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Ask HN: How are salaries for senior devs in Berlin at the moment?
80 points by fliggertigibet on July 21, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 86 comments
Thinking of moving to Berlin for access to a market with better opportunities for software developers.

Background is 5+ years experience in enterprise development roles, docker/K8S/cloud experience included. EU citizen so visa not a problem, also speak German.

What are salaries like at the moment and is it still a good option for developers?

I've been working as a Sr SWE in Berlin for 3 years, and I network with a lot of others. 60-90k is probably the most accurate range. Developers making 100k+ are in the top 5% of the market in the city. If you're making 100k in Berlin you'd be making 3-400k in the Bay Area.

Taxes are high. You're probably getting slightly less than 4k a month after taxes/insurance. Your apartment/utilities will be around 1200.

What is the typical disposable income?

As a single person if you don't pinch pennies too hard, but you aren't going crazy either and you mainly eat at home, you'll probably have 1800-2k after expenses (rent/bills/food).

I just moved here from the USA and I think it's varies by the type of company you work for drastically. If you work for a bigger German company or an American company doing business here, you'll find salaries that are 90% or 95% of US salaries in like Denver or Atlanta. If you work for a German company that is early (or late) on, you'll find salaries that are more like 50%.

Feel free to reach out to me, I have pretty good (current) data on the subject but I'd rather share it privately.

I'm not in Berlin, but The Netherlands, which is probably similar. Most senior positions are around 50-80k, but there are a few over 100k.

However if you're willing to do contracting you can make a lot more - there are plenty of full-time, long-term gigs with rates of 80-110/hour.

For the Netherlands, Gergely Orosz recently published an interesting article titled "The Trimodal Nature of Software Engineering Salaries in the Netherlands and Europe" at https://blog.pragmaticengineer.com/software-engineering-sala...

It's a worthwhile read, but this bit from the start is notable:

> The 2019 Honeypot Amsterdam developer survey says, "the most experienced developers earn an average of €55,000 high as over €70,000". The 2021 Talent.io salary report puts the most experienced software engineering salaries in Amsterdam at €60,000/year. Meanwhile, I've observed the average senior total compensation figures at Uber nearly double from €110,000 in 2015 to €170,000-€230,000/year by 2020. It's not just Uber: Booking.com senior total packages have gone up by 50% from around €100,000 in 2016 to €150,000+, as part of the EU salary research I've been running

Jesus, that's depressing. 13 years ago I, 25, got a medior infra syseng role in Amsterdam at €70k and 30% ruling, net €4k. The market collapsed during the crisis and never came back.

Yeah and the positions also keep getting bunched together with no end in sight. I suspect in the future we will see postings such as DevQASecMLOps and salaries will bump up nominally

On an annual basis I know internships that pay more than that.

But seriously, that's base rate. What's the stock compensation and bonus structure?

Stock/bonus are not common in Germany in my experience. A sign on bonus yes, but annual bonuses/stock options no.

Most jobs doesn't offer significant bonus or stock. Even in USA most don't.

That's a red flag.

I read that it is illegal in Germany.

The forms you see in the US (options to buy stocks etc.) might be illegal.

But bonuses and other bonus compensation (i.e. offering part ownership in the form of special non-public stocks) aren't.

Not to offer a bonus or equity?

I don’t believe options are legal compensation. In the US RSUs are becoming more common than they used to be for startups and something like that might be OK.

That's bad for Germany. They are gonna change [1]?

I've seen a few company has stock options already. One of my friends has.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/29/germany-to-reform-stock-opti...

It's crazy... I'm already seeing similar salary ranges in Baltics, which aren't nowhere near as expensive as The Netherlands...

Contracting has its own caveats like no pension, and no sick pay.

It's still a MUCH better deal in the Netherlands.

You're looking at 80k+ easily, so that's atleast around 4200 or 4300 netto a month which you'll be comfortable with. And yes the market is really hot right now!

Seems low for a senior in Berlin. I pay close to that amount in Romania.

Edit: NVM, netto - got it - it's allright.

that sounds about right. but if you're not married, you're more likely to get to ~3,800€ a month after taxes and social security contributions, which comes in at ~42% combined.

What is "netto"?

Netto is net. Basically after tax and social payment deductions

I was wondering if it were some kind of slang based on the supermarket...

(in my company we describe everything in terms of how many cheeseburgers from a specific restaurant we can buy with the money)

Its actually a real economic thing. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mac_Index

Counting by Cola or Kebab works also pretty good.

Do not forget Ben and Jerry's

Is this in USD?

EUR. My current company pays around 70-90k for SSE, but we have levels for individual contributors above Senior - Staff and Principal. The salaries for them can go up to 140k .


>You're looking at 80k+ easily, so that's atleast around 4200 or 4300 netto

so 50k?

what's the point of giving salaries not in netto? it just makes it harder to compare

I'm not familiar with German job listings, but in the US, listing are "gross" (or "brutto" for German speakers).

Providing the gross amount could make it easier to compare internationally.

(Perhaps it would be even better to list net salaries everywhere, but taxes can vary by person, so that's not always possible.)

>but in the US, listing are "gross"

oh shit

so they don't pay 100k after tax to junior devs?

mamma mia, american dream is ded

A single American earning 100k gross would only pay about 13k in taxes. Less if you’re maxing 401(k). In America taxes are quite low until you’re in the top brackets.

This sounds way too low, and also varies a lot state-to-state. I just looked up 2020. Your Federal and FICA on 100k are about 23k. If you max out a 401(k) you can drop that to about 18.5k.

If you are in California, say, add about 5500 without 401(k), 4k with so total income tax is 29k, or 22k maxing out tax deferral.

So effective rate is about double what you quote, at least for single filing.

No this is incorrect. If you're in CA, you are looking at a tax burden of roughly 30% if you're making 100k.

Well yeah, California has by far the highest state income tax. And I’m guessing some of the bigger cities have city tax as well.

But in a state like TN or FL that don’t have that burden, it’s far less. Just for my main FTE in TN for 2020, I paid 12.5k on 150k (I also have 3 kids, so there is some tax credit there).

> Well yeah, California has by far the highest state income tax.

Its top marginal rate is 2.3% higher than Hawai’is, but also kicks in at almost 3× the taxable income (nearly $600K).

Its rate is lower than Oregon's from where Oregon's top rate kicks in to more than double that income. Its bottom nonzero rate is below the rates of the states that have flat income taxes.

> And I’m guessing some of the bigger cities have city tax as well.

Well, if by “some of the major cities” you mean “the single combined city and county”, sure. But only that one.

Fair enough but at $150k, Hawaii is actually at 8.25% (jumps up to 9% for 150,001-175k) while California is at 9.3% from $56k-286k. Oregon’s top bracket is 9.9%, but kicks in at $125k, and 9% from $8,401-124,999.

So effective net income from a $150k job, barring deductions, in California is $98k (Oregon is virtually identical give or take $100) vs Hawaii at $100k.

Taxes are low, but other living costs are not, and can go absurdly high (from a German point of few).

E.g. as a employee people often include taxes and other side costs including rent insurance and health insurance into one blob. On the other hand in the US health insurance is often more costly and covers less.

So just running into some non trivial but not to big health issues can easily make the average cost of living over time worse then in Germany.

But without question the "cost for what you get" value isn't the best in Germany, some EU countries have better ratios, e.g. similar cost but a better health system.

That's way off in almost all cases.

That low of a tax rate would only exist in US states with no state income tax.

Tax rates differ between individuals, based on other income, membership in a religion (specific to Germany), marital status, etc.

It’s the same reason retail prices I’m the US are often stated without sales taxes, a practice that is rare or even illegal in other jurisdictions: taxes sometimes differ even between cities, and it is impossible to state a single value for anything but a specific store.

Like others have said, your tax rate differs depending on situation you're in. Also, there are more things to take into account in Germany specifically. For example, many if not most companies (not sure if they still do, haven't been there in a while) will pay you "vacation money" and "x-mas money"/"13th salary" on top of this. I.e. in IIRC July you get an extra half month's salary and in November you get a "13th salary" i.e. an extra month's worth. These do count into all these tax implications (though some aren't taxed in the exact same way) but aren't included in the quoted salary numbers. They're listed as part of the contract usually.

Because it depends on your personal circumstances and is thus unknown by posters on an internet forum.

The comments here are disheartening looking at it from the UK. In the south of England I'm making 32k as devops lead at a small digital agency (handling the infrastructure for a collection of Wordpress sites and Umbraco sites, nothing crazy, a bit under 500k unique hits/week). It's difficult to know how hard I should be considering something else, or if thinking about it is just getting caught up in HN-comment-inflation.

I think callahad's post (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27913251) explains it quite well. You're in the first modal distribution of local companies. You can make a big jump making it to a local company that does broader benchmarking, or move to a global company that allows remote work like Twitter (unless you're happy to move near to London of course).

My first salary as SWE in UK at a bank had a >50K base (60K total comp), second job in finance was 120K base (135K total), and now Google is >180K total comp. All in GBP.

It certainly is possible, but getting into that third modal is probably the hardest bit and will likely involve some leetcode grind and loads of rejected interviews. After your first role, it's relatively smooth smailing (but will still involve leetcode grind every single time).

There is also the "expensive contractor" modal which can easily be in the 150-250k for big corporate clients. For this you don't need leetcode so much as familiarity with enterprise tech stacks -- the more obscure the better; and the patience to navigate your way through frustrating enterprise working practises and policies.

... sounds familiar, what's the next modal?

Next modal leaves school with a BTEC or crappy A-levels because they can't concentrate then gets a job in IT with a local firm and coasts along forever at 15-25k, automating the shit out of everything because although they have the intelligence and attention-to-detail needed to be a programmer, lack of ambition, family, and/or impostor syndrome prevent them from pursuing it as a career path.

> It's difficult to know how hard I should be considering something else

Hard - I don't know which city you're in but £32k is low for a senior role anywhere in the UK. In London that's a low salary for a graduate role.

I'm similarly disheartened when I read people mentioning that £90-120k salaries are fairly common in London (those numbers seem completely our of reach to me) or when I read about salaries in the US.

Just curious - what is your annual spend, including paying for somewhere to live?

In London, a smallish 2-bed apartment would rent for £2500/month. So around £32000/year just for somewhere to live. Overall, 2 people living in an apartment within cycling commute of work would spend around £60000/year - not being frugal but not exactly living in luxury either.


There are over 6500 properties with at least two bedrooms listed for rent on Zoopla for less than £1500per month.


If you don’t have kids, get one of the several thousand one bedroom places listed for less than 1k per month.

Note "within cycling commute of work". So for a lot of people that means zones 1-2. You would end up paying around what I mentioned for anything decent.

I'm in Nottingham, but I did work in London many years ago. Recent events may open up work in London for you part remote which if you are keen would allow you to easily double your salary if you have a few years experience. Otherwise salaries are a bit more fluid but if you have 5+ years experience you might be able to add another 10K easily enough. If you are happy where you are and getting good experience consider asking for a raise if you feel undervalued.

Digital agencies pay less, since they're often contracted out at competitive rates and they aren't propped up by imaginary investor money.

I worked in agencies for most of my career. They're more rewarding to work for, and offer great experiences, but if you want money you have to move into the corporate/startup world.

Salaries varies a lot in UE, even in the same country if you're working in big cities or small cities that makes a huge difference. In France if you're working in Paris as a Lead you can expect something around 70K/80K but in south of France it's more around 50K/60K.

You can make plenty of money doing enterprise devops freelancing with the big German companies. I'm currently on around £320k/year contracting for a couple of household-name companies. I think most of these companies are based in Frankfurt and Rhine-Ruhr though not Berlin, although they do seem happy to accept remote workers like me.

Given you mention £ are you based in the UK then? Do you speak Germany, if not any issues?

Yep I'm based in UK, I don't speak any German, and it's never caused issues.

In January I got offer from both Amazon (L5) and Shopify (Senior Eng) for 130k package f in Berlin. If you're looking for a higher salaries I recommend going for a bigger names

Is Berlin a market where 5 YOE is plausibly "senior" in the same way it is for Silicon Valley?

Seniority level is more dependent on your skill level.

While looking for a mid level position I applied to some senior level positions and it generally boils down to "show me you have the skills and you might have the job".

Furthermore some "senior level" jobs where actually looking for mid level devs.

In the mid level dev segment getting around 50k€ is quite viable. When I was looking for a job multiple offers looking for actual senior backend devs with higher salary where open (through don't ask me for the rang of the salary, I don't remember as I'm not quite at the senior level yet).

You can check the salaries directly provided by companies on: https://germantechjobs.de/jobs/all/Berlin

(disclaimer: I am the co-founder of this job board)\

In your case, you would be looking at something between: 60'000 and 90'000 EUR.

Salaries for IT/software engineering in Germany work kind of the opposite of the US: generally speaking, you’ll make better money in mid-size cities at one of the big old industrials (e.g.: Siemens, Bosch) than in startup-hot Berlin. IG Metall Tariff is what you’re looking for.

I’ve snickered at a couple recruiting mails trying to get me to leave my “boring” giant family company’s IT department for a ~30% paycut and “usually under 45 hours” workweek (mine’s currently 35).

I am “in Tariff” - my base salary is determined by the main IG Metall contract for Bavaria. My employer can pay me up to 28% over that base amount based on my annual performance evaluation. If they want to reward me more, they can choose to bump me up a step. If they wish to pay me even more than that, I am then “außer Tariff,” which means they can pay me as much as they like over that higher minimum, and I’m no longer “limited” to a 35/40 hour workweek. Managers in my department are usually AT, but I also have several IC colleagues with 15+ years of SWE experience who are.

TL;DR - Germany values boring; go boring, get paid.

Despite being aware how markets vary, it will never not shock me that 25-27 year old barely non-jr devs on my team make double that. Can’t help but think things are in disequilibrium over the long run.

The market is very hot right now in Australia. Our government closed the borders so only Australians can apply. That combined with an unwillingness of staff to move roles means there's a big shortage. Salaries have shot up in the software industry. I have seen $1000 AUD per day contact rates for senior engineers. That equates to $220k AUD before tax (-30% net).


I'm reluctant to ask for that much, though, when things open back up you'll be the first with your head on the block

It's true: contractors will be the first to go when things spring back.

So take while you can

Same as entry level FAANG then :-) love Australia

In my experience, a very accurate range is 70K-90K Euro (gross) for senior individual contributors. No matter if you have 5 or 20 years of experience.

More than that and you probably need to be principal engineer or something like that. Making more than 100K Euro gross in Germany (and probably in most of continental Europe, besides Switzerland) is consider top 5%.

The company I work for is hiring devs in Germany. DM me.

Just FYI: Your e-mail is not public.

(See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27106893 for some more info.)


I am looking for work in Germany. Your DM please?

part-time remote too?

What's Senior Security Strategist position salary equivalent there?

US Equivalent is ~USD $180k

It sounds heavily biased towards big companies (if not FAANGs). For Switzerland for instance, over 70% of the salaries are from Google. If you're looking at working for them, then great, but I don't think it's very representative of the general market.

I'm a bit tired of folks using this talking point. There is alot more data on the site from a variety of companies these days. The data seems to match what it being said in this thread too, so are you saying this thread is also not representative of the market?

Of course it isn't. Unless you think that hacker news somehow represents the software development market...?

I think this thread and the levels data are an accurate representation of the top 75% of the Berlin market, yes.

This article on salaries in EU tech hubs is potentially relevant. Also takes into account cost of living.


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