover the cost of living in London.

How can a software engineer move to the UK? ›

There are several Visa options for software developers wishing to relocate to the U.K. They include the skilled worker Visa and an entrepreneur startup visa. Biometric data may be required to process a Visa application and subsequently grant a work permit.

How many software developers are there in London? ›

Numbers of programmers and software developers in the United Kingdom (UK) 2011-2021. In 2021, there were approximately 466 thousand programmers and software development professionals in employment in the United Kingdom.

Do software engineers work long hours? ›

As a software engineer, how many hours do you usually work a week? About 40. Sometimes more. Occasionally less.

Where do techies live in London? ›

Old Street has by far the highest concentration of tech companies in London. For those that know the city, this should come as little surprise. The Old Street Roundabout, which is located in East London, is also referred to as Silicon Roundabout due to the high density of startups located in the area.

Which city is it hub in UK? ›

Manchester. Manchester is one the UK's largest technology hubs. Home to Media City, which houses companies like the BBC, ITV, and Ericsson, the city has a good balance of established and start-up tech firms.

Which city is best for it jobs in UK? ›

Finding the best city for you is about more than a job. Learn how growth, cost of living and lifestyle contribute to the best UK cities for IT pros.
...
Best UK Cities for IT Pros to Live and Work
  • Belfast.
  • Manchester.
  • Cambridge.
  • Edinburgh.
  • London.
  • Bristol.
  • Reading.
  • Bath.
8 Jan 2021

How much does a junior software engineer make UK? ›

The average salary for Junior Software Developer jobs is £32,500. Read on to find out how much Junior Software Developer jobs pay across various UK locations and industries. We have 5245 jobs paying higher than the average Junior Software Developer salary!

How much do junior software developers make UK? ›

The average junior software developer salary in the United Kingdom is £27,712 per year or £14.21 per hour. Entry level positions start at £24,422 per year while most experienced workers make up to £36,893 per year.

How much does a junior developer earn in UK? ›

Average £60,621 per year.

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