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Stanford Computer Science '10-'11 Salary Survey Results
180 points by abi on Oct 21, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments
I'm an undergraduate at Stanford and I recently got this mass email from the CS department. I figured it might be interesting to the Hacker News audience (with all the talk of bubble and stuff). No one said the survey results were not to be distributed so I assumed that it was okay to do this.

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CS/EE Undergrads

Data: I received 140 responses which described 360 job offers. 95% of the job offers were primarily located in the Bay Area, 5% were from the Midwest and East Coast. 10% of the job offers were from start-ups.

Salary offers ranged from $64,400 to $100,000. The average salary offer was $79,914. The median salary offer was $ 82,200.

About 70% of students were offered stock options. About 80% of students were offered signing bonuses. And about 60% were offered relocation assistance and there were others who did not report the statistics since relocating did not apply to them. Relocation assistance ranged from $2,000 to $10,000 with an average of $3,000. Bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $25,000 with an average of $5,700. I did not calculate the range of stock options because stock options offered by companies are so different in their actual and potential values.

Students who replied averaged about 2 job offers. However, students may not have reported on all the offers they received. The average student who replied to the survey all had some job experience, nearly all of it through summer internships and averaged 3 summer of work.

Location, scope of work, salary/benefits, environment/culture, company were the important factors in accepting the offers for the undergrads.

CS/EE Masters

Data: I received 145 responses which described 330 job offers. 94% of the job offers were primarily located in the Bay Area, 6% were in the Midwest and East Coast. 15% of the job offers were from start-ups.

Salary offers ranged from $66,000 to $120,000. The average salary offer was $94,634. The median salary offer was $93,000. The candidates who were offered $120,000 was reporting directly to the VP of his research group. Also, one of the candidates was offered $36,000 because the individual was doing an internship instead of a full-time position out of state which I did not include into the calculation.

About 78% of students were offered stock options. About 66% of students were offered signing bonuses. And about 43% were offered relocation assistance and there others who did not report the statistics since relocating did not apply to them. Relocation assistance ranged from $1,000 to $8,000 with an average of $1,740. Bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $35,000 with an average of $4,102. I did not calculate the range of stock options because stock options offered by companies are so different in their actual and potential values.

Students who replied averaged about 3 job offers. However, students may not have reported on all the offers they received. The Masters had a little more summer experience than the undergraduates, an average of 3 summer internships.

Like the undergrads, location, scope of work, company, and salary/benefits, and environment/culture seem to be the important factors for the MS grads.

CS/EE PhD's

Data: I received 26 responses which described 60 job offers. 79% of the job offers were primarily located in the Bay Area, 21% were in the Midwest and East Coast. 30% of the job offers were from start-ups. 5% of the job offers were from a university.

Salary offers ranged from $132,888 to $145,000. The average salary offer was $123,972. The median salary offer was $138,944. One of the candidates was offered $43,000 because the individual was pursuing a Post-doc at a university which I did not include into the calculation.

About 45% of students were offered stock options. About 45% of students were offered signing bonuses. Bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $19,600 with an average of $6,150. Relocation assistance ranged from $5,000 to $10,000 with an average of $7,500. However, they may not have reported on all the benefits they received. I did not calculate the range of stock options because stock options offered by companies are so different in their actual and potential values.

Students who replied averaged about 3 job offers. However, students may not have reported on all the offers they received. The PhDs had about the same amount of summer experience as the Masters, an average of 2 summer internships and with the exception of 2 full-time experience.

Like the undergraduates and masters, location, company, environment/culture, salary/benefits, scope of work seem to be the important factors when it came to accepting their job offer.




I'm curious how well the study results reflect actual numbers of offers, salaries, and benefits. I would expect that since it's a voluntary survey, there would be some amount of the 'high school reunion effect' going on here and that the survey results would skew higher than the actual. In the same way that those who look good and have done well are more likely to attend a high school reunion, I would assume that those students who have had relatively successful job searches would be more likely to respond to the survey.


This is very interesting, thank you so much for posting. I must say that I cringe when I see "Low numbers were discarded because of X" in surveys. There is always a reason for X, but if possibilities for X are not determined and justified prior to examining the data, then we are cherry picking.* I am glad though that the elimination of numbers was at least disclosed.

* People graduating with a degree from Stanford can be presumed to look for full time work at a salary sufficient to pay off student loans and live in a reasonable shelter and buy food and health care. Earning less than a restaurant manager as an intern is not what people choose, it's what they take when there are no better options. Discarding it as invalid salary information is not well justified ex post facto. If we decide in advance of gathering data to discard people doing internships because these are unfavorable situations and not average ones, why not also discard all the favorable situations that are not average ones as well, such as high salaries received in offers where the student has a relative or friend who helped him find an especially favorable position. Or any other arbitrary criteria chosen after the fact upon examination of the data.


Let's say I was tasked with collecting and evaluating data about the selling price of homes in my community. Those interested in my findings likely are using the information to make financial decisions related to buying or selling a house. Now, let's say that one of the homes sold was not an arm's length sale -- a parent sold the house to a child for what appeared to be a very low price compared to other sales. Should this sale be included? Unlike the other sellers, maximizing the sale price was not a primary motivation. Including this data point would artificially lower average sale prices even though this individual seller's likely does not reflect his best financial option.

There are some graduates whose near-term primary motivation is not money. This is ok, but it is not correct to include those students in averages which will be used for the evaluation of the financial benefit of receiving an education from Stanford.


> People graduating with a degree from Stanford can be presumed to look for full time work at a salary sufficient to pay off student loans.

I just wanted to point out that Stanford has a no-loan policy. Most Stanford graduates owe either nothing or very little in student loans (anecdotal evidence so correct me if I'm wrong).


For bachelor's and Ph. D. degree programs, this is true. In programs that have master's degrees (like CS for example), there are loans and aid comes from CAships or RAships.


I don't know where this claim comes from, but as a Stanford CS grad (MS) I never heard of such a thing. Stanford definitely offers loans.


I believe this is only true for undergrads, and they started doing this in 06-07 or 07-08. I was undergrad '09 and definitely had loans for the first year or two, but not in subsequent years after they instated the "no required loans" policy.


Well as far as I remember from when applying (unsuccessfully) to Stanford, they have a need aware policy, which means that they do take into account the financials of the student. So a student in a well-off family would be more likely to get in than a student in a lower class family (all other things equal).

I'd assume that would be a reason for lower student debt.


This is untrue. From the left column of http://www.stanford.edu/admission/:

"Students are admitted on a need-blind basis, and the university ensures that no admitted student is unable to attend."


Salary offers ranged from $132,888 to $145,000. The average salary offer was $123,972. The median salary offer was $138,944. One of the candidates was offered $43,000 because the individual was pursuing a Post-doc at a university which I did not include into the calculation.

This makes me sad.


I left the software industry to go to grad school. I just finished a three-year postdoc. The pay was a little more generous, but in the same ballpark.

IMHO, it was the best gig in the world. I got to be at a fabulous university (Stanford) and was actively mentored by the world's leading experts in my subject area. I had a total of 120 teaching hours in the classroom over three years; no committee work; my only other duties were scholarship and research. It was like going to school, with the best teachers in the world, and with plenty of personal attention.

Oh, and they paid me.


I'm more confused on how the average offer was lower than the bottom end of the range.


It was probably a typo ($132,972)?


$43,000 is actually a bit higher than what Post-docs in other science fields (esp. biology) can expect to make. Unfortunately, Post-doc salary is often fixed by the institutions making the grants (typically NSF or NIH) so there is no competition in the Post-doc market. This wouldn't be so bad if Post-docs still served their original purpose of bridging a Ph.D. from mentored researcher to independent investigator. Unfortunately, with fewer and fewer tenured positions (and the increasing life-span of currently tenured faculty, especially in the US where there is no mandatory retirement like some other countries), this is no longer the case. Originally, Post-docs were expected to spend 2 years until they could establish their own lab. Today, Post-doc periods of 6 or 8 years are not unheard of.


In astrophysics, most postdocs seem to make between 45-60k. The grant agencies do not dictate what the salary is. There usually is a salary scale set by the institution, but I know that at least at UC Santa Cruz it ranged from $32k to $75k so did not in practice restrict the department from paying whatever they wanted.

I'm really surprised that a CS/EE postdoc would be paid only $43k, since they are more commercially viable than astro one.


CS isn't a field where a postdoc is a mandatory step on the way to a professorship (unlike, say, physics). Postdocs in CS are not too common, so it's hard to generalize.


It wasn't common in areas like systems until recently. However, it has gotten common in the past 3 years. In "Theory", I thought most people did post-docs after their PhDs.


The post-doc is now effectively mandatory in computer science academia like other fields. I don't know where this figure of 75k for an astrophysics post-doc comes from. The only 70k+ post-docs I've ever heard of are at government labs like Los Alamos. At Harvard, for example, post-docs make less than 50k per year (I'm a grad student there and have post-doc friends). If Harvard's Smithsonian center for astrophysics cannot pay market demanded prices for post-docs, then I just don't buy this claim that Santa Cruz could.

I second the sentiments mentioned above that the years and low-pay of a post-doc are depressing now that it is overwhelmingly likely that it won't lead to a tenured position.


I wouldn't say it's mandatory; about half of my grad-school friends did post-docs, and half didn't. It depends strongly on your sub-area, and in part on how flexible you are on location and type of school. In some cases, people who take post-docs could've gotten professorships, but not at top-tier research universities, and preferred a year of post-doccing at Stanford to taking a professorship at a low-ranking school.


Sad that Ph.D.s get such high offers from industry? Or sad that Post-Docs get such low offers from academia?


I hope its the latter :P


Wow. Very high salaries indeed. What I find particularly interesting is that the PhD's clearly have absolutely no incentive of staying in academia. I wonder how bad an effect this has on academia..


There's certainly no financial incentive for a Ph.D. graduate to remain in academia. That said, there is no financial incentive to do a Ph.D. in the first place. My understanding is that the opportunity cost (salary you didn't earn while doing your Ph.D.) is larger than the total expected extra earnings over your lifetime. My understanding is that by contrast a Masters degree is a good investment.

There are other reasons to stay in academia --- mostly to do with lifestyle. You have a lot more freedom to work on whatever interests you than in many other career paths.


There is certainly incentive to get a Ph.D. in many other studies (where the comparable industry salaries are much lower). Archaeology, East Asian Studies, etc.


> What I find particularly interesting is that the PhD's clearly have absolutely no incentive of staying in academia.

That's not clear.

The total net worth of Stanford's CS professors is a couple of billion dollars. Yes, Billion.

Then again, they have incredible "deal flow".


CS PhDs might get paid this much in academia/research labs. This agrees with the lower proportion of folks who get stock options with their jobs (i.e. academic jobs don't come with options but research lab jobs sometimes do).


That's a bit extreme. No financial incentive perhaps. I had a handful of professors in bschool who were widely known to be multimillionaires.


It's bschool.


So what? The inherent assumption is that graduating PhD have "absolutely no incentive" to remain in academia. I think multimillionaire profs are proof that it is just possible that people choose to teach for reasons entirely unrelated to pay.


One thing I'm curious about is: at a larger software company like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft, how much of a raise do you typically get every year?

Also, does Google's 10% across-the-board raise last year not apply to new hires?


In google if you are really good you could maybe get promoted every 1.5 years, but realistically this is probably more like every 2-3 years.

Your pay then gets bumped to the next grade (or whatever grade you move in to in cases where you transfer laterally) and from what I can tell the increase can be 20-30% increase.

You also will get regular stock option/unit refreshes each year based on performance, so those will start to add up over the years and can be a substantial part of your income assuming the stock is doing ok (and historically it has).


To speak for the latter, Google's 10% across-the-board raise last year does apply to new hires, personally speaking. I'm surprised that my offer is above the MS median and average.


I would be interested to know what % of students would state if asked whether they would prefer to stay in the Bay Area vs. relocate (assuming assistance) to another city. I know some companies on the East-coast don't focus too much energy on recruiting in West-coast schools because it is assumed there will already be a much lower % which would be willing to relocate in the first place. I'm just wondering what the actual survey #s would say and how tied the students are to the Bay Area tech culture.


abi, sounds like all of these responses are for fresh grads (be it BS, MS, or Phd). It would be interesting to see the stats for offers after 1, 2, up to 10 years in industry. There was some element of 'hockey stick growth' for me from the year I graduated (unemployed for some months), to my first job (nothing to brag about, salary wise), to my second job (which is much better). I wonder if it will be the same for Stanford grads since they're already starting relatively high.


It might also be interesting to control for prior experience. Some people enter the masters/PhD program with years of industry experience, as I did.

I'm a little sad to see that after five years in industry I made less than the median Stanford masters grad and was pretty much on par with the recipients of bachelors degrees. I should complete my masters by the end of the academic year and I'm starting to wonder how much I could conceivably be making so I know what to ask for during salary negotiations. I'm expecting my experience should help some, but but I bet the degree will be the eye catcher.


> The candidates who were offered $120,000 was reporting directly to the VP of his research group

The candidates or the candidate? It seems like this candidate is easily identifiable... How many masters' grads from Stanford (145 responses) was offered 120,000 and reports to the VP of his research group?

This makes me wonder: How taboo is it to talk about your offers/comp details? When I get offers, I'm told to keep them confidential, but everyone knows that the numbers are openly discussed between friends.


This is a real problem. There were TWO of us at Drexel who interned one summer at Google. They published salary details BY EMPLOYER! I was livid when a professor made a snarky remark about how my internship paid better than his career. I gave the dean quite an earful over that.


> Salary offers ranged from $132,888 to $145,000. The average salary offer was $123,972. The median salary offer was $138,944.

How can the average be that much lower than the min?


I believe the colloquial term for this kind of event is "typo." Also "that much" is redundant because the average can never be lower than the min at all ;).


Bay Area, Midwest, and East Coast are the three locations for each option, and they all add up to 100%. What about Southern Cali or the Pacific Northwest, both of which have at least some amounts of demand for CS graduates? I can't imagine they are 0%, so I'm guessing they are clumped with the Bay Area.


"Salary offers ranged from $64,400 to $100,000. The average salary offer was $79,914. The median salary offer was $ 82,200."

Friends of mine got offers for 64k in Boise, ID. 64k seems low for the bay area. Or is 64k in a place like Boise, ID just a really good offer?


I believe the cost of living in places like Boise is much less than places like SF/NYC, so that's relatively decent.


With housing costs at almost half what they are in the valley, the cost of living is much lower in Boise.

I was there last summer on an internship and paying $550/month for a decent one bedroom.


When we make new hires we give them the option of trading cash for equity. I've found $60k (with the rest in equity) to be a pretty popular choice.

Many seem to consider it to be the lowest salary where one can live comfortably in the valley (allowing one to take risk without going into debt).


damn, i dropped out, so i guess this make me unemployable.


When I see these surveys from the top-tier universities, I often wonder what the ceiling is for those of us who are self-educated.


There is no ceiling.


I have no degree. Base salary 160k roughly 50-60k in equity/year. 10 years experience. I'm not at the top of my game yet.

I started at 70k with no experience no degree.


I would perhaps argue that 70k starting with no experience or degree is very much not the norm. I'm not questioning you, but how/where?


I have no actual work experience prior to my current job and no degree. I am 23 years old and I have a 6 figure salary and equity in the Bay Area. If you know people that know what you are capable of and can refer you to a company then an amazing resume is completely irrelevant. Last week I turned down a job offer from Blizzard Entertainment (was by referral) because they could not match my current salary.


I'm jelly, you should post some your story for inspiration for all of us young people without a 6 figure salary :)


You are questioning me, but it's fair. I should've said with minimal experience (nothing that'd be on my resume today).

It was a contracting gig. Hourly, operations and NOC type work.


Luckily for us, we can prove it. Not many people will ever get a chance to say, "hey, let me show you that I can do it". There aren't many hobbyist surgeons (I hope).


Depends if you are actually good at something. Great engineers easily find work anywhere.

I am drop out. It took me only 1 week of looking to get a 6 figure job in the Bay Area with equity. It is also my first real job. It is nice knowing that I am in my early 20s with no college debt. College is great for networking though.


At least you're in good company: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and many others were dropouts too. Your challenge is to prove that you can stack up against someone with that piece of paper if it's a job you're looking for.


well..not really.. what are you good at?


you're not employable, but you can be selfemployable :)


The question is also how this data was "collected". I once was asked to fill out some survey of my school were I had to enter a salary number.

Knowing that this is going to be used most likely for some inter-school benchmark it is making very tempting to polish up the numbers.


Since this is a copy of an email sent to CS students at Stanford, I'm not sure it's intended to be public information. One of the staff members in the CS department emails graduates every year to survey salary data and to ask about how useful the recruiting resources provided by the department are. I'd imagine the numbers accurately reflect the responses received, although as others have mentioned there may be biases in who chose to respond.


Average starting salaries for the "top" universities in California (not arranged by degree): http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges/best-schools-in-califo...


If anyone is interested for UK data, then the UK government has a neat table here: http://data.gov.uk/appathon-2011

It is called "Salary of graduates by course topic (National Student Survey)"


"I received 140 responses"

Uh... how many did you send out? How many people are unemployed? I had similar issues with my university, where I and everyone I knew made less than half the lowest quoted value, but had never received such a survey.


For PhD's: "Salary offers ranged from $132,888 to $145,000. The average salary offer was $123,972."

how can the average be lower than $132,888?


fuck this law school nonsense - wish I had computer science background


Thanks a lot, its very useful information. I wish I had this kind of information when I graduated.


It would be interesting to see how many started their own startup.


would be interesting to know how many graduates would be willing to join very early stage startups. humble salary, good equity, great idea, great work.


Carnegie Mellon CS undergrad stats: http://www.studentaffairs.cmu.edu/career/Students/gps1/explo...

Max $120k, Min $45k, Mean $85k, Median $87k

Much more diverse by region (39% CA, 21% WA, 17% NE)

MIT's is more difficult to parse: http://web.mit.edu/career/www/infostats/graduation10.pdf


I assume NE in the above stands for North East (of the US), not Nebraska?


Yes.


You have an error with your PhD stats.




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