October 30, 2013
It is no secret that software engineers can be well paid. According to a salary survey published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers early this year, three of the top 10 majors in which graduates earn the highest average starting salaries were computer-related. What about further down the line? Just how much can a software engineer make, and what companies pay the most? A new analysis provides a bit of insight -- and a few surprises.
Last week the career tracking firm Glassdoor released its ranking of the 25 of the highest-paying employers for software engineers based on self-reported salary information across 20 of the largest U.S. cities. According to the report, Juniper Networks ranks first with an average base engineer salary of $159,990. LinkedIn came in second at $136,427 followed by Yahoo at $130,312. Google and Twitter rounded out the top five.
The first thing one might note when browsing these figures is just how high they are compared to the average American salary. Why? Anil Merchant, a senior software engineer at Broadcom and co-founder of an early stage startup called SocialDrv, told CityTownInfo that the fact that software engineers must be highly skilled in a wide breadth of areas plays a role.
"It is a very tough field and certainly not for everyone, (or even most)," said Merchant, who noted that most of his college peers did not even complete their degrees. "Software engineers need to be multi-talented. They need to be able to think mathematically, logically, abstractly, and artistically when writing code."
Another reason Merchant believes software engineers can earn so much: they are in demand.
"It isn't so much new hardware these days that attracts people; rather cool and intelligent software. It's something everyone wants," said Merchant. "Finding people capable of producing such software is in high demand, and high demand always results in high pay."
This is not to say that all software engineers will earn six-figure paychecks. Other factors count, too, including location. Industry can also play a role, but, as The Washington Post points out, the unprecedented number of non-tech companies that crept into this year's Glassdoor rankings suggests that might be changing. Take Walmart, which ranked eighth overall, outspending big names like Facebook, eBay, Amazon and Microsoft. Merchant said this does not necessarily mean tech companies are investing less in talent; non-tech firms just need to pay more to compete at all.
"Companies like Wal-Mart are behind on the digital front (compared to Amazon for example) and hence need to provide more incentive in order to attract top talent," said Merchant, who noted that a company like Facebook's track record and vision alone can attract sought-after engineers. "As much as money talks, many good software engineers tend to go more towards a product they believe in."
Of course, budding software engineers can only earn these salaries if they can actually land a job in a company willing to pay them, and competition for positions with companies like Facebook and Amazon is notoriously fierce. Merchant, who has been courted by companies like Google, advises applicants to consider how they can set themselves apart from their peers.
"The top companies look for people that can do more than just code - they look for people who have a desire to do more, to do something drastic," said Merchant. "They look for people who are capable of making a lasting effect."
Compiled by Aimee Hosler
"25 Highest Paying Companies for Software Engineers (2013); Glassdoor Report," glassdoor.com, October 17, 2013, http://www.glassdoor.com/blog/25-highest-paying-companies-software-engineers-2013-glassdoor-report/
Interview with Anil Merchant, October 29, 2013
"Software engineers tell Glassdoor that Walmart pays more than Facebook," washingtonpost.com, October 18, 2013, Hayley Tsukayama, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/software-engineers-tell-glassdoor-that-walmart-pays-more-than-facebook/2013/10/18/ecd3de10-37d9-11e3-ae46-e4248e75c8ea_story.html