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Poll: Full-time software engineers in the Bay Area, what's your annual salary?
737 points by kanzure 1656 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 328 comments
This poll is targeting current full-time software engineers and software developers in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

The previous polls seem to have topped out too low. So here we are again.

Specifically, base salary only. Pre-tax. No options, shares, bonuses, adjustments for inflation, or benefits.

(Don't forget to up-vote the poll to get more data.)

172 points
157 points
124 points
Less than 80k.
109 points
106 points
At least 300k.
104 points
93 points
88 points
72 points
70 points
48 points
29 points
22 points
19 points
14 points
12 points
12 points
11 points
11 points
11 points
10 points
10 points
8 points
7 points

As always, voluntary response data are worthless.


Good luck to all of you looking for higher salaries. I hope you gain the salary you desire, and more knowledge of statistics along the way.

"all of you looking for higher salaries"

I would add also that a higher salary which is not sustainable for some reason and results in a lifestyle that you can't support (once you lose that salary) can be quite a problem. Not to mention the psychological impact of thinking you are a 250k a year person and having to drop to being an 80k a year person.

A higher salary cannot result in a lifestyle you can't support. That requires two things: more money, and the decision to spend more money just because you have it.

The psychological impact is quite real; I've ridden that yo-yo a couple times already.

If you buy expensive taxable objects like houses/cars you can't afford to keep them and you must get rid of them quickly, probably at less then they're worth

That almost happened when my wife, my eight-year-old daughter, and I were playing Monopoly last night. I didn't think there was anything very realistic about Monopoly, but here it is.

We were adding houses without keeping sufficient cash to cover the possibility of having to pay rent on another player's house-studded property. Although you don't lose anything by mortgaging and unmortgaging properties, when selling houses back to the bank you lose 50% of what you spent.

You're supposed to pay a 10% "fee" to the bank when you un mortgage.

That's a really stupid way to manage your finances.

And your self esteem.

But very human. Desires are numberless; salary never is. People also tend to assume that what's going on now is what will keep going on.

And that's not even counting the trillion dollars spent each year trying to get people to spend their money.

"But very human."

People also fail to take into account significant others and their family in this discussion. Your spouse sees you have made a certain salary and wants something. Your kids see you have money and want things their friends have (because you live in a nicer neighborhood). Your spouse wants more kids (or kids) because you can now "afford it". You are exposed to things that you can do with money that were never on the table when you had no money. The list is endless.

If you can't manage your money or your emotional relationship to it, the salary is still not the problem.

voluntary response data is flawed I agree, but I hesitate to call this worthless.

I'd plaster warning signs all over the place alarming people to think through their reasoning and consider all the biases that would have taken place in the poll. (come to think of it, if the poll data incites that kind of skeptical thinking in some of its readers, that in itself might make the endeavor worthwhile)

If you had absolutely no idea for what kind of salaries people got around here, then this data would be useful. Is it $25k or $250k? This can answer that question.

But what people are really interested in is "is $125k high or low" and this data is useless for answering that question. It is worse than useless because it may lead you to believe something that isn't true and think you have a valid reason for believing it. It's worse to know something that isn't true than to correctly know what you don't know.

This. Now, I don't actually understand statistics at all, so please correct me if I'm missing something, but as a European I find this poll pretty telling, and a good indication of what to expect if I'd consider moving to the Valley.

Clearly, at least the maker of the poll seems to assume that I can expect to earn at least $80k-ish. I earn a bit over half that now. This is a very big difference.

Additionally, given that most people in this poll earn well over $100k, and I'm a pretty experienced programmer, this poll teaches me that asking for, say $120k, at an SV company, isn't an odd request. People won't frown or laugh at me. They might not want to pay me that, and just as well I might be undercharging, but it's not out of the question.

Can I draw these conclusions? If not, why not?

I think you can draw those conclusions: if you move here you can expect to double your current salary.

Not covered by the poll is the fact that your living expenses will likely more than double, especially if you have to use a car to get to your job. Your vacation time will be cut in half. Health care expenses may rise. Bottom line is be prepared for some decline in your current standard of living.

At the same time, you have the possibility of lottery-style winnings if your employer becomes the next Facebook. Hmm, perhaps you might be better off buying a real lottery ticket.

Health care costs may rise? Where is more expensive than the US? I'm not being facetious as you may have something in mind - what situation do you imagine where it would get cheaper by moving to the US?

If you don't have to make use of your health care, then the primary cost would be increased healthcare premiums. Which are largely borne by the employer. So, while the actual expense would be higher, it's also rolled into (and already accounted for) by your increased salary.

Now, if you require treatment and have come from a more civilized place (e.g., much of the rest of the civilized world), you're in for, shall we say, a real treat.

Why will living costs double? Cars and fuel are just as cheap and sv housing costs are pretty close to London averages for example.

Lower than central London actually - though London does have better public transport so commuting from 50/70 miles away isn't that much of a drag

Fuel is indeed rather more expensive in Europe (certainly UK, plus single person's sample abroad). :/

Everybody I know who's gone to America has just ended up buying a larger car with a bigger engine to compensate for the prices. (By European standards, driving-related articles seem to be very cheap in America; obviously fuel is the most famous example, but new cars are inexpensive too.) So I'm sure their total car-related expenditure is about the same.

Statistically speaking, you can draw the conclusion that your salary is substantially lower than typical of people who responded to this poll. You can't draw any conclusion about your salary in relation to the overall market, because the poll respondents are not randomly distributed among the population of the overall market and you have no information about the demographics of who chose to respond.

But if you drop the strict statistical sense and just look at the results with common-sense realism, yes you can figure that the poll generally reflects the broad reality and aiming for the middle of the poll range would be reasonable to request.

The people shooting down the first line of thinking are being pedantic about statistical rigor and the meaning of a conclusion. The poll is not statistically reliable because the sampling is not truly random, and it's not at all useful for making fine-grained distinctions between $120k and $125k. They are right, but you can ignore them and apply common sense for broad realistic purposes. The median salary in Silicon Valley is clearly not $40k.

For you there's an additional tool. Salaries for sponsored persons is public data.


You get paid a little lower if you're going on visa, so its more like 100-110kish.

I spose the 300k ppl are the ceos! (yeh, i wish haha)

Could you explain that? Why would companies pay less to people on visas?

because h1b visas require you to stay employed (you have like 30 days before they deport you) and they require you to keep the same job title throughout the whole greencard process or your waiting period starts over.

The later part of the above statement is an incorrect. You can change a job while your green card is being processed provided,

a) You have applied for your 485. b) Its been 180 days since you have applied for it.

This process is called invoking AC21.

In my opinion and experience H1B candidates are paid on par with other candidates. I saw no salary discrimination at least with decent and reputed companies. I agree H1b is exploited by some companies but those are typically consulting or outsourcing companies.

I did some more research after leaving my last comment, and the part i was talking about was "New employment must be the 'same or similar' occupational classification," [1] which according to my coworkers means you can't switch amongst QA engineer, dev/software engineer, and manager.

The dev <-> QA switch probably isn't very common, but dev/qa -> management is apparently an issue, since green-cards for Indians with a masters take roughly a decade of waiting on an h1b to get (again, this is according to my coworkers, not something i have direct experience with).

[1]: http://immigrationroad.com/green-card/ac21-portability-chang...

Note that all this only applies to those whose priority dates became current due to the USCIS fiasco of July 2007, and filed I-485 at that time. Everyone who started the GC process later and is waiting for their PD to become current cannot invoke AC21. Frustrating!

From the page you linked:

"Hundreds of thousands of people were able to file I-485 applications under the July Visa Bulletin of 2007"

Correct, so it was not a fiasco for people who were able to apply for Adjustment of Status i-485. This happened in 2009 too. I hope it keeps on happening every few years. At least people can get EAD which gives you ability to work anywhere in the US.

Unfortunately, the bottleneck usually is the period until your priority date becomes current and you can actually submit form I-485. Processing the I-485 normally only takes a few months, unless it gets stuck in the FBI background check somehow.

Adding to my previous post,

For a GC application to apply for 485 your PD needs to be current. India EB2 and EB3 is heavily backlogged. China EB2 situation is better than India EB2. If a GC application's or its spouse's country of birth is not India or China (ROW category, Rest Of World) , the PD moves really fast in EB2. I think its current now.

thanks for the update. i was just going on what my h1b coworkers have told me. unfortunately, i can no longer edit or delete my original post, so i hope everyone reads your reply.

as for payment versus greencard/citizens versus h1b's, it depends on the company. I know some companies that do pay the same for both, but I can name at least 5 'reputable' (or at least, large, household name) companies that my coworkers told me had different, lower pay scales for the h1b workers that they actively avoided working for, even after getting a greencard. But since i've not worked for one directly (as far as i know anyway), i'm not going to name names.

Thats not completely true. I've been promoted while still on H1B and had a pay rise. The procedures need to be followed. Position and pay can also change in preparation for GC, this is quite normal.

h1b requires you to stay employed at the same company. There are some exceptions to change company but its a complicated process.

You need 5 years in the US to be granted a green card. h1b are valid 3 years. Generally you need 2 h1b to get a green card (of course you start the process much before the h1b ends) if you are in a gc and you stop working in the us for a certain amount of time (i forgot, but its not longer than a year), then you start over and the gc is terminated (you need a h1b again)

For citizen, its 10 years.

h1b specifies AFAIR that once you're unemployed you have to leave the country immediately without citing numbers albeit 30 days sounds reasonable.

So if you were to get a promotion at your current job, the entire process would essentially start over? Why is that?

it depends on the promotion. the ac21 stipulates "New employment must be the 'same or similar' occupational classification". According to my coworkers, that means they can't get promoted to management from dev/qa.


no it won't. According to my understanding this is what happens

a) if you have applied for 485 and it has been 6 months since you applied you invoke AC21 and you are done.

b) if you have not applied for 485, your new company will have to reapply for 1-140 and labor for the new position but you do not lose your place in the queue as your PD is ported from your previous application.

Someone making 60k in Europe is more likely to accept an offer of 100k, even when the going market rate for that position is 120k.

It cost about 20k for most "big" companies to move you, between visa costs, move costs, etc. Then, they know you're going to accept a lower salary and they have no reason to propose you more - companies almost always propose you the minimum that sounds serious. You'll raise it a bit and leave it at that, or at least that's what is expected.

most young engineers (h1b target) are paid much less than in the valley, so given the quality of life, the adventure, etc - AND that the salary is anyway higher, they know very few will refuse.

As a European, and depending on both your personal circumstances and the European country you live in, you should also ensure you adjust for non-salary items, such as healthcare, childcare, education, unemployment insurance, etc. For most people, a US salary needs to be approx 50% higher than a German or Swiss one, for example, to accommodate these additional factors.

Flawed data is sometimes worse than no data at all. Data with sampling bias, too small a sample size, lack of double-blind rigor, etc.

Strictly speaking, "surveys" are only really used by the softer sciences, like sociology and psychology, and both fields agree it's the least rigorous (albeit easiest) method of accumulating data.

Corollary to this, a little bit of flawed data can sometimes give a good idea in the general direction, but more often than not it's worthless because it shows false correlations, leads to erroneous conclusions, stimulates debate in the wrong area, questions prior evidence, causes one to hypothesize irrelevant answers, etc.

Boy, talk about "the perfect is the enemy of the good"!

Is salary negotiation a branch of particle physics now?

Yes, this survey is much less valid than if we could magically collect all salary data for all developers in the area. But I don't have that magic wand, and this survey is far more useful to me than its closest competitor, which is "a buddy moved to the Bay area a few years ago and told me what he'd been offered".

I wouldn't call it worthless either ... and there are enough responses that you can see a peak without graphing it. So my guess is that people are responding truthfully but the bigger issue is that we don't know how many years of experience each of the respondents has.

voluntary response data is flawed I agree, but I hesitate to call this worthless.

I really don't mean to be rude, but that might just be because you don't understand statistics.

To expand on this, flawed data is something you should avoid like the plague. It's like introducing anecdotal evidence into an otherwise rigorous double-blind study. True, it can happen to give some truthful information, but if it's flawed you often don't know how flawed it is or how deep those flaws run in the variables. It's like contamination. Exceptions are simply a case of a broken clock being right twice a day.

I don't think anyone has bothered to try explaining what is wrong with this data (in this thread).

The link discusses there are some response-bias models. For instance, maybe people always lie +5k. You can figure that out. Maybe you assume it's really a function of f(x)*base_salary and do something structured based on their salary as the bias.

It's, of course, perfectly fine to interpret this kind of survey as the response of those in the population that decided to take it. In this case, it's readers of hacker news who filled it in. I certainly wouldn't do that, I only registered to post this comment... anyway.

You could also try to validate this data against any other survey data, or by cross-linking LinkedIn data with mortgage data for a true dataset.

"And that's data science, bro."

The US Department of Labor collects and analyzes salary data for use in H1-B prevailing wage determinations.

The online wage library is available at:


The page for San Francisco area application software developers is:


TL;DR $76k to $125k, depending on education, experience, and level of supervision.

Slightly higher for "software developer, systems software". $86-129k


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it would be more statistically robust if we had the following pieces of information: the age of the voluntary responder, how long the responder had been in the industry, the responder's educational background, the responder's specific role at their company (e.g. C-level, entry-level, etc.), the responder's gender, the responder's ethnicity, the responder's prior work experience, maybe even the responder's most recent work performance evaluation.

This poll is just exploratory, and it's interesting from that perspective. It'd be even more interesting if there was a survey like the above--but then we'd have to make inferences from a much smaller sample of the population, I would expect. So there's that trade-off.

Not to mention that it only takes a few spoilers to completely throw the numbers off.

> As always, voluntary response data are worthless.

Much less than over-generalizations and stereotypes.)

The validity of data to which statistical methods could be applied is a very big distinct subject.)

Agreed. Consider: those who don't read HN are probably worse engineers that earn lower salaries, on average.

On a touch screen, so I accidentally upvoted you. Your comment perfectly embodies everything I hate about the Bay Area, and recently HN. The smugness seems very ignorant; so many people have convinced themselves that they are smarter than the rest of the world. I'm sick of the culture of Silicon Valley.

And I think many in the valley are sick of your false egalitarianism.

Some people smarter than other people. And those people, on average will get paid more.

I don't see a whole lot of rage when people talk about how it takes good people skills to get a lot of jobs. But the moment intelligence becomes a requirement, everyone suddenly thinks that's unfair, or there is no such thing as intelligence.

I don't deny that there are many factors leading to higher SV salaries, but intelligence is also a factor.

For example I came from a very ordinary middle class background. To the extent that I have more education and a higher salary than people with the same background, I attribute it to my intelligence. I don't think that makes me better than other people, even though I'm constantly told that having better social skills makes you better than other people. And I don't think that there is a level playing field either, but conditional on my background I still earn a relatively high salary.

The counterpart to the smugness you complain about is your moral smugness. And there is plenty of that on HN too.

I think your comment is a great example of the smugness that I see too commonly in this bubble. You're basically saying, "we're so smart here in the valley, and that's why we're paid more." Your comment has nothing to do with what I was talking about.

Related: 90% of people think they are smarter than average.

Inference: 90% of engineers probably think they are smarter than average engineers

Not necessary. Engineers are usually smarter to not to think that way.

Ah yes, engineers, we so smart! Gimme a secret smart-club handshake. No way we'd fall victim to something so silly as that.

Stupidity is ubiquitous!

I do not think you can segment Engineers different from the society & Humans in General ... There are Arrogant people everywhere, those who think they are in some way better than others. Not just that, they think everyone else is stupid :)

> Not necessary. Engineers are usually smarter to not to think that way.

I've known too many arrogant engineers to believe this is true.

Proving the parents point I think :)

Not thinking doesn't imply not beingness.

One might also say - they're not smart enough to realize that they are smarter. [But this is another PoV].

Engineers don't have any intrinsic smartness advantage over non-engineers. We're (much) better at some things and (much) worse at others.

Tbh I would expect higher intelligence among engineers vs the general public if only due to selection effects. Smart kids tend to be more pushed towards professions under that label and are better able to meet the challenges associated with getting a job there such as earning a degree or learning enough to be useful.

I guess I should have added some smiles to my previous comments :)

Confirmation bias 101? This is probably the most "echo chamber" friendly statement of any I've seen here. An assertion with no evidence, seemingly rooted in a self satisfying sense of superiority, based on the bizarre proposition that the only way to stay ahead in the field is by reading HN. The idea that a popularity contest might tell you stuff that's actually ahead of its time is arguably naive. It's not like we have millenia of history to show that world changing ideas at unpopular or anything.

It's probably true of any forum where people hang out because they're passionate about their profession.

Maybe, but then you also introduce hobbyists who don't technically do this job for a living. Add to that that the same sample of hackers here is the one cut from Jeff Atwood's post about programmers who just can't program.

We have no reason to think that just because we read a lot of hacker-centric articles we don't have people bringing down the average just like the rest of the world does.

>This is probably the most "echo chamber" friendly statement of any I've seen here.

And what does the fact that all the replies disagree, and the post was down-voted, tell you about the existence of an "echo chamber"? (Remember to avoid confirmation bias here!)

Also the poster didn't claim a causal relationship. The claim was the reading HN was correlated to success, not that it caused it.

> An assertion with no evidence, seemingly rooted in a self satisfying sense of superiority The evidence was in the survey, but if you don't believe in a particular causal relationship (in this case, better engineer -> higher salary) then any correlation can always be dismissed as "not evidence".

The assumption of "a self satisfying sense of superiority" was all yours. To many people it's simply obvious that there is a correlation between how good you are at your job and how much you get paid.

But also consider: those who don't read HN are probably great engineers who think reading HN is a waste of time.

[citation needed]

I don't mean to be rude, but what data do you have to back this up? Not all engineers are in the "startup game" or have any reason to read the writings of pg. It's very conceivable to me that some engineers making $250k+ a year at a big corporation like Microsoft don't frequently browse Hacker News.

We aren't just programmers. We're a unique blend of hackers and entrepreneurs and those who stumbled on this forum by being inundated with the culture. But you could go through school and find a very well paying job without being on an intellectual, enthusiast forum like this one.

Or, they spend their time generating revenue and value instead of posting on 90 threads about golang, erlang, or conlang. (Yeah, I ran out of steam there.)

some of the best engineers i know don't read HN and they definitely make more money than me. They did read a lot of newsgroups in their twenties.

Yeah, but back then, you could read all the newsgroups. You'd finish and there'd only be a couple posts that propagated to your UUCP node while you were reading.

Also, you can still read those same newsgroups and those same messages. Might not seem as timely, but whatever.

Assuming you are using only "reads HN" as your a priori, all of us with below average pay should expect higher salaries. If you were to argue that those who read HN and also have high salaries are the only ones reporting however, then it would be fair to rap our knuckles with the stats 101 textbook.

Maybe HN readers get paid less because they waste coding time reading HN instead of working.

I'll consider it when you support your claim with evidence.

Excellent insight, Mr. "Account Created 66 Days Ago".

Reading HN is not the be-all-end-all of technical knowledge. In fact, at a certain point it most definitely becomes negatively correlated with productivity (and subsequently value/salary).

For everyone in the Bay Area and the rest of California, the minimum legal salary (with exceptions) for software developers is ~$81k. It is likely if you are being paid less for full time software development that you are not being paid enough.

I'm not a lawyer, but googlefu: http://www.morganlewis.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/publication....

That's not quite what it means. That's the minimum salary to be an "exempt" software developer, which means that if you are paid less than that you have to get paid overtime.

So it seems - http://www.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/011.htm - that if you're a software developer in California earning under $81k and you work more than 40 hours per week, those extra hours should be paid at a minimum of 150% your normal rate, if I'm to understand correctly. Or is it possible for an employment contract to specify a higher number of hours as the "standard" work week?

Right. I'd wager few fall into that category, and many fall into the 40+ a week category.

Wow. Just when you think America is just like countries you know, something like this comes along.

Don't worry. The comment that surprised you is not really true. The 81k figure is for "overtime-exempt" employees (often just shortened to "exempt"). I.e., if you make less than that, you are considered "overtime-eligible" (opposite of exempt), and in that case, if you work more than 40 hours per week, you have to be paid overtime. Also, the 81k figure pertains only to software people. There is a figure for other occupations, but it is much lower.

There are also differences in how business travel is treated. Overtime eligible employees have to be paid for all time spent in transit, but exempt do not get extra pay. (Of course, in both cases, travel expenses will be paid by the company, I am speaking of pay for travel time.)

In fact, the 81k figure is a marker and not a bright line. The actual separator between overtime eligible ("OTE") and exempt employees considers several factors, including job responsibility and experience.

The OTE/exempt distinction has become more rigid in recent years because of lawsuits by attorneys representing low-paid (e.g 60k/year range) employees who had been considered "salaried", and asked to do extra work for free (e.g., the travel time mentioned above) because they were salaried. These suits resulted in the distinction between OTE and exempt shifting.

If you ask me, it has in general hurt very early career engineers making 70k per year, because they have to account more strictly for their time than before. For instance, they cannot redistribute their hours between work days the way salaried employees can.

(Only speaking of California here.)

>they cannot redistribute their hours between work days the way salaried employees can.

As far as I can tell, they can, they just have to get compensated for it ie the employer can't abuse it.

I believe the driver for day-to-day recording of work hours is that if they work beyond a certain limit (could even be 8 hours) on a given day, they get OT for that. Thus, you can't work 12 hours one day and 4 the next day without pay consequences.

There are other workplace rules for OTE employees as well, which in some cases include mandatory lunchtimes and breaks (but I'm not sure how widely this applies to software people). I think supervisors and organizations look the other way on some fine points, but I'm describing the letter of the law.

I have one OTE employee, and I'm desperately trying to get them promoted beyond this threshold so we don't have to deal with the hassle. Because I've already learned more about CA labor law than I want.

>I believe the driver for day-to-day recording of work hours is that if they work beyond a certain limit (could even be 8 hours) on a given day, they get OT for that. Thus, you can't work 12 hours one day and 4 the next day without pay consequences.

Yeah, I knew that when I wrote the post. Seems to make sense to me as it is. So if this person gets promoted, they won't get more pay than otherwise when they're doing overtime a certain day? Or do you count it by hours in a week, month?

"if this person gets promoted, they won't get more pay than otherwise when they're doing overtime a certain day" ?

-- yes, because they will be a regular salaried ("exempt") employee.

"by hours in a week, month?"

I think there is a daily threshold, and a weekly threshold, for overtime. I don't think there is anything else. But I don't figure the pay, so I don't know the ins and outs.


Where I work, you have to justify overtime, so in effect the employee was prevented from moving work hours between days unless the resulting increase in effective wage could be justified. ("Feeling in the zone" is not enough...)

California is quite different from most of America.

It's more California, they have some pretty interesting laws on their books.

In Massachusetts it is essentially $455/week or $23660/year. Almost the same.

Are there legal limitations on the salary for particular industry? This sounds strange. I have heard only about global legal minimum salary. Not about minimums per industry.

It seems silly to ignore stock and bonuses. My base salary is only ~$150k, but with stock and bonuses I'll make over $260k this year (Google). Would this compare with a job that also gives a $150k salary but nothing else?

My base salary is $220k; this year my bonus plus equity will be around $200k, so my total compensation will be over $400k. I've been out for a number of years, and the bonus plus stock is performance based, and of course the value of the stock compensation may change depending on the future direction of Google stock --- it's climbed very nicely since the beginning of the year!

The main point is that ignoring the stock and bonus portion of the compensation leaves a huge portion of the story missing. And stock at a publicly traded company, whether it's Amazon, Facebook, Google, or IBM, is quite different from equity at a start up....

Interesting. Would you mind revealing your level?

Above Sr. SWE my impression is that the level is less tightly coupled to compensation. There are probably some Staff Engineers getting paid more than some Sr. Staff, and so on. A lot more will depend on how many rounds of equity refresh you have under your belt, whether you've done something that's saved the company millions or helped the bottom line of the company millions; and of course, if you were formerly at another company, what your salary/level you had at that former company.

At Staff Engineer and above, the levels are more about the scope of your responsibilities at Google, and while compensation is somewhat correlated to that, there are other factors.

If you can drive huge amounts of value to the bottom line, either via innovations that save the company $$$ or by working on a project which is "up and to the right", in my experience sooner or later you will be compensated for it --- either at your current company, or somewhere else. Google is pretty good at making sure it's "at your current company".

And so long as you are doing something that you love, does it really matter what level you are at? Personally, for me it's less about the money, since I have enough to be comfortable, and I haven't gotten really expensive habits (like wanting to learn how to fly, or drive race cars, or children to put through college :-). So it's it's more about doing what I love, and doing it in the company of smart people who are fun to be with. Figuring ways of making this intersect with adding as much value as possible to the company is just a bonus.

The problem with that is, the unsexy non-customer facing projects that allow for saving/making millions are not recognized, or at least a monetary value cannot be established for them, and become understaffed, which leads to inefficiencies. To get to the big bucks, you really have to look out for #1 and join the sexy groups. Which is partly why you see things like reader die: reader does not a bonus/promotion make. You gotta be churning out new stuff at minimum, hopefully on sexy new products, maintenance of the old stuff is less sexy and doesn't give you the promotion/bonus. Of course you can reimplement a cache server every 6 months, if all else fails.

Actually, in some ways it's easier for those of us who work in the infrastructure groups to demonstrate monetary value. Google has a very large number of machines, and an even larger number of hard drives. Hard drives have fundamentally not changed seek times in over a decade, even as capacity has doubled (up until relatively recently) every 18 months. So more often than not, for many work loads (not just at Google, but across the entire industry) are seek constrained, not capacity constrained. So when Google migrated from ext2 to ext4, it's actually pretty easy to calculate how much money was saved by utilizing disks more efficiently, and the team which spearheaded this _was_ in fact recognized by the company and by the founders.

As far as the need to continue to derive new value to the company, of course! This is true everywhere; the phrase "what have you done for me lately" is one that is not unique to any one company, and would _you_ respect someone who did one great thing many years ago, and then proceeded to rest on his or her laurels?

Of course there are many different ways of adding new value. If you can demonstrate how a new cache server is faster or more scalable, and thus can drive value to the company, that's certainly one way. Or maybe there is new technology, such as faster networking technology or faster flash storage, which means that assumptions made five years ago are no longer true, and that can be a justification to rewrite some part of the infrastructure. But Google is a data-drive company, which means you need to be able to justify why the rewrite is necessary.

That is great if your project impact can be measured, but sometimes metrics aren't available for accurate assessment. If sales uses your tool, bringing in millions, that's not so easy to measure, and those projects will languish unless some value can be placed for the project. Good luck with that, or at least coming up with a system that can measure it and having it be accepted. That's a big gap and you don't want to be in that group.

Do you really work for Google? It's possible to find metrics for most things. It might be the number of times SRE's get paged. It might be reducing the amount of time SWE's need to worry about thread safety; so even code cleanup can have metrics. The trick is to think big, and to think at scale. Not how to improve things for SWE's working in one team, but many teams, if not all of Google.

This is why life is sometimes easier for the infrastructure teams; increasing disk or CPU utilization by even a fraction of a percent, when multiplied across a large number of systems, can be a big number.

Now, if your product which is measured as having a small number of users, and worse, that number is decreasing over time (which was the case with Google Reader, as has been publicly disclosed), the problem is not that you don't have metrics, but the metrics aren't telling you want might have necessarily wanted to hear. Down and to the right; that's a different story...

Yup, and it's used by everyone, especially execs, and acts as a swiss army knife. Yet the team is mostly leaving in droves because although it's quite useful, it isn't correctly measured and it doesn't bring home the bacon. So the project is sometimes wrapped up and repackaged by a customer-facing team to steal the glory and get bonuses, or teams put it under them and scale back perks/force us to use them vs other teams who want us to cater to them. So silo'ing, everyone wants the goods. I've contributed lots of infrastructure code that customer-facing teams use, gets who gets the large bonuses. Proposals to fix this and measure impact have been brought up and slapped down by managers. I'm leaving the group after wrapping up some stuff. Fortunately I have high perf scores. People make warm comments about how useful the project is, but at the end of the day, it's never going to give me a $200k bonus, so it goes in one ear, out the other.

For those wondering, that's pretty typical for a staff engineer at Google (ie, about four promotions or 6+ years from fresh grad).

Um, promotions every 18 months is not unheard of, but it's not what I would call typical. There are lots of people way smarter than me at Google, so I'm sure some folks have managed to reach Staff Engineer in six years, but IMHO it's a bit unreasonable to assume that as a normal pace.

400k is not typical at Google at all.

I had an impression that Google/Microsoft provided much less compensations compared to those financial/HFT/etc.. shops on Wall St. or similar.

Congrats! That sounds like a great compensation package. I'm just trying to understand though how does tax effect the overall amount that you eventually earn ? Does it come down by 35% or 40% or does it depend on when you decide to cash out your capital gains (for the stock part..) ?

Stock grants are taxed as ordinary income, based on market price (or estimated value, for pre-IPO) on the day of vest.

If it's pre-ipo it's often a qualified options plan and not RSUs. In many pre-ipo cases you would be taxed only on capital gains.

Yes, my net taxes are roughly in that range.

I don't think it's necessarily silly, for a few reasons.

First, the salary is completely guaranteed. Short of getting laid off or the company failing completely, you'll get your salary; bonuses can be canceled at most companies and may even be quite unpredictable. Stocks may have a vesting schedule and are subject to the financial markets. Google might be a little more predictable in this way, but many companies aren't.

For instance, how comfortable would you be choosing a bigger mortgage on the basis of your bonuses and stocks rather than your salary? Chances are it's your base salary which will really determine how much of a house you'll buy, because you don't want to foreclose because your bonus one year wasn't as high as you had hoped or the stocks went down. Even if your salary were a guaranteed $260k, you couldn't afford a $1M home by most conventional wisdom (median SF home price as of 2013).

Second, as a result of the foregoing, I've noticed many companies are extremely hesitant to give huge base salaries to developers. It is therefore interesting to see how frequent it is for people to have salaries of $200k+.

Disclaimer: I created this account just to post this comment.

I'm a Google Software Engineer III (one level below lefthander and presumably two or three levels below lefthander2) and I haven't been at the company a long time (no stock refreshes or pay rises since joining).

My base salary is ~$130k but I conservatively expect that my salary+stock+bonuses for this year will total to be above $190k.

This makes me believe lefthander and lefthander2's numbers, taking into account their seniority.

Bonuses, and especially stock or option grants, can be difficult to reasonably evaluate. If you're at a large company, forsee staying there through your vesting period, and the stock value is reasonably stable, it's rather more a sure thing.

Being an early/mid stage hire at a startup with a high probability for failure, transition, or dramatic restructuring may well make both bonus and options grant promises little more than wallpaper.

And for a typical young engineer starting out with little experience in either negotiating such terms or understanding how they work and the associated probabilities, making a rational and accurate assessment is at best difficult.

So: no, they're not something you'd completely ignore, but (as with other forms of indirect payment, compensation, revenue, etc.) they make determining fair market price rather more difficult.

Mind sharing some basic background info? Years of experience / education would help add context.

I don't want to share too much. A few years out of undergrad.

I was trying to avoid people voting based on "fun bucks" from startups eager to promise you the world. Maybe in future polls it could say "liquid" compensation only, instead of base? Liquid assets would mean cash, or even shares traded on the open market.

Thing is, other polls included non-base compensation, and the opposite argument gets brought up. But yeah, let's try liquid next time.

Also: this is exactly the class of anecdote I was hoping to hear today. Thanks. Maybe I should go respond to that Google recruiter that keeps emailing me..

Startups have a well-documented value based on financing they have raised. They have x% stake, and some investors have paid y% for a z% stake. The mystery is simply in the volatility of future value.

Second market tradable shares and public company shares are easily valued. Anything else has an average value of <$10K, based on a sampling of actual new-startup performance.

That seems like a high salary. What's your title?

Senior Software Engineer. It's actually low. I'm fairly certain that it's below the median from talking with coworkers.

This comment makes it hard to believe you. Google has not been known to pay half a million dollars to regular people. And no one in their right mind would call that salary low, except maybe a spoiled Wall St banker.

I guess, no chance to request significant rise, right? Unless you move to other company.

Time to rethink that Google offer.

That's great. Out of curiosity, are you a software engineer (SDE), if so which level? Or an engineering manager, or something else?

you guys did notice that this account was created 1 hour ago, right?

Yes, because I want to be anonymous. Does it mean I'm lying?

Even check glassdoor to verify: http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Google-Senior-Software-Engin...

146k base + 32k cash + 41k stock = $220k (everyone gets bonus and stock). And this averages data before the raise Google gave everyone.

It certainly doesn't imply you're being truthful.

Glassdoor also suffers from the same problem. It's voluntary, unverifiable data. Using it as a source does not help your credibility.

I am swe 3 at google, one below senior, base 140k (supposedly maxed, but I've heard other swe 3 making somewhat more), total comp excluding benefits 230k.

As for verification, I'll bet you lots of money at 10:1 odds that these are accurate within 10k (flux depends on stock price).

But 230k is very different from 400k that lefthander supposedly makes.

I don't make $400k. Someone made a different account with a similar name (lefthander2) and responded with his own salary.

Ah, I am sorry then. 200-250k is what I hear mid-level people at Google make.

fair enough

These results are odd. The three startups (two YC alums) I interviewed with in the Bay offered me ~60K each time, and wouldn't go any higher.

"Oh developers are in such high demand! Everyone come to the Bay!"

"Whatever. Just tell me your offer."

"Really? No wonder you think there's a talent shortage."

Hacker News is somewhat prey to its own delusions.

They checked your background and found your nickname on HN.


We have couple hundred seed stage companies on DevAuc, including many YC Alumns. Typical offers are $90-$110K. I've never seen a $60K offer.

Series A and B companies are typically able to start paying more "market" rates of $120K-$160K. We're going to run the numbers on this at some point and put out a proper report.

For a number of years, a lot of series A companies would top base salary out around 125k - this was based on a few years ago.

Early stage are always a more complicated equation, that said, the equity/salary trade off isn't the same as it once was.

That's why I recommended including how much money the company has raised. Companies with lots of money also have a lot of employees, hence skewing 'market rate' up to something significantly higher than you'll get from any < 10m raised company. It's like (obviously not as extreme, but I'm using hyperbole) comparing salaries for similar roles at non-profits vs. investment banks just because they're both in the same city.

> It's like comparing salaries for similar roles ... just because they're both in the same city.

Yes, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Apples and oranges are in the same aisle in the grocery store. Good enough reason for you, I suppose?

They don't have money to throw around. Probably would have given you meaningful (lifechanging?) equity tho.

"Lifechanging" only if you win the startup lottery. 95% of YC startups fail.

37 / 511 (7.25%) are worth greater than $40MM, and that doesn't take into account that many are too young to be decided yet [1]. Not sure if that confirms or refutes your comment (were you being cheeky?), but at least it's a source rather than a statistic without evidence.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2013/05/26/paul-graham-37-y-combinator...

0.05% of $40MM is $20k, which is not "Lifechanging".

If they can't afford to pay a market salary, you should be getting at least 0.5% (and probably more like 1%). Still not life changing at 40mm with no dilution (200-400k), but a little more meaningful.

Most of the YC companies seem to be favoring "large seed" rounds, which are at levels that might have, in recent years, been more appropriate for A rounds. The $6mil seeds, and such. That probably leaves them in a position of: a) not a lot of equity left to spread around b) it's a seed round, so there's little to no revenue coming in yet, which means they want to hold onto as much of that cash as possible. Depending on how the deal was done with investors, they may have such a small options pool that you're never going to get the 1% you want, and yet they also are not going to pay the $100k+ you are worth. What they are offering you is the "prestige" of working for a YC company, and it's your call if you think that has future value for you or not.

Now if you get hired by one of these and they make it for a few more years, and you stick around, your salary will likely go up significantly and additional options be granted (though you'll probably need to make an effort to ask), but I wouldn't count on getting life changing equity out of any startup if you're joining after they've raised 7 figures or more.

Dilution isn't the only thing to worry about. This post has a pretty good treatment: http://rob.by/2013/negotiating-your-startup-job-offer/ It's pretty unlikely you'll see anywhere near those numbers.

How many startup employees (not founders or investors) are getting even 0.5-1% effective equity?

If you're a non-junior engineer, and one of the first ~10 employees, this is fairly common. At least at the point of issuance; 2-3 VC rounds reduces the percentage (but increases the value, at least in theory).

hardly even new car money.

Being worth something and seeing cold hard cash are 2 different things.

Yeah, only a handful of >$40MM exits. Really we won't have a more complete picture for another 5 years or more.

The statistics, it burnses, it burnses.

Can we leave any percentages and probability out of this conversation? Think of the children!

99.9%+ won't even make you a millionaire. Be a founder or VC instead.

Holy crap. I am student in the UK, recently did a internship at a fairly well known company. Got paid £16k for that year. If I were to get a full time job, it would be around ~30k a year. These figures are insane, people have told me in person this is what the figures are really like in SF but wow.

I think applying for a couple of jobs in SF etc just for kicks will be one of goals when I finish uni.

I know the term Web Developer has become a pretty broad term nowadays and maybe I am kidding myself when I think about a job at google or other SV or SF company, but what do they expect in terms of experience from a graduate?

It would be great to talk to someone who has first hand experience with this, as mostly my knowledge is from reading blogs posts and such.

They're really getting paid well in SF. Their living costs are maybe the highest in the US, but not in the world.

I live in Stavanger ,Norway and have a salary around 75-80K USD, 40% of it goes to paying taxes. This is slightly above the average salary here for a software developer.

My biggest living costs here is my apartment, and my car. My car (Rusty Mercedes C Class) from 1997 costs me around $8000 per year in gas, toll road, insurance, reparations/service. My small apartment, about 600 sqft in size costs today around 350 000 USD, I bought it two years ago for about 290 000 USD. Standard is good, but you have no chance finding anything around this size for less than 300 000 USD, if you're not willing to move hours with car away from Stavanger. Food and beer is also a lot more expensive.

I may have free health care/insurance and 5 weeks with holiday, and cheap air tickets to London :) But that's about it. Every time I visit the US, I go shopping like a woman who just got her credit card. Clothes, shoes, sports wear & equipment costs only a third of what it costs in Norway.

But I'm not complaining, because I'm doing fine here, though I would love to have sunnier and warmer weather. For me it sounds like the extremely high salaries in SF is becoming a bubble. Much like the oil industry here.

> It would be great to talk to someone who has first hand experience with this

I'll give it a go! A few things you should be aware of to put what you're saying in context.

Firstly, the cost of living in SF is incredibly high. Slightly higher than London, if you can believe it (that's not just my opinion - I was chatting to about half a dozen engineers who had been rebased from SF to London yesterday and they all agreed).

Secondly, and this is probably the really important point, you need to actually get the visa. As somebody else has pointed out here, generally salaries for those on H1-B's skew a little lower. Also, it can be very difficult as a graduate to find someone willing to give you a H1-B. This isn't to say you shouldn't apply to jobs in SF when you finish uni - definitely do. It's just that the way the current system works, you could have the best job offer in the world and still have a 50:50 chance of not getting a visa in the lottery.

Thirdly, as others have pointed out this is a somewhat self selecting poll. I graduated four years ago, I've worked in London all that time, and I'm on a salary comparable to the valley. I got quite lucky, because I was in a niche field when I started, but it's definitely possible.

> when I think about a job at google or other SV or SF company, but what do they expect in terms of experience from a graduate?

Here's the problem that you have: smaller companies / start-ups in SF - they're probably not going to be able to sponsor you for a visa. So you're somewhat limited in terms of places you can apply to in the first place. What are Google, Facebook, and the like looking for in graduates? Experience, sure, but incredible technical savvy. You're competing against US graduates from great schools: it can be very difficult.

Remember that many companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the like) have engineering offices in London. If you're wanting to move to the US you may find it much easier to look for an opportunity in the UK that could in the future allow you to move laterally.

Please don't be discouraged by anything I've said - just don't make money the only reason for moving to SF, and you'll probably end up slightly disappointed.

> Here's the problem that you have: smaller companies / start-ups in SF - they're probably not going to be able to sponsor you for a visa. So you're somewhat limited in terms of places you can apply to in the first place. What are Google, Facebook, and the like looking for in graduates? Experience, sure, but incredible technical savvy. You're competing against US graduates from great schools: it can be very difficult.

Yep your are right and thats what worries me the most. That technical savvy'ness is what someone non-technical person may think of me, but to a SV employer maybe not? I find it hard to rank myself of where I stand at the moment.

> Remember that many companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the like) have engineering offices in London. If you're wanting to move to the US you may find it much easier to look for an opportunity in the UK that could in the future allow you to move laterally.

Yep agreed. Its not that I have this long standing dreaming of living in SF or working in SV, I just feel that it would be a great opportunity, and a shame to not try. I feel that if I aim high and do not get it, alternatives cant be that bad. I will most def look for an opportunity in the UK before, but I am not keen on working in London because of having to commute everyday.

I would also add a 4th point that the lifestyle in the bay area is very different. I find it far higher in cities like London than in the Silicon Valley -- this is of course very subjective, but it closely mirrors the opinions of those who graduated with me. The closest city to London here is SF (which pales in comparison IMHO), and living there may require a very lengthy commute unless your company is actually in the city.

Of course, if you love nature, the bay area has its perks :) but be ready to spend a lot of time in a car.

> Of course, if you love nature, the bay area has its perks :) but be ready to spend a lot of time in a car

I going to have to contest this point. I live and work in San Francisco, and I do not even own a car. I bike to and from the startup I work for every day. Many people in SF do this.

Not counting buses, taxis, or lyft, I haven't even been in a car for about 5 months.

You're right, SF is very nice for this. I was mainly thinking of the South Bay definition of Silicon Valley. Finding a nice job in SF will give you a very different lifestyle / quality of life than one down in the physical valley.

> What are Google, Facebook, and the like looking for in graduates? Experience, sure, but incredible technical savvy.

I think that's overstating it. They're looking for above-average competence.

It's just that the way the current system works, you could have the best job offer in the world and still have a 50:50 chance of not getting a visa in the lottery.

Although I believe a bill raising the H-1B limit significantly has just passed or is close to being so, so it might get a bit easier in 2014! :-)

In the middle of an economic recession, why would a bill allowing more foreign workers be passed?

To be fair, the last recession in the US officially ended 4 years ago this month. But in short, I don't know. I imagine it's useful to have capacity ready ahead of time considering how slow laws move, perhaps.

To answer this question you pose:

>I know the term Web Developer has become a pretty broad term nowadays and maybe I am kidding myself when I think about a job at google or other SV or SF company, but what do they expect in terms of experience from a graduate?

If you're talking about being a fresh graduate, the answer is that "Google or other SV company" will typically require zilch in the way of experience. Google, et al will have separate job postings for "recent graduates". The requirements are pretty bare.

Since you mentioned Google: http://www.google.com/intl/en/jobs/students/tech/fulltime/us... Other companies will be similar.

Now whether you can get past the interviews (again, using Google as an example here): http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2008/03/get-that-job-at-goog...

> If you're talking about being a fresh graduate, the answer is that "Google or other SV company" will typically require zilch in the way of experience. Google, et al will have separate job postings for "recent graduates". The requirements are pretty bare.

The requirements never seem to reflect what you are tested on in an actual interview in one of those companies, as evidence of that blog post. However, yea in terms of experience they do not require that much - just a year in industry which is something most engineering/compsci uni courses's allow you to do. Thanks for the link, I will have a good read.

It's not an actual year. You can get a full time offer with only one summer internship (3 months experience) under your belt and nothing else.

Graduate software engineer jobs in the UK hit £30,000 at the very top end. From the experience of friends in the industry, £24,000-26,000 seems more realistic.

I work as junior software engineer in central London and my salary is £26.000 before taxes. I think I am underpaid but there are a lot of benefits (gym, breakfast, friday lunch, office in Soho), so I can't complain.

How? This always confused me. That's approaching the poverty line here in the U.S.

For example: a standard McDonald's employee makes roughly $24,000 per year. This requires no education and just about anyone can do the work. It's also considered one of the lowest level jobs a person can get. I'm not degrading those people I'm just speaking on the status quo.

Now take a look at a manager at McDonalds. They're approaching almost $40,000 per year. You're telling me that you make less than a McDonalds manager? A job which requires no education, and arguably no real skill beyond what's taught at work?

This is absolutely insane to me that the pay is so low. How do you afford to eat? How do you afford health insurance or a car or rent? I know when I was working for $15 an hour ($28,800 per year) I had a hard time just paying the bills. The rent was always late and I had to drop my health insurance for a couple years. Do you not have student loans?

I dont think you've accounted for the exchange rate. £26,000 is approx. $40,000.

It depends on cost of living. What is a McDonald's (or similar) manager paid in London?

Not quite (£39473.20). But I get what you mean. Still 40k a year for a software developer? Even double that is considered low here in the U.S.

"Not quite"?? Did you really just write that when I wrote approx $40K?? Which it clearly is. Wow, someones afraid to be wrong.

£26k is low for London but should be fine outside London - I would assume that it would increase to £35k after a year or two if he was staying in London.

Most people in the UK don't have health insurance because it's not needed because we have the NHS.

Student loans will most likely only be with the government's SLC agency which only takes 9% of your salary above £21k.

Many people who live in Lomdon don't have cars because there is little point, however travel cards still cost a lot anyway.

That is low. It is hard to know what people mean by "junior" but you should expect to get a decent pay increase every year or more often really from that level.

In a similar situation to you, what is included in your role as a 'junior' if you don't mind me asking?

Well, let me clarify this. When I started I was just graduated and I came in London without actually speaking english. So, though I had some cool side projects, they couldn't offer me more.

Now, things are completely different. I improved my language and most of all I improved my skill. In my role as a 'junior' I do the same job of my colleagues, the only difference is that they don't let me to lead a project, mainly because I am not yet able to properly speak with clients.

A year after I graduated I got my first role in London at £27000 for a dev role (one above junior). This was an enterprise java role and in the first year I worked in a team of 3 building a custom CMS (it was a telecoms publishing house) and then a BI platform. My pay moved up fairly quickly over the years but I don't think I know even a CTO here who earns more than £90000. The SF salaries do sound crazy high.

CTOs do get paid more than £90k here.

Enterprise Java has fairly high supply of candidates, and often the companies do not value people much, so it is probably a low pay area.

I wouldn't say 'very top end' - I've hired graduates for more than that. Not much more (£36k, I think, was the highest), but there's always flexibility.

Is this before or after taxes? Because American salaries are typically reported before taxes.

Yes before taxes. The 16k I reported was before. So I got roughly ~12k.

From my experience(graduated last year) the range people from my class took was 16-32k.

In Belgium it's something like that too (for people with a master degree).

I know that Cisco offers £36000.

There are many, many programs at Cisco. I don't know any that offer that as an initial salary. There may be a "total benefits package" that, in theory, adds up to that.

San Francisco isn't the only place in the US that makes software, you know. Seattle is a great place to live, has better salaries than SF considering cost of living, and has a healthy startup culture.

Yes, I can highly recommend Seattle. This poll more or less confirmed for me that I'm living well above where I (likely) would be in SV by staying there.

Don't blow up the spot. You're gonna ruin it for yourself.

You forgot to mention the dreaded rain 6 months of the year. Cold, wet, miserable.

Ah, right, yes.

It's miserable here. Six months of hellish rain and steel grey skies. Don't let anyone fool you. Never move here. Worst mistake of my life.

Yea, true unless you hate clouds ;) I just moved to the Bay Area after two years in Seattle: great place, eh weather.

Just curious: and what is your estimation of salary ranges for Java SWE in Seattle? How many sexy start-ups/companies there(I think not too many). Can diff in salary between Seattle and SF be covered by $500-$1000 savings on apartment rent?

Just looking at Microsoft/Amazon/Google salaries in Puget Sound, they are in the same ballpark as the results of this poll.

Another difference: WA state has no state income tax.

Guess I just need to find some contacts in Seattle then! Sorted :)

./spark 89 60 81 127 86 150 113 73 60 42 24 14 12 21 12 10 10 10 8 7 10 12 10 90

       ^ 120k-129k
[1] https://github.com/holman/spark

Bad options. The choices should increase by a fixed percent over previous one, instead of a constant fixed amount.

Who cares if someone gets 280k instead of 290k?

I see this is getting downvoted, but the poll choices are in fact surprising. 2/3rds of the options are devoted to salaries between $150k - $300k.

> but the poll choices are in fact surprising. 2/3rds of the options are devoted to salaries between $150k - $300k.

You've discovered my secret plot! I even included words to that effect in the description. The other polls literally top out at 150k. I didn't want that.

You may improve the results if you started at $30k and went in increments of $10K. I doubt anyone is making $30k, but it is possible that people at the lowest level listed may not even click the arrow. If they feel like there are people coming in below where they are, they may be more likely to.

If nothing else, it makes the distribution seem to make more sense.

Oh crap, you're right. I like your idea much more than the lame increments I picked. Next time I'll use a logarithm or something.

No, I like these options. You can extract the logarithm from these, but you can't go the other way around.

To someone making 125k, it's more useful to know the distribution of the 25k above than to see them all in a single bucket.

Don't use a logarithm. Most salaries are going to be the same order of magnitude.

Log base 10 would be a good compromise with the ridiculously vague "N figure salary" descriptions.

Makes for much more accurate boasting: "they were offering me a 6.3 figure salary, but in the industry I'm in, it's no big deal"

constant delta would be useful when building a histogram, for instance.

I agree with the log scale. If someone was building a histogram, they may not want to use data from an online poll.

You can build a log historgramme, too.

I do. Maybe one slot for something outrageous like 500k+ would be interesting, but I like that it's so granular personally.

Question from an Italian guy, what you are able to do with 100k in the bay area? For instance:

1) Can you rent a good house. 2) Go out for dinner as many times you want. 3) Have somebody to clean your house. 4) Eat in an health way. 5) Still save some money.

Or is this already too much for 100k, especially if you have a family? Because one sees this very high salaries but it's hard for outsiders to form an idea about the actual level of spending this makes you capable of.

It depends on where in the Bay Area you want to live, what you consider a "good" house, and the size and makeup of your family, if you have one.

A few bits of anecdotal evidence for San Francisco, 2013 prices that I've seen firsthand. In many desirable neighborhoods renting an entire house will start well above $5K/month. In those same neighborhoods a nice two bedroom apartment will be over $4K. Full-time child care for a toddler might at absolute minimum cost $1K/month (a licensed, shared private home) but much more likely will cost $2K or more (a day care center, if you can get into one, or a shared nanny).

There are of course plenty of ways to live well within $100K / year here, but probably not with a family in a rented house in many San Francisco neighborhoods.

It's pretty counter intuitive that with an high salary and a family you can't still be enough "safe" about not abusing, but at least using money without too concerns.

So I guess very high developers asking for > 100k/year working and living in the bay area are not greedy at all.

Thanks for your and all the other replies.

You can live as comfortably as you want (I do) but the catch is that you'll probably have to be without children. Anecdotally, everyone I know with families tends to move outside of SF because for the price of a 2 br apartment, you can get a mortgage on a nice house.

There are affordable areas to live ($800-$1200 / br) but you'll have to be quite patient in your search and be open about where you'd like to live.

Six months ago I moved from Mexico to Mass. I was able to do 1,2,3,4,5. Now, I am making twice as much now but can only do 1,4 and I am trying to figure out 5. Of course there are other reasons why I moved, not everything is money.

1) No. 2) Mostly, within reason. 3) Yes. 4) Yes 5) If you don't do #2.

So seeing as this polls the whole SF Bay software engineering community of HN, young and old, and the distribution is centered around 120k-129k, can we finally put to rest the ever-perpetuated claim that the average CS grad can expect $150k+ in the Bay?

This is just the base pay though. Total pay could indeed exceed 150k

The net pay will be lesser considering the taxes.

Yes, $150k is high. But I know my company has given several $100k offers to new grads.


   Less than 80k.: ============================= - 90 points
          80k-89k: =================== - 60 points
          90k-99k: ========================== - 82 points
        100k-109k: ========================================== - 131 points
        110k-119k: ============================ - 87 points
        120k-129k: ================================================== - 154 points
        130k-139k: ===================================== - 115 points
        140k-149k: ======================= - 73 points
        150k-159k: =================== - 60 points
        160k-169k: ============= - 42 points
        170k-179k: ======= - 24 points
        180k-189k: ==== - 14 points
        190k-199k: === - 12 points
        200k-209k: ====== - 21 points
        210k-219k: === - 12 points
        220k-229k: === - 10 points
        230k-239k: === - 10 points
        240k-249k: === - 10 points
        250k-259k: == - 8 points
        260k-269k: == - 7 points
        270k-279k: === - 10 points
        280k-289k: === - 12 points
        290k-299k: === - 10 points
   At least 300k.: ============================= - 92 points

Okay, with so many making 300K, I'm calling shenanigans.

I disagree.

I know several mid-level, middle-aged people making $150-200k. I think it would be hubris and foolish to imagine that a fair percentile -- 90th and above perhaps -- aren't doing considerably better than that.

I've grown my own salary fantastically in the last 5 years (which represent the "5-10 years experience" point in my career). I've grown a full 300% from June, 2008, when you include liquid equity. This has been done by:

1. Growing my skillset, and repeatedly asking "what's the next most valuable skill I could pick up." 2. Making several big moves. 3. Having the guts to quote to prospective employers what used to seem like fantastically high numbers. 4. Always, always negotiating. I went back and forth 5 times my most recent position. I've accepted positions at as much as a full 25% higher than their initial offer.

i'm approaching $200k and I have no reason to believe I've "maxed out."

Of course one word of caution about the poll, even assuming total honesty, is that it certainly includes contractors (as many others here have mentioned). And if a contractor is billing himself at $150/hr that's $300k gross. Now if he was totally honest to the poll he'd deduct appropriate expenses that shave probably $50-100k of that in order to produce a figure truly comprable to what s/he'd be earning as a FT employee.

Yeah that seems fishy for non-manager positions even at large software companies. Maybe google pays that high? Or Netflix? Oracle?

Neither do. I smell a lot of bullshit in this poll.

pg, please disable polls. They seem to give no useful info whatsoever, while taking up valuable front page real estate.

Don't forget that HN users upvoted it.

Ironically, the whole site is basically a poll.

I'm not taking sides on enabling or disabling actual polls, though.

Well, it only takes 4 or so up votes before a story hits the front page. Then it is propelled near the top by the herd automatically. These polls are useless, and now the discussions around them (including our nice little thread here) are noise. They contribute nothing to the quality of the site.

Without being a company owner or manager with a list of what everyone is being paid how we can't really do much better than unscientific poles. Wouldn't glassdoor and similar essentially have the same issues?

I am not an expert on polling or collecting data like this so I cannot tell you. But that is irrelevant. My thesis is that these polls follow a 100% identical path: a badly conceived poll is posted, the top half of the comments debates how you cannot trust this poll or any online poll, the next quarter discusses the flaws with the actual poll setup, but circles back to how this is an online poll, and the last quarter is an assortment of comments about the actual topic. Nobody seems to learn anything useful in the process.

As a h1b in SF for more than a year and having had offers from all "top 10" sv companies that's what I noticed:

- you do save money even at 100k/y and your quality of life is fine as a single man (i was making 45k EUR in europe, which is rather "low" anyways)

- taxes are ~45%

- some things are cheaper, some things are more expensive. don't get too sick, it'll ruin you, tho. Seriously. Don't.

- i started at 110k for a niche job (which was already under the rate) and got a rise to match the market after a year (120k)

- my US colleagues are paid 140 to 180k (its a niche job), none of them is exceptional, albeit they're all fine

- i get about 1 offers a week (the first weeks its like 10 a week tho) on sites like linkedin once i changed my location, but the tone change when they realize you're on h1b

- i can't be promoted easily, so US guys take the management positions

now all that being said its still an awesome experience, the money is still very good. if i eat out every single day 'n stuff.. yeah i wont save much if anything, but i don't. i didn't in europe either, and i certainly eat out more here, just because I _can_.

depressing, midwest software engineer here, 6 years experience 60k.

Just post the typical cost of a 3 bedroom house in your area and watch the bay area folk get depressed.

There was an article just recently, average SF house price just hit $1M

I hear this argument all the time, but let's get real. A million dollars in Berkeley isn't exactly a dump: http://www.ziprealty.com/property/6905-NORFOLK-RD-BERKELEY-C... this isn't too shabby either: http://www.ziprealty.com/property/42-MAIN-ST-SAN-QUENTIN-CA-...

Now, I'll grant you, Palo Alto and San Mateo have a fair number of unexceptional ranch homes in this region, but it's bullshit to claim that you have to spend $1M to secure a minimally-decent family home in the Bay area.

Edit: Little bit of reality here (like $500K+ homes in San Mateo, and rentals in the $2,500-3,500/mo range): http://www.zillow.com/homes/san-mateo,-ca_rb/ http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/Palo-Alto-CA/26374_rid/...

Not true.

San Mateo, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, greater than 1,200 sq. feet house, greater than 2,000 sq. feet yard, built after 1980, not a foreclosure, sold in last 90 days, least expensive home... $900,000.


1) The article is talking about SF specifically, not Bay Area.

2) Of course you don't have to spend a million dollars to buy a place in SF if the median price is one million. Half the houses for sale obviously cost less than one million.

Median is more informative than the mean with this sort of thing

That was actually my mistake, sorry! It was in fact median, not mean.



That won't even buy an exploded meth lab in the bay area.

Come to think of it, that's probably less than one week of groceries from Whole Foods.

I'm from the midwest with the same amount of experience. 85k here with a 10% yearly bonus. There's plenty of opportunities for a competitive salary in the midwest.

Totally agree, love the midwest and the south!

Have you applied for remote positions? I work remotely for a startup in SF and we're hiring :)

Given you know his current salary, would you offer 2-3x bump?

In my country, folks with 6 years of experience make around 12-16k. For us, freelancing pays manyfolds higher than regular jobs.

What is your country?


I was you! In 2008 I left, first for a startup in Florida (a random place to end up, but compared to Ohio where I was, Florida was a booming tech hub). That brought me a 25-30% raise. There for a few years, then to SF, which brought literally a 120% increase.

Yes, housing is expensive here. Yes, everything else is expensive, too. But it's still easily worth it. Because a lot of the things we buy -- cars, computers, cell phone plans, a european vacation -- cost the same whether you make $60k in Ohio or 2-3x that in California.

Also, while moving is never cheap, and I've never had a 100% all expenses paid including housing relo package, I have gotten the basics paid for, meaning full-service pack-and-move and other travel costs.

Remember you can always move back. When I first left Ohio, I started thinking about it in June, sent my resume to a few places in July and August. Got a call back mid august, onsite interview early september, offer a week later, a start date 5 weeks forward from that.

Move to Kansas City. You can easily get 80-100k.

Move to Madison, WI. I'm at 105k and the market is pretty strong.

Probably plan to, or St.Louis, or Chicago in the next half year or so

Nice. Chicago would easily be 100k+ but the COL is substantial there. KC is awesome yet extremely very affordable.

STL maybe in the west burbs. Not the best city, especially for a family.

Good synopsis, to be honest I'll probably go full-time freelance in one of those cities in the next year if life continues "as planned". Would love the flexibility to travel and be a dad first and also to work long hours when needed / excited about a project.

Currently, if I take on a side-job a month (and I currently do that a few months of the year), I can fairly easily match my monthly salary with considerably less effort and work.

Thanks everyone for the info/advice

Have you job shopped much? I'm from the midwest as well and my first offer out of school was 65k, I hadn't done anything particularly crazy awesome to impress anyone either.

Hah, be thankful you're in America. Third-world programmers get half that if they're good.

I'm a junior developer in Spain and it's 26k€, and I probably can't complain given the situation here.

Yeah same in Bulgaria. The salaries are low ...

I can only speak for a city called Rosario, in Argentina... it's actually a sixth of that: u$s10k

Even in rest of the developed world the average programmer doesn't earn U$150k + bonus.

Cheer up! It could be worse, how about u$s10k/yr, 20yr experience... an american software engineer working in the south, very south, so south it's spelled as Argentina! Have a nice day!!

Thats low for argentinas standards. Web is not huge here, but you can make well over that, even for local companies as MercadoLibre.

I think it makes no sense to compare salaries on Startups to salaries on typical engineer work in argentina. 99% of the work here is third-hand, cost-effective contractor outsourcing.

The midwest is incredibly cheap, but you're still underpaid there. I was paid a fair bit more than that fresh out of college in Texas (Houston). You can find $100k-$150k homes here.

I know there are probably a lot of factors, but why don't you move out to the bay area?

Before this thread I thought bay area might be 100k - 120k and cost of living / uprooting the family wasn't worth it. Also worried about the competitiveness of the market out there for software engineers.

Not to discourage you from the idea of moving to the bay area... but shit's crazy here if you have a family.

If you buy into the idea that where (and with whom) your children go to school will heavily influence their success/happiness, you'll find yourself choosing between expensive-area public schools and expensive private schools.

Most of the public schools in California are pretty crappy (and the bay area is no exception), and to get into the ones that are good (by some measure), you have to swallow either huge rent or a huge mortgage so you can live in their area.

There are some good private schools, and you don't have to live in super-expensive areas to send your kids there, but aren't there excellent private schools outside the bay area / in lower cost-of-living areas ?

For your particular situation, you may find that the math works out to stay in the midwest. Additionally, that's just the raw numbers; there are lots of "intangible" factors that favor the midwest over the bay area, especially if you have any kind of roots there.

Not having to uproot the family is understandable, but if you're worried about the competitiveness of the market, know that there are a ton of jobs as well (ask anyone on HN about recruiter spam, which seems to serve as a proxy to this fact), which perhaps balances things. Six years of experience is non-trivial, I'm sure if you wanted to you could find something.

What would be your guess for the average salary in the valley of someone with 6-8 years of experience?

My suggestion is to avoid telling a potential new employer what you make now. They'd then work hard to cap you at current + 30% instead of what a comparably-skilled peer might make.

Textminer is right, no need to mention your current wage.

But honestly, it seriously depends on what technologies you have experience with.

But to give you a number, you could very easily get $125k. I bet if you somehow got 100 offers, the vast majority of them would be normally distributed between $110 and $140k.

Mitigating factors: 1. The universe of companies willing to fly-in a candidate and pay for relocation is smaller, so you have less bargaining power. I was able to secure a 20% raise the first time I changed jobs here -- a year after relocating.

2. If you have impressive skills in more lucrative technologies you can certainly make more.

Interesting, that number is about the same as it is here in Atlanta but the cost of living is drastically lower.

The average salary for a software engineer in ATL is 110-140k?

I talked to 2 companies in Atlanta in 2010ish (MailChimp and a smaller private company) and their salary ranges were well below that ($90-110k iirc). I'm surprised to hear it's so high!


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