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Base salaries offered to software engineers in SF, NYC, and Seattle (triplebyte.com)
384 points by Harj on April 1, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 282 comments

Ben from Triplebyte here, I'm the engineer who built this tool from our offer data.

The finding that most surprised me was that the mean salary for an engineer without a college degree is only $3k (~2%) less than for those with one; this gap is much smaller than in the labor market as a whole. One explanation is that CS really is a field where educational signaling doesn't (or at least needn't) matter as much as in other industries - we recently discussed this with Bryan Caplan over on our blog (https://triplebyte.com/blog/bryan-caplan-interview). I'm self-taught and don't have a CS degree, but I do have a college degree which still opens doors. I'd be curious to hear from other developers without a formal background on this.

Boot-camp grads average $19k less - but $130k is still quite a bit higher than I've seen bootcamps advertising. Could this be indicating that they're at a disadvantage in the normal hiring process just for signaling reasons?

> The finding that most surprised me was that the mean salary for an engineer without a college degree is only $3k (~2%) less than for those with one; this gap is much smaller than in the labor market as a whole.

The sample set of people using TripleByte is not going to be remotely representative of the market for developers as a whole. Candidates with stronger resumes are not going to be using third party recruiters to spray their resume around; they are going to be applying directly to the companies they want to work at or getting headhunted by the companies themselves.

Yeah, just to elaborate on this (because I think the point of this comment has been missed a bit elsewhere on the sub-thread):

- TripleByte imposes a cost (having to go through their process) in exchange for getting to signal programming ability, a prerequisite to getting in the door (getting an interview)

- People with strong credentials don't need to incur that cost, so they probably won't do so.

This means TripleByte's pool probably doesn't have any Stanford CS grads who are looking to leave their Google job. But these are also the people who command the highest salaries. Let's say it chops off the top x-percentile of the market, for some reasonable definition of x (10? 15?)

Then, TripleByte's screening process probably also chops off the bottom y-percentile, because those are people who can't actually pass the screening.

Once you restrict the range like that, and also make paper credentials less relevant because there's an alternate signal available, of course the rates are going to be compressed.

I'll throw in another wrinkle: it's not just the candidate pool to consider, but how companies are choosing to leverage - or avoid leveraging - the platform.

I wouldn't say Triplebyte imposes a significant cost on the candidate. They only have two rounds: one is a quiz that's quite straightforward to complete (about a half hour of multiple choice, if I recall correctly), and a single 1-2 hour video interview. If nothing else, it's good practice for the candidate.

Plus, they dangle some brand names as partners that would attract any candidate, including the cream of the crop. Stripe, Palantir, etc. So top tier candidates are certainly likely to be convinced to give Triplebyte's process a shot.

I'm not sure how often candidates get matched with those top tier companies on Triplebyte -- I didn't get matched in my recent job search, and ended up applying and receiving offers from several of them independently of Triplebyte -- but it's certainly plausible that Triplebyte has many top candidates at least giving the platform a try.

Regardless of which candidates are using Triplebyte, the only relevant data is which candidates are _getting offers via Triplebyte_. In my experience, I received several offers, only one of them via Triplebyte (I only accepted one onsite there) - Triplebyte has no insight into my other offers.

That one offer via Triplebyte was significantly lower - at least on base - than all of the other offers I received. It would've put me in the 50ish percentile on this post's plots. The other offers put me in ~60-97 percentile. Very anecdotal, but I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of companies giving offers via Triplebyte are generally paying less than top companies who are less likely to use Triplebyte despite having a presence on the platform.

that makes sense because these numbers feel inflated to me. I think facebook only pays data scientists 135k range.

That's base pay and doesn't include RSUs.

I can't imagine an experienced data scientist at Facebook is only making $135k in total. I'd double or triple that for experienced senior engineers (including non-cash compensation like RSUs, etc.).

The title is really better labeled: "How much software engineers on triplebyte received in offers in SF, NYC, and Seattle"

While I suspect the title will not be changed for SEO/targeting reasons, a slight improvement on your title is:

“How much software engineers on Triplebyte received in base salary offers in SF, NYC, and Seattle”

Yes, I know HTML titles cannot do any emphasis.

EDIT: HN title has now been improved by dang.

To be more accurate about “SEO/targeting”, I meant the title on the blog hosted by Triplebyte: “How much money do Software Engineers actually make?”

We're happy to change titles to make them more accurate, but someone's going to need to make it fit 80 chars.

Edit: I took a shot. "Triplebyte" doesn't fit, but probably shouldn't be in there anyway; it's already next to the title.

>(Triplebyte) software engineer base salaries in SF, NYC, Seattle

You have 15 more chars to work with.

Thanks dang for editing the title well given those constraints!

> Candidates with stronger resumes are not going to be using third party recruiters to spray their resume around; they are going to be applying directly to the companies they want to work at or getting headhunted by the companies themselves.

Why are those mutually exclusive? I like to think I have a decent resume and would apply to companies directly but if I can get more offers using Triplebyte why wouldnt I? Isn't their draw that you don't have to interview at individual companies but can use a streamlined application?

There is a simple reason: scarcity of talent. Talent that can be commoditized through a platform instantly becomes cheaper, with employers much more easily able to sift through inventory (candidates) and look for deals or just waste peoples’ time gathering market data on interview performance.

If you’re sincerely highly talented, you’re not going to advertise yourself as a commodity on a platform. Your increased skill may not have a chance to be displayed because the platform uses foolish things like coding trivia or a black box proprietary method for recommending salary ranges for candidates like you, or offers automatic ways to find similar candidates so that if employers don’t like your salary demands, they can use your characteristics to tailor a search for a cheaper version of you.

Putting yourself on a platform like TripleByte essentially instantly signals that you’re on the cheap, commodity end of the spectrum (and yes employers think of $130k as cheap salary for this type of position).

Using TripleByte is like cheapening your personal brand. In fact it’s even worse because you’re voluntarily doing it and voluntarily centralizing all of this interview performance data and profile data for them.

I have a strong resume by most metrics, and I used Triplebyte because it seemed like a good method to learn about a ton of small companies I otherwise would never be able to find. (I didn't end up joining any of them, but they were solid 2nd/3rd/4th-choice offers.)

I'm confused about why you think this is irrational. If I find some startup through Triplebyte, and then apply to them, it doesn't seem like a substantially different process than if I applied directly. Once I'm talking to someone at the company, any signal based on how the recruiter found me seems like it should immediately be swamped by concrete observations about me.

If you know a better strategy for next time to find the kind of companies that Triplebyte will connect me with, I'm all ears.

By virtue of locating you via TripleByte, those 2nd/3rd/etc. companies revealed their goal is explicitly to dramatically underpay you, through a hiring platform that enables them to treat you like a commodity.

If you’re OK with that, then by all means use that commodity portal to seek jobs. I mean that sincerely. If you prefer to trade possibly tens of thousands of dollars of salary, bonuses, equity or other compensation for some vague ease of access “value-add” of a platform that makes your resume function like Tinder for jobs, then you would not be irrational to search via TripleByte.

For me, for example, the fact that those positions can be matched up to me on TripleByte would literally make me reject those jobs. No thanks. I’ll either pay for a private recruiter that essentially functions like a personal talent agent, or I’ll find networking events or other boutique application portals to use that keep me exclusively looking at jobs that pay competitive rates. Hell, I’d sooner just send cold application emails through regular company HR websites than agree to be the commodity product of TripleByte.

> For me, for example, the fact that those positions can be matched up to me on TripleByte would literally make me reject those jobs.

That seems shortsighted.

If I was running a startup again and looking to grow my team after exhausting my personal network, triplebyte would be a good value proposition: reduce the time it takes me to hire by pre screening candidates and presenting me with a curated set of people to interview.

So it follows that if I wanted to join a startup I’d consider triplebyte for the same reason —- I can see busy ceos of small companies using it.

You seem to be focused on compensation not finding interesting offers though. To that I’d say two things:

1) If you want to purely optimize for compensation, work at FAANG. I don’t think they source via triplebyte so the point is moot.

2) In my experience, offer size is not related to where the candidate was sourced.

> “So it follows that if I wanted to join a startup I’d consider triplebyte for the same reason —- I can see busy ceos of small companies using it.”

How does this follow? Obviously the buyer (busy CEOs of start-ups looking to pay below market) wants a commodity platform to buy.

That does not mean the seller (job candidates) wants to sell on that platform, especially if the platform cheapens their product (such as reducing developers to a commodity interview process that fails to capture their value additive skills).

I don’t think the value prop of TripleByte to busy CEOs is “you get employees cheaper”, if anything it’s going to cost more than other sources of talent that don’t take a cut of salaries.

I don’t see how customers of TripleByte are looking to pay less any more than any other ceo that’s trying to maximize profits while minimizing costs.

If I am on the market for a high-quality skateboard, and I walk into Sam’s Club looking for one, I’m probably not really looking for high quality and just want a cheap price (even though it may cost me an up-front membership fee to shop there, instead of no membership fee at a place like Wal-Mart).

If Indeed is like Wal-Mart, TripleByte is like Sam’s Club. A different branding of a cheap, commodity store.

If you’re truly willing to pay a high price for something, you don’t even walk in the door at Sam’s Club. You research a boutique seller that’s harder to find.

What you’re saying about the motivations of candidate sourcing is not reflected in my experience as a startup ceo or an engineer at a large tech company.

That would make you a wildly uncommon start-up CEO, to the point that it’s too fantastical to believe, given the ubiquitous, widespread low compensation paid in start-ups (even after accounting for an unreasonably favorable liquidity event and generously agreeing to assume an equity price from that to apply to non-liquid equity at the time of an offer).

Start-up pay is so universally bad compared even to low or mid tier public companies. I’m not sure it could be possible to use start-ups as any kind of counter argument to a question of low pay.

By virtue of locating you via TripleByte, those 2nd/3rd/etc. companies revealed their goal is explicitly to dramatically underpay you, through a hiring platform that enables them to treat you like a commodity. If you’re OK with that, then by all means use that commodity portal to seek jobs. I mean that sincerely. If you prefer to trade possibly tens of thousands of dollars

Are you saying it's impossible to negotiate a fair compensation package with an employer you found through TripleByte? You don't seem to be telling us why we should believe that.

Everything I've read indicates that you do still have to do the normal in-person technical interview gauntlet at each individual company. It's possible things have changed recently, though.

The draw is that you don't have to do a phone technical screen, which is true, but they do still want to have you over for a full-day technical & comprehensive interview.

Back at Workpop, an hourly jobs website, we actually observed a negative correlation between educational attainment and getting interviews. This was from data that did not use a recommender system at all, so it lacked the serious confounding “feedback loop” that may occur in TripleByte’s case.

After comparing to a much smaller set of broad-market resumes, it was clear that you’re right: people using online job finding tools are actually shut out, for some reason, from conventional job channels where the intuitive rules apply.

But yes, obviously there’s something wrong with the data if the salary gap observed was so small. I generally like TripleByte and its writing, but it seems like they really got something 200% wrong here.


We are a small team of 5 expecting to double in 2019, all from experienced folks extracted from big companies. We budgeted $260 each and our investors didn't bat an eye.

To be fair, the budget and the employee's base salary are not quite the same thing.

Let's take a $150k base salary as a specific example, as a nice round-ish number. The numbers from Triplebyte don't include bonuses and equity; I suspect that 20% combined is a reasonable assumption. That puts us at 180k.

Now we have employer costs that the employee never sees (this all assumes the US):

* Social security: $8.2k (6.2% of $132,900 in 2019). * Medicare: $2.6k (1.45% of 180000) * State payroll taxes (for things like unemployment insurance): ~$1.5k in California, say, mostly for State Disability Insurance bits.

We're up to $193k.

Health insurance for employees, if you provide it, is probably $10k-$30k depending on the health plan and whether the employees have families. So $203k-$223k. Equipment is a few thousand per year. Office space (if local) or possibly travel (if remote, though maybe you could try to do everything async or over videoconference), really depends on the geography.

At that size, I don't know whether you have 401(k) matching or safe harbor contributions, but if you do that's presumably another $5k-$15k depending on how generous the match is.

So a base salary of $150k means a budget of at least $205k and more likely closer to $230k or $240k.

We budgeted 260 base.

We expect most of the hires to have tuition payments to make...not that we will pay younger hires less. But we have specific people with specific experience in mind. These folks are getting that kind of money at FAAxG today.

Can I ask what startup this is? This kind of thinking is refreshing to see and pretty rare in my experience, to not just say you want great people but actually compensate like you mean it.

Ah, 260 base is a totally different story. Thank you for clarifying!

I am curious who your team/product is. Are you open to remote engineers?

> Candidates with stronger resumes are not going to be using third party recruiters

This is an interest statement.

It is interesting, because the data I am seeing is that apparently Triple Byte is able to give people quite successful results. (Yes, 150k base salary is pretty good).

But your statement seems to imply that candidates that use them are apparently below average or something. And yet even though they arent as good candidates, they are apparently able to give people really good results, despite that.

Is my barometer for tech salaries so off, that apparently people believe that 150k base isn't something that a "stronger" candidate might receive? Yes, I've heard of some high salaries, but I still wouldn't call this something to scoff at

How is 150K for an experienced developer to work in a high cost of living area “pretty good”? Experience developers can make $135-$150 easily in one of the top ten markets in the US that are not on the west coast or NYC where the cost of living is a lot lower as a bog standard enterprise developer/full stack developer.

I agree. I'd also say Triplebyte's interview process is pretty challenging, more so than big 4 etc for entry level. Being able to pass it is something I'd consider a strong signal.

Really? I found it pretty straightforward, personally. It helped that you'd be able to retake the interview if you failed, which isn't usually true for phone screens. It also helped that it was a large sample of questions about how a computer worked, as opposed to most phone screens which are a single tech question that you can get lucky or unlucky on.

(I tried Triplebyte's process this job hunt but ended up getting my current job through a personal connection instead)

It’s very location dependent. In Florida, 150k is great for a principal engineer. In the Bay Area, that’s terrible comp. Also, the faangs of the world do pay twice as much in total comp.

> In the Bay Area, that’s terrible comp.

Maybe if you work at google. But you have an extremely skewed view of job salaries, if you describe 150k as "terrible".

Yes, FAANGs pay a lot. But the vast majority of developers, even in san francisco, do not work at FAANGs. 150k, is just around the average salary, for a senior engineer, actually.

I would say principal at most companies maps to l6 at google. In Mountain View that pays $560,000/year total comp on average according to levels.fyi

Non faang pay for principal engineers in Mountain View could be estimated roughly by using stack overflow’s salary calculator. Mountain View, react, typescript, aws, postgres, linux, 20 years experience, no degree lists $187,000 for the 50th percentile.

I think the discussion gets confusing because as an industry we suck at describing levels of the technical track in a portable way.

I do know senior engineers making 150k in the Bay Area. I also know some making 750k.

Sure, if you are talking about engineers with 20 years experience, those numbers make sense.

But in the context of this conversation, IE people who use triple byte, we are likely talking about engineers with a couple years experience. (Yes, a couple years experience gets you the title of "senior" these days).

And within this context of engineers with a couple years experience who are using triple byte, I'd say that 150k is pretty alright.

You can see this data from the graphs that they posted, about how this is referring to people with a couple years exp.

I suspect the boot camp thing is signaling. We don't quite know what to expect from boot camps yet.

I'm a high school drop out with no diploma. It's never come up during any hiring process in the 17 years I've been doing this.

That said, I've only had two long term jobs. I spent years doing contract work, and I mostly got contracts by word of mouth.

I've been on a number of hiring teams, mostly at Puppet. I was also a hiring manager at Puppet for a while. Education never came up once — I don't remember even talking about it in interview training.

Did you ever need to provide a resume/CV? If so were you honest about your education? Did you just omit it?

Not the above poster, but for me - I omit my degree from my resume, because in my mind it was so long ago as to be irrelevant. It's also a bit odd - I have a degree in "Letters, Arts, and Science" - a make-your-own major from Penn State.

My last two jobs the recruiters asked me if I had a degree - this came up AFTER they had decided to interview me and when they were entering me in to the system - the degree was just a field to fill in.

I can't say what impact having a degree has had on my salary, and I can't say how hard it would be to get those first couple of years of work experience without a degree (it didn't matter for my first job, but that was 19 years ago), but in terms of applying for jobs once you have experience, I've not seen it matter outside of a few jobs that inexplicably require "a" degree (of any kind).

Several of my friends in the field don't have a college degree, and they appear to be functioning well, but they are also painfully aware of the lack, which tells me it's a source of some stress, be that actual or just hypothetical.

Even better... My wife has a Master of Science, but not an undergraduate degree. That literally makes recruiters and hiring managers do double-takes.

Where did she get it? I've been trying to find a decent college that'd allow me to do the same thing.

Oxford’s M.Sc. Software Engineering will accept applicants with enough work experience in lieu of a Bachelor’s. Several of the University of London’s constituent colleges offer individual courses from Master’s degrees as individual professional awards or short courses (nomenclature varies) and successful performance will get you admitted to the Master’s proper. If you see a Master’s from U London and it doesn’t explicitly say it’s available to study independently as a short course you can still email them to inquire.

Oxford M.Sc. Computer Science https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/msc-softwar...

SOAS Finance https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/msc-softwar...

London School of Tropical Medicine, Clinical Trials https://london.ac.uk/courses/clinical-trials#entry-requireme...

Queen Mary University of London, MBA https://london.ac.uk/courses/global-mba

Ll.M. https://london.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate-laws-llm

American University in DC. She completed the AU/NTL MSOD program. Not sure if they’ll do that for other programs.

It took her a while to find the program. Most wanted an BA/BS first.

I’ve been doing the same (omitting my degree). I really don’t know that mentioning my history degree with minors in French and philosophy are all that informative compared to just talking about what all I’ve done in the last 12 years as a full-time software professional.

In fact, mentioning a History degree might make someone doubt your ability to keep your code DRY...

I have no degree, I've done probably 25 tech interviews so far in my career, and I don't recall it having ever come up. I write "No formal post-secondary education" under the "education" section on my resume.

I've had companies ask for high school transcripts. What the heck.

That sounds like HR in those companies had way too much power.

me too! got an offer, then the background check company flagged my claim to a high school diploma. they asked me to provide official transcripts. hr threw its hands up. this was in june. turns out the district was overwhelmed with the year end work of graduations and such, and just shut off the phones for a couple weeks. luckily i had family working for the district and got a suitable copy. absurd.

That’s hilarious to me. I could maybe understand if an applicant graduated a year or two ago, and wasn’t in college. But for someone who graduated 20+ years ago? Come on.

I would walk away if I was asked for it, even though my grades were good. That's BS.

I envy you. University was not fun for me, and everything I know how to do was from skipping class.

The biggest thing I've noticed between those w/o a CS degree and those with a CS degree (at least from an elite college) is the first job opportunities. Coming from a school with a very established CS program does provide a huge advantage for your first job because companies actively seek you out and give you an advantage far more than you would get if you're the one putting yourself out there (w/o a degree).

There's also the case of dropouts that start college but find so many job opportunities more exciting and just leave.

This is my case. By year 3 of college, I had a 70k a year job in marketing (which turned into 300k a year now). There was no need to finish those last credits.

yea, thats a double edged sword. i deal with dozens of engineers at a number of FAANG level companies and frankly the incompetence and lack of knowledge blows my mind every time. Not only about pretty basic tenants of how things work, most don't even know how their own internal systems work.

MS is the exception to that rule.


good call! :) thank you.

Hey Ben! (Also) Ben here.

I work in New Jersey, as an Enterprise App Full-stack dev with 0 college experience.

I started as a developer 4 years ago @15/hr, and I recently breached the 6 figure mark. I've told my coworkers that I have a fire lit by a sense of inadequacy. I've always been behind classically trained developers, that is what keeps me pushing forward. Always playing 'catch-up'.

Now that I'm involved in my company's interview process, a few thoughts on what having a college degree does for our offers;

1. Because we hire through an agency, we already have a single layer of vetting that helps remove unqualified persons (both college-level and not), which ensure we have a decent, homogeneous pool to conduct face to face interviews with.

2. Whether we hire a candidate with or without a college background, our the offer range isn't enormous. If we have an offer in mind, (say 75k), having a college degree doesn't automatically grant you the high end of our scale. I can't think of a single instance where we cared about their degree once they were in the Face-to-face. Their performance in the interview dictates their offer, and we aren't asking questions like 'How do you implement bubble sort'. We ask some hard skill questions, sure, but we also ask just as many communication and general problem solving ones as well.

3. The range of starting pay is really small for us (think 75k mid, 70k min, 80k max). So that 3% gap makes a lot of sense.

To summarize, a degree may put you in a position to interview, but the range you get paid is largely depending on a wide array of skills, some of which are unrelated to development. Missing some of the hard-skills won't disqualify you for a position as much as missing the communication skills will (for us).

I am also self-taught, and I dropped out of school after three semesters, having taken no CS courses. It's difficult to use my experience as a reference, since that was 25 years ago, and I have consistently prioritized meaningful/interesting work over compensation in my career choices; but I have never had any trouble getting hired on at the companies I wanted to work for, including places which have the reputation of caring a lot about degrees. My impression is that degrees get you in the door but stop mattering after you're 5-8 years into your career, provided you've managed to pick up basic CS concepts at some point (big-O, graphs, all the stuff people love to hate about tech interviews).

Do you have similar data for companies outside USA, specifically Canada? Salaries in Bay Area, Seattle and NY are quite higher than other tech hubs, but I want to know what the differences are from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver. From my research, data outside the US is very limited and outdated.

Unfortunately, TripleByte is focused on just a few major US hubs at the moment.

Is this salary or total comp? It's not specified which.

Total Comp figures are important, and differences in effective take home pay will be hidden if you only list salaries.

The page says "base salary only". I agree with you though. IMX it seems like there's way more variance in equity than there is in base salaries.

It is specified which, it is just salary. read the article? they talk about that specifically

and yes, it is underwhelming that we still don't know "how much software engineers actually make"

This isn't an article. It's a graph. I didn't see the "About the Data" section when I looked at it the first time time. I was looking in the wrong places, as it is below the generic position advertising part and assumed any further info on the page was unrelated to the graph.

Thanks for letting me know the data is present. :)

Self-taught programmer here. A long time ago, I lucked out with an internal promotion that helped me bridge the gap from support to engineering. Getting a foot in the door was the hard part. Ever since then, lack of a degree has been a non-factor during the hiring process. I've got years of experience and plenty of references to vouch for my abilities.

The only thing I feel like I missed out on compared to a CS grad is a better intuition for big O. I just don't have any use for it in real life, so it never really clicked. Good benchmarking tools are all I've ever needed. But it would be nice for my own intellectual gratification.

I find Big O to be useful when designing solutions just to be able to quickly decide what data structures are appropriate for a task, though, admittedly, this doesn't come up that often.

I find big o really helpful for designing back end caching algorithms and for optimizing sql queries. On a very rare occasion for spa ui as well.

I do have a pretty good sense of how to structure things for performance, simply as a result of doing it over and over. But it's more akin to speed reading, where big O notation would be like sounding out each letter. It gives you the tools to explain to other people why something is better or worse.

I too have an unrelated degree and am self taught. I also make much less than the numbers in the provided tool but more than make up for it by living in a low cost area where developers are always in huge demand.

I have found the biggest discriminator on hiring salary and hiring generally is due to approach to problem. If you are limited to a single convention, such as OOP, or are limited to certain tools/frameworks businesses are less eager to hire you. In theory that makes sense in that you are more valuable if you can provide an original direct solution to a problem with greater ease. In practice it doesn’t make sense because those limitations tat prove to be a negative bias during hiring tend to be the reality internally.

> living in a low cost area where developers are always in huge demand

Care to share the city? Or region?

Dallas area.

I studied AI but never finished it. Dropped out just before starting on my Master's thesis. Bachelor's didn't exist here at the time, so no degree. I only once encountered a job where this was a problem. By now, my CV is much more relevant than any degree.

I've also seen people graduate who couldn't do anything, so a CS degree is not proof that someone can do the job, and not having it is not proof that someone can't. I think university education is still extremely valuable, and I'm glad I've had it, but more for what I learned than for the piece of paper.

That said, salaries in Amsterdam, with or without degree, are far lower than the $130k to $150k described here.

In my experience, the one place where educational signaling affects outcomes in tech is the visa application process for immigrants. As in, can you get a visa at all, and how easy it is to cross the border (both to start work, as well as to go home to see family for the holidays).

I wouldn't expect Triplebyte to be able to observe this, because it only works with candidates who are US citizens, permanent residents, residents of Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Chile, Australia, or, have an existing H-1B visa (per the Candidate FAQ: https://triplebyte.com/candidate_faq).

What’s the difference between any of these roles? Full-stack versus generalist?

Great question - these roles correspond to our notion of engineering archetypes (https://triplebyte.com/archetypes), which define what concentration of skills a company is looking for for a particular role. In this case, full-stack indicates a web focus, while a generalist engineer is a more, well, general programming role - often one that requires less specific web knowledge.

You list six broad categories on the archetypes page, but only five made it onto the salary page. The "Low-Level Systems Engineer" got lost. That is the only one I care about. That's me, all three sub-categories, and also what I posted about today on the "Who Is Hiring?" article.

These archetypes are great. Any info on what the compensation rank is among these?

This chart is absolutely beautiful, great job! Is this made using pure D3?

It uses Uber's wonderfully declarative react-vis library https://uber.github.io/react-vis/

hmm seems like a pretty standard area chart with data update to me.

A couple questions,

Are these base salaries or total compensation?

Can you share what the distribution of companies you source to is? Ie are they mostly early stage startups or do they include many large post ipo tech companies?

These are base salaries - we have data on equity and other compensation factors, but those factors are difficult to meaningfully compare in an anonymized way.

Triplebyte works with over 400 companies, including Apple, Dropbox, Instacart, and numerous early stage companies (including many YC companies). The Open Positions section on the salary tool page should give a pretty good feel for the kinds of specific roles and companies that work with us

Seems a rather glaring omission—as a software engineer in NYC, roughly 55% of my total annual compensation comes in the form of a cash bonus.

Since total compensation tends to vary more significantly than base salary, I would continue showing the salary-only graph by default, with an option to toggle total compensation as a second series.

Wow, over half? Is this a finance company?

Whoops, brain fart: that should have been 45%. But yes, I work in finance.

It's definitely not unheard of for bonuses of top engineers to reach multiples of their base salary. I'm not aware of compensation being that lopsided where I work, but it purportedly happens at places like Two Sigma.

I'm in a similar situation (~55% of comp is bonus) which is in finance, but most FAANG devs will see something similar, especially as you go more senior, although with an emphasis on equity rather than bonus.

Still, it would be much more useful to compare total compensation, at least for late stage startups and public companies. Maybe that's something to consider for the next update?

I have no CS degree either and mostly found that this isn't an issue with technical interviewers, BUT there is one place where it does matter: USCIS requirements for high tech work visas requires either a degree or "equivalent" work experience. I happen to have well over a decade of work experience under my belt and was able to get my work visa thanks to that, but this is definitely a real barrier if you're outside of the US and your goal is to get a silicon valley career.

Don't think I disagree with Bryan's take, but to be fair, he's generally pretty down on the whole higher education thing across the spectrum, not just for Computer Science.

Hey Ben! What a great tool. This is helping ensure we higher at market rates.

I think I may have found a tiny bug: the “all Triplebyte” dropdown seems to always reset the previous dropdown to “all company sizes” and visa versa so it’s impossible to have both selected to something other than the first options. Perhaps this is because data doesn’t exist for both? Maybe it’s just a slightly confusing UX.

It’s such a thoughtfully considered tool that I thought you’d appreciate my considered feedback.


After a career in finance, including an MBA + accounting certification, I learned programming at my kitchen table nights and weekends, entirely from books (this was in the '90's). No formal CS education. I didn't perceive any issues with the lack of the CS degree, but I also refused to consider FAANG. Even being the less-favored gender, I agree with the SF salary data. It conforms to my experience here.

> “One explanation is that CS really is a field where educational signaling doesn't (or at least needn't) matter as much as in other industries”

Why are you mistakenly confusing education for education signalling?

There are many types of skills required to be an effective software engineer. Most of them have nothing to do with mastery of a programming language or technical tool, and have zero connection to solving coding puzzles in a short timeframe or memorizing answers to classic systems design questions.

You need to be a skilled writer and researcher to deduce business use cases and write effective summaries, presentations or user documentation.

You need appreciation for potentially many other knowledge domains, from legal topics & security to applied sciences. Having basic coursework in calculus, chemistry, physics, rhetoric, history & civics, etc., are crucially important in business settings.

It seems so tone deaf to me to baldly state that education signalling is a factor here, as if signalling was the phenomenon (it’s not).

Education (as opposed to education signalling) is a very valuable thing, and certainly fosters more effective engineers by a landslide.

The popularity of hiring from bootcamps or non-traditional engineering backgrounds is a commoditization issue, meant to suppress wages from growing as labor productivity creates dramatically greater returns.

There’s no shortage of engineers... there’s a shortage of “cheap” engineers (and yes, $130k is a cheap price for these types of hires).

I do not have a college degree or bootcamp experience, do not put an "education" section on my resume, and only asked about it ~1/4 times in interviews/contacts. I am paid well at my "lead engineer" role at a fortune 100.

My open source/side project experience has opened doors though I'm sure.

So are $300,000 Google salaries a myth, or Triplebyte doesn't place with FAANG?

The base salary portion would not be too different

Total comp is in that range at Google, not salary.

The above data is only of engineers hired using TripleByte platform. I saw only a handful of open positions with Apple. The data is based on the type of companies uses the platform to hire which probably doesn't involve big paying companies such as Googles, FB, Uber etc

These companies have massive hiring pipelines already.

FAANGs all issue RSUs and cash bonuses but if you are a senior engineer doing good work you should expect your RSUs to match your salary in year 2-3 and exceed your base salary in years 3-4.

If you take their numbers that works out to $350-$400k.

This is base salary, a large portion of Google compensation is GSU.

A director at Google wouldn't be making much more than $200k in base salary, but their total comp can easily exceed $1M if you count stocks.

Out of curiosity, what does the data look like for the top 10 most elite colleges vs all other colleges? My guess is all other colleges combined look more like boot camp data.

The top 10 elite colleges don't graduate enough students, and employees from those schools don't make enough extra to have that great an impact on base compensation.

bootcamps have been around for only a few years so that's also likely filtering based on years of experience.

> Could this be indicating that [boot camp grads] at a disadvantage?

Yes. Most boot camps are outright scams and I know that I (along with everyone I know) has never hired a bootcamp grad. They usually cannot write fizzbuzz.

Some anecdata on the college grad note: most of the best engineers I've worked with did not study CS in college, though they all did graduate from college.

To counter this, I know dozens of people working as FAANG devs from app academy & hack reactor.

Any chance of a breakdown by company, numbers or boot camp if you have time?

No just anecdotal, a bunch of people from my cohort work at google and friends now. Obviously the boot camps highlight these grads and it’s worth pointing out many had CS degrees

Do you guys only have SWE roles? Any system/integration roles that are HW and SW hybrids?

Our current screening expertise is focused on the areas listed on the tool and doesn't include hardware skills; this doesn't necessarily stop companies from attempting to source for these roles through us, so there may be such roles available!

Do you have data to show if there is any delta in base salary for folks on visa vs others?

Do you have this data for management roles as well? Could be helpful for career planning.

Check out levels.fyi they have some management tracks

in the case of our salary tool, you can get a general sense by looking at the higher experience-level buckets. People absolutely do hire managers through Triplebyte, but we still associate roles primarily to technical areas because that's what our screening is best at

No degree for me, in your 91st percentile

What do the medians look like?

You can hover over the graph and it'll show you the percentiles in increments of 1. The 50th percentile is the median.

I'm a little suspicious because the median and mean are equal for several of the larger subsets (years of experience). I clicked several combinations to filter by and the difference between the median and mean was always low-mid single digits.


Attacking another user like that will get you banned here. We've warned you about this before, as well as about other guideline violations.

Would you mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and taking the spirit of this site more to heart? It would be great if you'd contribute just out of curiosity and avoid poisoning the well. Maybe you don't owe better to companies that annoy you, but you owe better to the community here.

Awesome tool! Though I'm personally happy to hear compensation isn't weighted based on formal education, I'm not sure I'd f eel the same way if I did complete University... I'm self-taught without a degree, ended up moving from Wales to Silicon Valley when I was 20 and only really felt education was a concern for my first role, and visa. Many of the companies who didn't respond to my application years ago now target me on LinkedIn. It's occasionally awkward when folks asked where I studied, but have gotten used to it now

It's nice to know what a competitive base salary is for an engineer but when negotiating an offer I think you really should be looking at Total Compensation. RSU, Stock Options, Bonuses all play a very significant role when looking at offers. Especially if you work at one of the large tech companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc) the stock grants are a VERY large portion of your compensation.

You should, but it looks like triplebyte was explicitly ignoring that because it would add too many dimensions to the graph and those benefits are hard to value. Stock options are not a liquid asset, and their value can change wildly and unpredictably. Ask all those programmers around in 2001 how much their options were worth.

Stocks are a major part of compensation for tech companies. Looking at just salary is an incomplete picture and also isn't fair for job-seekers. Fwiw this page has compensation data with break down by RSU, bonus, etc: https://www.levels.fyi/comp.html

Very true. I work at a non-FAANG, non-West Coast company and my initial job offer was 55/45 cash to stock ratio. Due to stock appreciation, that's changed to 45/55 cash to stock. Including only base compensation makes no sense.

My current base salary is exactly the same as it was at my last startup, but my income has more than doubled.

In NYC, and in the financial sector in particular, total total compensation often includes cash bonuses, while stock components are less common compared to S.V.

Without insight into total compensation, these numbers are only minimally useful.

Agreed. This is leaving 50% of total comp out of the equation.

-e- not to mention, it's the portion that varies the most with experience and internal performance.

Very relevant for people working for startups, much less relevant for those working at public companies where the stock can be sold the day it vests. Standard vesting starts after a year cliff, but it’s common to get a large signing bonus which makes up for it. Plus some people are getting offers with no cliff.

I worry that some really skilled developers may be looking at these stats and not realize what they are giving up by accepting a job with the average salaries reported here.

Unless you go to a FAANG you're basically going to be accepting compensation close to what's listed here.

If you're at a FAANG and get those massive stock packages, then you can really start getting close to the $300k+ total comp packages that people talk about.

Hedge fund programming jobs in NYC pay a significant annual cash bonus, I believe 50-100% of base salary is standard. From what I can tell $250-300k is pretty standard total comp for senior software devs. I'm just a programmer, probably a hiring manager or recruiter would have a better sense of the market.

Do you happen to know how to get a programming job at a hedge fund? I have a finance background, ran a tiny algo fund and is currently doing Swift development at a FAANG company, would love to combina my passions!

If your current FAANG role is listed on LinkedIn, you're probably getting a ton of messages from head hunters. Just start asking them if they can get you an interview at one.

The hard part is that there are only like 4-5 trading firms that have a reputation for great technology, and their size combined is like 1% of FAANG size, so there just aren't that many openings.

Yeah that makes sense but I actually don’t have it on LinkedIn, apparently we’re not allowed to for secrecy reasons. I still get a lot of unsolicited messages but almost nothing finance related so far...

Networking and recruiters, mostly.

I spent 9 years at a hedge fund in Chicago. I started a year out of college. That job, the reputation and that I lasted nearly a decade, and left of my own accord have opened numerous doors for me, and I only got the job because of networking (my best friend from college worked there and vouched for me, and he was there because a college friend of his sister worked there and vouched for him). Now that I'm "in", I can call up a handful of recruiters that specialize in finance to setup interviews inside of a week or so any time I want. Usually beginning of the year is the best time to interview (after theyve fired tje worst performers from the previous year). Recently, I was looking for a job after being let go in January. I had my first phone screen 3 business days after I lost my job. Accepted an offer after about 4 weeks without work. Actually accepted the lower base/higher bonus potential that also had better work/life balance and easier commute.

But, like I said: networking and recruiters. The hedge fund world is a very incestuous industry. Once you get in, lots of opportunities to move around as you meet people, they leave for new shops, etc. Education also doesnt much matter except to open the first door. I.e. a degree from MIT, CMU, Harvard or Stanford will open more doors without a network connection. I got in with dual BS degrees in engineering from a well respected, but not top tier tech school, with a referral from an employee. While there worked with some very talented people, few of which had degrees in CS. Worked with physicists, philosophers, mathematicians and English majors - all in a software development capacity. I'm sure there were other disciplines, but they escape me.

Thanks for the reply. Yes sure, that’s the way to go. The trouble is that I don’t even live in the US (I’m Swedish), so I’m sort of disconnected from that world. I do have one or two friends that went into HFT and similar, but only in Europe and I’d rather work in NYC right now.

Any tips on firms that even have those kinds of positions, I can always cold call a few to get a feeling for what they might be looking for.

My theoretical physics degree is from the best university in Sweden, but that probably doesn’t go very far in the US...

Best advice I could give is to leverage the contacts you have. Not just your friends, but also potentially your professors. They might have more contacts in finance than you know. A lot of physicists end up working as quants in finance. You might have to relocate to London or Germany (not sure what the outlook is over in Europe currently - my experience is entirely US). Hedge funds and the like will generally sponsor visas in the US, but you might have to seek them out more than expecting to be actively recruited, especially if from a more obscure school (and I do not mean this derogitorally). Most HFs usually have a small set of schools they actively recruit from, usually top tier (perceived) schools in the US in either finance, math, physics or engineering.

I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. My company pays FAANG total comp in cash. Private company.

what industry, if you don't mind me asking?

Later stage startups also have equity packages similar to FAANG based on their valuation.

Given that FAANG (+Microsoft) employ close to quarter of a million software engineers and probably represent 50%+ of hiring in a given year, it seems weird to ignore those.

250k engineers at FAANG sounds really high. Do you have a source for those numbers?

250k is really pushing it.

I remember reading a Google earnings report that said they had 90k employees in total. Assuming Amazon/Microsoft to be larger and assuming Netflix to be smaller, we can take Google to be the average. Of that, even if 50% was engineering, we'd only have 250k FAANG engineers worldwide. In the US, I'd guesstimate ~100k.

Taking Google as the average is throwing off your numbers by an incredible amount. Amazon alone has more employees (around 540k as of the most recent reporting I can find) than you gave the entire group. Microsoft and Apple each account for more than Google as well.

Does the Amazon number include people working in logistics, delivery, and all that? I suspect that is huge portion of that number. Their engineering force is larger than Google's but not by much, I think (60-70k at best).

I wouldn't expect it includes those positions, as warehouse operations/logistics seems to be contracted out to other companies. Not sure, though.

Media reporting appears to suggest that number includes the supermarket chain they now own.

Not sure about others but I and many of my coworkers sell RSUs immediately. Many companies offer RSUs, not options, which have guaranteed value.

It's riskier than cash but definitely real compensation and not the monopoly money that options end up becoming.

At large, public companies, the stock options are basically as good as cash.

That would be stock, not stock options.

Rsu’s vest monthly at many top companies.

That would be a lot more interesting but it's also super hard to compare equity for public companies and different stages of startups. It probably makes better sense to split the companies into different categories and then do the comparison in the same category

That's easy: equity in public companies is worth $something, equity in private companies is worth $nothing.

(this is why we did it this way)

If I'm being cynical, TripleByte left this out on purpose. From what I've heard, they're mainly linking developers up with startup roles that don't pay much more than this (except perhaps in monopoly-money equity).

Of course, you'd be better off going to FANG or a (soon-to-IPO) unicorn where you'd make double these amounts with RSUs factored in. But if you can get in there, you probably don't need to go through TripleByte.

Then again, TripleByte also created https://www.levels.fyi/comp.html so maybe I am just being cynical.

But even $250K in total comp wouldn’t allow my family to live the lifestyle that we can live in many major metropolitan areas in the US that have a much lower cost of living where just your commodity full stack developer with a few years of experience can make $135K - $160K.

Wouldn't it? What major metropolitan areas are you talking about specifically?

$250K is FANG compensation for an engineer with a few years of experience. According to NerdWallet cost of living calculator, equivalents are:

    Manhattan:    $314K
    Los Angeles:  $191K
    Boston:       $196K
    Chicago:      $157K
    Miami:        $152K
    Denver:       $149K
    Philadelphia: $146K
    Minneapolis:  $139K
    Atlanta:      $134K
    Des Moines:   $117K
So $250K in San Francisco should afford similar lifestyle as in other major cities paying $135K-$160K.

But a senior-level position in FANG should be closer to $350K and above. I think that becomes much harder to match as a commodity developer outside the Bay Area (it'd be $205K in Philly, for instance). And even if you did match it, and you're able to sock away X% of your income a year in both cities, the FANG salary leaves you with many more dollars in your bank account in a few years. You could always leave the Bay Area at some point, and spend those dollars in a low CoL area.

I'm not saying it's worth it. The Bay Area has a lot of downsides. San Francisco has become a crime-ridden cess pool in recent years. Commutes are horrendous if you don't live near work. And many tech companies in the Bay Area pay much less than FANG compensation (and I know from experience), which really makes it hard to stomach. But from a purely financial standpoint, it seems like the FANG developers are doing pretty well.

I have a house in the burbs in Atlanta - 5 bedroom/3.5 bath, 3000 square feet, new build.

It’s in a top rated school district, 30 minutes away from where I work and we paid $335K for it back in 2016. Now, it would probably be around $385K. How much would a similar setup cost in San Francisco?

We bought it with the 5% down that the builder required to start, but we ended up even getting some of that back when we used an FHA loan that required only 3.5% down.

Yes, the housing supply in SF and the peninsula is not good. If you want a new build or lots of space, it is not the place to be.

Agree with this. To get any insight on what actual compensation looks like, one option can be to add a filter by publicly traded companies and add equity value to those.

Agreed. After about the first 4 years of my career, base salary was a minority of my TC.

I'm in Boston & went through an intensive FT job search here about 18 months ago. I'm a mobile developer with 20+ years total experience in desktop, backend, web+mobile, product management, started my own company, etc.

Worked with lots of recruiters, personal network etc., felt like I really got a sense of what the salary landscape is here. Some facts:

- I was leaving a job at a hot unicorn startup that paid $125K base and I was told I was one of the highest paid engineers on staff (20+ engineers)

- I received 2 offers during this job search (was very selective else could have gotten many, many more)

- First offer: IOS developer at very large consulting firm for $120K base (with possibility of small bonus).

- Second offer: IOS developer position that was comparable in interest to first. Decided to "shoot for the moon" and ask for $145K. They agreed, and that's where I'm (happily) working now.

According to this study, SW engineers with my level of experience in these cities are making $181K on average! From what I could see that's just not available here to the rank and file, "average" experienced sw engineer. That salary would be more like top-of-range here.

Am I doing something wrong? Is Boston really that different than Seattle/NYC/SF?

Yes. You didn't really negotiate. Ideally you interview broadly, then use the higher offers at companies that aren't you top choice to boost the offers from companies that aren't your top choice that offered less---and then use those offers to boost your actual top choice.

For example, company A offered 100k, B offered 120k, and C offered 130k. You want company A. You say to company B that company C offered 130k and you're interested but not sure with that diff. They up to 135. You say to company C, hey, company B offered 135, can you help me lower the diff? They up to 140. Then you go to company A, say you'd love to, but you have offers for 135 and 140, so if they could do anything to lower the diff, great. They offer 130. At this point, you have three offers, all higher than you began with and can make a choice.

How would you sync your interviewing so that you have a decently sized, overlapping window where you can negotiate with multiple companies? I'd imagine these negotiations take about a month in total. That must mean that (earliestDeadline - latestOffer) must be at least that long.

Its just a scheduling thing, line up all your interviews into a single week. Similarly, when they start coming back, push them out into the week following so you have room for the slow responses to catch up.

You can reasonably fit in 5-6 interviews into a week.

While working full-time? Not everyone can afford to take a week off of work just to interview at companies that may not necessarily extend you an offer.

I don't think it's a Boston problem. Perhaps a company selection problem though. Have you tried to interview at Google (Or facebook, amazon, apple, netflix, microsoft)?. If that 20+ years is actual work experience, as opposed to coding up BASIC games during middle school, I am sure you'd get offers at 300k+ total annual comp at those places if you passed the interview.

I think it's possible - yes. But I kind of qualify those employers as "elite" here, and very competitive to get into - not average.

And if you want to count my pre-teen years coding BASIC games, total experience jumps significantly!

I haven't hired in Boston in a few years, so my perspective may be out of date, but it definitely was the case up until 2014 or so (my most recent concrete experience making job offers to candidates in Boston) that Boston salaries for engineers were lower than SF and NYC.

That seems mostly to be a supply/demand thing (which is tangled up with local culture norms, too, in complicated ways). There is much, much less VC funding in Boston than in SF and NYC. But a great supply of engineers because of the universities. And there's no equivalent to Microsoft+Amazon (Seattle) and Wall Street (NYC) pushing up both demand and top-end base salaries for experienced engineers.

Also, you mention that your search was 18 months ago. In SF (and I think Seattle and NYC, too) the job market is crazily engineer-favorable right now. I'd bet there's been 10% inflation in average base senior engineer salaries in SF in the last 18 months. That would match your $145k against ~$165k (rather than $181k).

While not any HQs, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook and (pretty sure in some form) Apple are all in the greater Boston area and certainly have had an impact on salaries.

As for funding: https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/04/boston-area-startups-are-o...

I don't think Boston is as much as a slouch as you think, in fact it's is pretty well positioned for the long term in regards to overall industry diversity and pretty respectable funding (though not as dominated by software like SF might be)

Salaries are probably lower because overall COL has traditionally been lower here (though housing sure isn't far behind anymore). Most people I know working for the big companies are getting ~$250k total comp (8-10 years exp). Other large, if more under the radar, companies are not too far behind.

I wouldn't call Boston a slouch, at all! It is an amazing city with a lot of great tech stuff happening.

But having raised VC money for three companies, Boston definitely feels like it doesn't have the same VC culture as SF and NYC. In some ways, this is a really good thing!

A lot of Boston investment money is much more conservative about valuations and business models. There's more late stage money than early stage money. There has historically been a lot more life sciences money than "software" money (on the professional investment side). My memory is that the last numbers I saw (2017) put Boston overall tech venture funding at something like 1/8th of the Bay Area's totals.

Having lived in Seattle and knowing several software engineers at various companies, I would have to say Triplebyte's numbers are being inflated by the FAANG companies. I have one friend at Microsoft that is making probably 160 to 180ish right now, and another friend at a startup that is making between 80 and 100. Most other engineers make around what you've been offered. I really would take Triplebyte's numbers with a grain of salt.

80 to 100 is insultingly low for even a startup in Seattle. Sure, some are able to get away with it like Energysavvy, but only bottom tier engineers should put up with it.

Funding is month-to-month, essentially. Not sure how long they'll last. But I agree, its very low.

Why can EnergySavvy get away with it?

Because there are enough people that don't know their own market value to fill their ranks, I guess.

Damn they are getting ripped off.

I also work in Boston and have done so since 2010. My experience has been the same as yours. A little over 15 years of experience, worked at a fairly well-known Boston startup, now in a VP level at a digital agency and I was also shocked at the kind of salaries indicated here. I don't feel I could command $180,000 in Boston even with all my experience.

You're not doing anything wrong. I just don't think Boston pays these kind of salaries (yet). We've got a burgeoning tech scene here but compensation isn't at the same level. When I was looking to relocate back to Denver a few years ago, Boston salaries were much higher than what I was seeing out there.

>I don't feel I could command $180,000 in Boston even with all my experience.

You could absolutely command much more than that. I've got 20 yoe, was VP level at a smallish startup in Cambridge (35 employees, about 20 of which reported to me) that was acquired. When it was time to move on, nearly any conversation with recruiters started with "total comp" expectations. I had that discussion with about 10 recruiters, and only 1 outright said no thanks when I threw out an expected total compensation of $350k.

For public companies that meant base, bonus, and RSU. For private companies that meant base, bonus, and paper money.

I eventually interviewed with two companies (1 private, 1 public) and received offers from both. Both offered compensation far, far greater than $180k.

so glad i posted about my experience - posts like these have been eye-opening!

I know the Google SWEs in Boston tend to get paid (net comp) much higher than that for senior positions, though I am not very familiar with Boston.

On the west coast you'll usually get paid a significantly higher salary in Seattle/SF than most of the other cities with any tech presence (e.g. Portland, LA, San Diego, etc).

Salaries are tied to cost of labor/employment, which varies by city. It is generally correlated with cost of living, though (otherwise people move away), so it balances slowly minus network effect adjustments.

FWIW, I thought the SF numbers in that article were low for mainstream companies, but high for startups.

Only way to find out is to interview more with numbers that get rejected.

Glassdoor has average boston Software Engineer salaries at $98K. Hmmm....

That seems really low to me. I have friends that work at a dozen or so places all 3-4 years out of school and the range we’re getting is more like 110-140.

Personally out of school I got 85, but got bumped to 110 after 1 year and 120 after 2.

Maybe they’re including 495/NH jobs bringing it down? There definitely is a difference between jobs in Boston/Cambridge, those on 128, and those in the outer burbs.

SF average is $126K per Glassdoor - so maybe there really is a much bigger difference than i thought. I feel like 5-10 years ago they were roughly comparable. Guess that's a long time ago in internet years!

Purely based on my 'gut' (though I've been around):

1) SF/NY/Seattle salaries are skewed by really rich companies 2) Yes, there a big uptick as it's more competitive, FYI cost of living is much more. 3) The salary I think has a selection/sample problem that probably over estimates.

My bet is $150K for an experienced dev at a normal company in Boston is probably somewhere in the league of normal.

Consider that salaries are not as an efficient a market as we might imagine. If Boston area companies can get away with paying $140 instead of $180 they will! Most people don't move across the country for a pay raise. Worker mobility in the US is down over the last 30 year (weirdly).

SF has a lot of people moving there which creates a different kind of frothy market.

Boston is established and so everything gets established, including salaries.

Consider the situation: imagine if you had a company making ok profit, with 50 Engineers in Beantown. Do you think you could all of a sudden get your Eng. to the 'next level' by paying SF rates?

So you're staffing costs are way up, but is productivity? Surely, you might be able to bring on the best hires, but will that make all the difference?

It's such a big bet, and the inclination is always to make (or save) money 'now'.

It's a little bit like the 'open vs. closed office' calculation. The CFO can make a direct and measurable compelling case for open office: it's 20% cheaper. Those in favour of a nicer office can't provide the hard numbers on how much the company would increase productivity.

I think salary differentials are a crazy interesting subject and suspect there are a lot of weird and interesting things going on.

I'm from Canada, where any good developer can double their salary by moving to a choice job in the US. Why the hell would young talent stay? Which implies, how the hell can Canadian companies even remotely compete on building great companies of the top tier talent leaves?

Obviously this depends a lot on a companies specific need for hyper-top tier talent, those that don't would maybe be better off out of the Valley.

I also wonder a lot on what would happen if a well funded Canadian startup actually started paying super great salaries. Sure, they'd be able to get the best talent that comes through the door ... but then there's the other paradox: most Canadian cities are not destinations! Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver are regular cities, if you start a company there, most of your applicants will be local. It stands that local talent may not be all that spectacular (good but not great) thereby not justifying really big salaries. And can you really have 'regular salary' for the 'regular, local talent' and then inflated salaries for the international hot talent? That might be hard!

So SF, NY and Seattle have the advantage of being destinations, i.e. cities where people are willing to move, meaning that their quest for talent is really a not a function of the locals, but the top tier of a much broader pool of talent.

I'm not sure about this characterization of "destination cities". The primary reason developers move to Seattle or SF is pay and career opportunities. The primary reasons for leaving are things like cost of living, commutes and lifestyle. Vancouver by contrast is more of what I'd call a "destination city" - people move there for the lifestyle and location (surrounded by ocean and mountains) and leave because of the cost of living and lack of career opportunities.

Certainly for some people SF or Seattle have a lot more to offer than just career opportunities and not everyone is going to like the Vancouver lifestyle but in my experience the primary draw of SF is money and career not desire to live in the cities for other reasons. I think the story might be a little different for NY where lifestyle might be as big a draw for many people as career opportunities.

California and NY are absolutely aspirational places.

They are mythologized in news, song, film and TV.

Try to recruit someone to Toledo, Ohio vs. SF with the same cost-of-living-adjusted-pay and there's no comparison.

California is a place where people 'want' to move. NYC has been branded as the 'centre of action' for almost a century now. Just the other day I was reading about how artists feel they need to be located there for brand purposes.

The only people who 'aspire' to move to a regular city are those in smaller towns in the immediate vicinity, i.e. in rural Ontario, Toronto is an 'aspiration' it's 'the big city'. (Also, Toronto is an aspiration for a lot of migrants worldwide but that's a different story).

SF and NYC have access to a global talent pool.

Toronto has access mostly just Ontario.

FYI I worked at a 'big name company' in Waterloo Ontario and it was really hard to bring people in, especially Americans for whom Canada it seemed may have as well been the arctic. Those few we did bring up, often kept their 'primary residence' in the US, or otherwise felt they were doing a 'tour of duty' and would otherwise want to go home.

excellent points - thanks for this perspective!

Years of experience tops out at "8+"? An engineer that started working at 22 is barely 30 by the time they reach that experience level. Is 8 years really the point where additional experience ceases to have a meaningful effect on salary? Or do these three cities (SF/NYC/Seattle) just do a pretty good job of expelling software engineers after they attain their first gray hair?

Easiest explanation is triplebyte doesn't have enough data past this. Especially when sliced by other dimensions.

At the big tech companies, you normally reach the "terminal level" (i.e. there's no more up-or-out pressure) within ~5 years. It's entirely possible to reach that level and then keep working another 30 years without a promotion. And even if you do strive to continue getting promoted, each level is significantly more difficult and could take another 5+ years to reach.

At 8+ you leverage your professional network and don't rely on websites like triplebyte

It may be the case that for a variety of reasons, salaries don't creep up that much past 8 years as it's just more difficult to either signal or create value then.

Despite the fact that a polygot dev. with tons of experience is always good to have around, and you need some weighing in on big decisions ... most dev is just dev - and a competent mid-tier developer with good habits can do the job in most cases.

In most careers, you top out around 8 years of experience for individual contributor. After that, you add value through scale of managing direct reports.

Yes, exactly. Diminishing marginal returns after 8 years.

That said, I really wonder about management - a talented senior dev who can write clean code, is polygot and knows their way around everything, gives good estimates, communicates well ...

I think that might worth more than anything really.

Often tech is more like a sports team where individual contributors matter more than those making other decisions, i.e. coaches.

(That said, there could be a serious market inefficiency here: a spectacular coach may be worth more than great players, it's just really difficult to measure!)

It's the latter.

I don't think that's really the case, but I do think it's common for good software engineers to move into other job titles (whether it's "founder" or "management" or "architect" or "software consultant" or a deep specialization in a particular subfield of software like security, deep learning, data science, data mining, compilers, databases, graphics, etc.) where they can avoid the salary cap. There's an adverse selection effect on those that don't; employers are likely to ask to themselves "Why are you still making $150K/year as an employee rather than $500K/year as a consultant, $2M/year as a deep learning specialist, or have retired as a founder? Did you never develop any sort of deep expertise worth paying you for in your 8 years as a software engineer?"

People going into software should plan accordingly. You get great wages to start, but you need to save some of those for a potentially risky mid-career transition where you specialize in a particular subfield.

That is only true in the HN bubble of SV. No one would bat an eye at someone only making $150K in almost any major city in the US outside of the west coast and NYC.

It's not the latter. Additional years don't matter as much past 10 or so... you're kind of doing the same types of things over and over as history repeats itself.

>you're kind of doing the same types of things over and over

Well this would be the root of the problem right here, not "experience doesn't matter after 10 years." That's nonsense. Experienced people with in-depth, cross-functional knowledge obtained from several, 5-8yr "sub careers" in various specialties can be worth their weight in gold.

I'd argue that when it comes to writing code, technology changes fast enough that after a decade, you've hit a pretty clear plateau. You've got the fundamentals down, and you're a master of your current language.

There's a lot of managerial things you continue to learn, but that requires you to be in a position with enough political capital to actually stop history from repeating itself. It's only useful knowing that Project X will fail, if you can convince people to instead do the more successful X++. I'd expect job title to be a much better indicator here: having 20 years of experience doesn't mean you have the aptitude or inclination to succeed at office politics.

That's assuming the company you have the experience from values titles. Ive worked at some that dont. A junior dev has the same title as the most senior dev: Developer. You cant tell from the title alone that one is making 80k and the other is making 500k+. Ive seen other companies go to the other extreme where the titles get ridiculous. Titles aren't a great indicator, in my opinion.

Fair - I meant title as a proxy for the work that's actually being done. My point was mostly that raw experience is only meaningful up to a certain point.

To be a bit longer-winded:

If you want to get paid more, you have to demonstrate value. Even if you only ever write the same CRUD apps, you'll definitely improve for the first few years, and it makes sense to pay more for a developer who isn't still busy making their first mistakes.

Past a certain point, though, raw experience isn't automatically a value add. If you're still just writing the same CRUD apps, you cap out a certain point. Now you need to demonstrate that you can contribute to architectural discussions, get involved in system design, or help with project selection/management. If you think you deserve the big bucks for that level of highly experienced work, that's totally fair, but you need some way to demonstrate it - whether this be tiles held, references, or having literally written the book on the topic. You can't just lean on "years of experience" anymore, because it's no longer well-correlated to value-added.

(OT thoughts on Triplebyte)

I think Triplebyte is stuck between a few incentives that aren't necessarily aligned with developers, and I'm not sure how to decide how I feel about their contributions overall to the job market for software.

I absolutely love their outreach and data like this where they try to empower developers more.

My problem I have is that they entered the market using the same exact worn-out old methods that everyone has been trying to use to hire for software forever. They do a timed coding challenge, they ask we-need-to-hear-the-right-answer quiz questions about both algorithms, and topic-specific areas for web/mobile/back end.

All they've done is dress everything up in fancy clothes and used an interface UX tuned towards developer's sensibilities. They absolutely bombard all major programming related internet sites/communities with their stupid click-bait "only 2% of green-skinned back end browser developers living at least 100ft above sea level get this question right!!!!111!1!1one1!" ads. Their initial, multiple-choice "gotcha!" quiz should be passed by a second year CS (or any eng.) student with a tiny amount of thought, but it makes developers feel like they've already just "beat" someone else out and "accomplished" something and it plays a psychological game with them to get them to commit to the extended live interview. (It worked on me!)

Do they have data about how their candidates perform after hire? 2 yr performance reviews? 2 yr turnover rates? How do they market to the recruiters who are their true "customers"?

To me their product seems like something that hiring managers and in-house recruiters can use to remove liability for bad hires. Has anyone ever worked with them through recruiting to see if the value proposition is there for eliminating bad phone screens? I don't think initial phone screens are terribly difficult to do for a senior engineer with experience, to root out red flags. Is it a better value prop on your expensive on-site interview slots to trust Triplebyte? Or your own internal senior engineers/hiring managers?

I'm not saying that Triplebyte has direclty nefarious intentions or anything like that. I just am no sure I see how their incentives are aligned with me as a developer, in quite the same way they market as ("We are god's gift to developers").

> Do they have data about how their candidates perform after hire? 2 yr performance reviews? 2 yr turnover rates? How do they market to the recruiters who are their true "customers"?

Software engineering hiring, and Triplebyte as a company, at least think about, and make an attempt to evaluate these concerns. Have you ever seen how non-technical people (sales/marketing/finance) are evaluated? I'd argue Triplebyte at least moves the needle a bit versus in other fields.

Do they have any data about it? Or blogs or something? I'd be super curious to read thoughts directly from Triplebyte on this, if they have any public material out there.

Great marketing execution.

Base salary is a pretty useless statistic in tech. Almost all higher paying jobs are going to have a large component of the compensation in equity or discretionary bonuses.

That pretty much depends. Imagine a startup that offers stock options, which you only can use, if it ever goes public. And in the end it doesn't (for example it's bought), and resulting amount you get as compensation for those options is a lot lower than what it could be from the public scenario. So it's simply a gamble. While base salary is a solid metric.

Interesting to see that this is not a normal distribution. The modal salary is closer to $135k, the median $146k, and as we see labelled, the mean at $149. Not the idealized bell curve taught about in statistics class. That long tail on the right side is pulling the mean up and away from the mode and median.

Honestly, I'm not sure why I expected a classic bell curve instead of a long right tail.

Edit: playing with the data, looking at some of the sub-distributions, (e.g. front-end engineers with 3-5 years experience at all company sizes) do look a bit closer to normal distributions, but in many, there's still that long tail to the right.

Now, what to do with this information? Perhaps I can play it to my advantage when attempting to negotiate a raise or a salary with a new company.

It’s likely bi- or multi-modal with secondary hump masked away due to sampling skew or something

Kudos to TripleByte for their efforts in making this kind of compensation information public! I referenced it during my last performance review discussion in an effort to negotiate for a raise that would bring my comp more in line with what was listed as the median in TripleByte's data.

I was pretty firm on insisting on a bigger raise based on that data, after which my boss's boss came in with the big guns. They had a spreadsheet of compensation data collected by investors in the startup, and this data was collated across all their (and other) portfolio companies.

It was broken down by total funding, company size, years of experience, role, all that. IIRC, it was Option Impact: https://www.advanced-hr.com/. I wish I could've looked at it more, such interesting information with specific numbers. Of course, that will never be made public, much to the detriment of the workers in tech.

I just left my company that swore up and down that they work hard to pay competitive market salaries. They claim to have all this fancy compensation market data compiled by experts. I don't know why they trust this data so much, but it consistently shows lower salaries than even Glassdoor or Payscale, which tend to be lower than surveys like this one.

They don't criminally underpay or anything, but they are on the low side of average and I've been insisting that they are 20-30% under market on just base salary alone for high caliber people. No RSUs and there's some cash bonuses (maybe up to ~10%) and other near-cash perks but nothing super significant.

Well, jokes on them, I just accepted a new non-FAANG gig for a nearly-25% base salary increase, plus a significant initial RSU grant of ~1.5x salary, plus other bonus potential. And I'm more excited about the company and work anyway.

It's bananas out there right now, go get it while you can.

I imagine the signaling is partly due to the selective admissions processes at elite universities. MIT, Stanford, Harvard already vetted for you, so surely you must be intelligent, driven and cut above the rest.

But I wonder if there are recent studies on the demographics of who attends elite universities in general? I'd assume it is mostly kids from the upper middle class to upper class backgrounds.

These sort of places pat themselves on the back for saying they do target minorities and the less privileged, but they have such an insurmountable background to overcome they may never make it to such schools, despite being smart enough to attend.

You may miss people like: https://www.uidaho.edu/engr/news/features/tom-mueller

This just shows how game changing bootcamps and the like are. People with no software background can go from no experience to a job paying 130k a year with a year of training. That's downright miraculous.

I think it says more about how unrelated traditional CS programs are to getting students "work force ready".

While I wont deny the foundational knowledge that CS degrees can offer, it doesn't seem to make much a difference in earning potential.

The biggest difference between CS degree holders and bootcampers / no degree holders is the amount of time + effort required to land that first job. It seems that once you land that first job, there is not a huge difference in earnings between traditional and non-traditional engineers.

Will be interesting to see how it plays out over time. I'm curious what the average earnings will be between bootcampers vs 'others' in 15-20 years.

I'm not sure that this is what this data means. This report seems to be based on a very specific dataset of Triplebyte registered accounts. There are probably far more bootcamp grads that do not work as a developer and/or not registered on Triplebyte that are unaccounted for. Even bootcamp sites are probably inflating their salaries by only reporting those that graduates AND got a job in SWE.

But still - an appreciable amount of bootcamp grads are factually making this amount of salary. Even if it's not the average, it's still amazing.

Or the sign of a bubble...

Isn't it in triplebtyte's interest for these numbers to be inflated? The data seems to be at the heart of a conflict of interest, as it would not be in the author's interest for these numbers to be lower than anticipated. I don't really trust "research", or just "data" in this case coming from a party that has a very direct interest in the results being one thing over another.

Base comp isn't a great metric because it widely varies based on compensation schema.

For exmaple, Amazon has a cap on base (I think it's 160k) and provides huge amounts of stock beyond that. I'd imagine it's a similar story for many companies.

Total comp is a far more realistic and accurate measurement.

If they say they have a cap, it's probably just smoke and mirrors.

No, Amazon literally has a real hard cap on salaries. Everything else above that cap is stock. This is true for even seniors and execs.

Looking at just base salary is not useful at all for FAANG, since they all operate on total compensation. At Amazon for example, the salary is capped at $165k for all employees in Seattle (including SVP, VP, and director level).

And FAANG use case is not as useful for everyone else, because it's so specific. Base salary is a good metric in a general case.

I am not sure about these numbers.

These base estimates are much higher than what sites like Levels.fyi and anecdotal numbers I've collected from my new grad peers.

At the new grad level, Base salary numbers are $125-135k:Google, $105-115k:MSFT,Amazon,FB. The base salary numbers at other unicorns don't sound much different either.

I am not saying that TB's numbers are wrong. But, there has to be some reason for the huge difference in the numbers I've heard vs the ones TB reports.

The numbers look pretty legit. This is coming from a new grad with multiple offers.

Would you be willing to share the companies that pay above 130 base for their median or even 75th percentile new grad in the Bay Area ? (assuming the bonus, signing and stock are in line with that of the Big-N companies)

I can give you more details if you email me.

If you're working at a company that has multiple offices around the country (say SF, NYC, Boston), is it unreasonable to ask for the same compensation that a worker in the most expensive office gets? Assuming the role/responsibilities will be the same and the team consists of people from all offices.

You can ask. That doesn't mean you'll get what you want.

Are you going to refuse a job offer because it pays less than some arbitrary bar, even if it's the best offer you have?

So I work in a cheaper location for one of these companies and while I get paid a bit less, it's so much cheaper to live here that I can pocket a lot more.

I think so (unless the job is remote), I think expense has to be taken into consideration when salary is being calculated.

I'm shocked that the salaries are so similar between Seattle and SF. Does this ring true for y'all?

Seattle's tech market isn't super diverse. It's Amazon and Microsoft dominated with less of the startup VC culture that SF has.

So you see 95% of those salaries are just MS/AMZ

I mean... FB alone has something like 3k engineers in Seattle. Google is almost done with a campus that will house 10k in addition to their already large Fremont and Kirkland footprints. Zillow, Redfin, Expedia, and others all have HQs in the greater Seattle area. Unicorns like Stripe, Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb all have offices here.

You really think that, with all that, Amazon and Microsoft make up 95% of high salaried jobs in Seattle?

Maybe what they're trying to say is that it's the established big companies that are inflating the numbers. I'm not surprised by the numbers because I'm pretty sure big companies dominate the statistics. (And they pay similarly as to SF)

I live in Houston, and I would say most senior (10+ year) full stack developers probably make what your 0-3 year front end developers make. In Houston, ~130k is enough to live an upper middle class life, what does that look like in NY, SF and Seattle?

These salaries for NY look high to me, and there’s almost no variation based on experience. Whereas in my experience hiring here, entry level is $60-80k and seniors command around $150k.

Now, that’s for startups. Banks will pay twice that.

I’m wondering what the medians look like - the means being displayed may be distorted by the finance and Google outliers.

Edited to add: $60k is a middle class salary for a single person in NYC. (Though people who are unaccustomed to small apartment living / the idea of singles having roommates / the idea that middle class means having to compromise on some expenses will complain otherwise.) I wouldn’t want to try to raise a family of 4 here on that income, though.

$130k is definitely upper middle class for a single person, but a family of 4 on that income is going to have to live way outside the hip areas of the outer boroughs in order to be able to afford housing.

$117k for a family of 4 qualifies you for Section 8 housing in much of the Bay Area.

Recently made a switch from Seattle to NYC and was actually a bit surprised that the salaries in NYC were lower. People at my job didn't really believe me, so it's nice to have some numbers to back up my feelings.

Not that surprising. Seattle is HQ to two of the largest sofware companies in the world, with 1/3 the population of NYC. Wouldn't be surprised that the supply/demand gap for qualified engineers is greater in Seattle than NYC

I made the same switch, and I have been a hiring manager in both places. They are definitely lower on average.

Interesting. But why can't I filter by city? I'd like to see the percentile plot but restricted to New York. I imagine that the shape and peak of that plot would be different for each city.

So I filtered by 8+ years of experience, back end developer and small companies assuming they wouldn’t have RSUs. Equity in a non public company is worthless to me because of the chances of them being worthless.

The salaries just aren’t that impressive for the cities in question. I can make that in much lower cost of living areas of the country.

Probably too granular, but I wish one of these tools was able to compare salaries in S.F. itself with the Bay Area as a whole. I've heard that positions in the city pay greater than those in Silicon Valley, but I don't know how accurate that is.

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