Salary Survey

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she thinks that I am worth more to an employer than I currently make, and that I could probably get more in a salary than I think. But the problem is that I don't have any way to measure what is a "fair" price for me. If I say one number, it's too high. If I say another, it's so low that I shortchange myself.

So I'm posting this in hopes that others will provide their insight and experience on what salaries people are receiving for their skills and experience. I'm not necessarily asking you to post your salary here, but to share your impressions of the market for software engineers. -- DavidHooker

You may want to look at the site - among other things, the site contains the "Real Rate Survey" and "Real Salary Survey".

Every year one of the industry rags (maybe ComputerWorld? maybe InformationWeek?) puts out a salary survey that's divided up by profession (OO Programmer, ProjectLead?, CIO) and by region. It's pretty comprehensive and it should be available at your local library. -- KyleBrown

I've seen these kinds of charts and tables, and they invariably are not that accurate. What I am looking for are a few examples from real life/experience/knowledge that correlate knowledge/experience to dollars. Surely there's not entry in the trade rags that says: "Senior OO programmer skilled in distributed systems, patterns; X years experience ; avg salary range = $xx,xxx - $xx,xxx"

Ok, let's get some guesses out on the table ...

These sound WAY low to me. I know several OO lead architects who are making six figures. As employees, not as consultants.

The programming figure sounds very low to me, too, at least for SiliconValley or Massachusetts.

Who cares? It doesn't matter how much you make, what matters is whether you enjoy your job (life) or not. If you like what you do, then do your best and the salary will take care of itself. If you don't like your job (life), then change it.

It's not always possible to change, and the salary does not always take care of itself. When you interview for a job, and start negotiating salary, it helps to be informed of what the "market will bear". That way you don't get passed over for hire (because you asked too much), and you don't struggle financially (because you asked too little).

It also seems that some people value your worth by your title and salary rather than your talents and results. This is bad, but it is a fact I've observed. And when you need clout to get your job done, a good salary is points in your favor. Not to mention in your wallet.

Your salary matters because it is what your company thinks of you, all bullshit aside. GeraldWeinberg says in TheSecretsOfConsulting? that "salary is a negotiated relationship". That's why the level is important.

How many times have I heard, "Of course they listen to you, you're charging $3K/day."?

You have to remember that to some extent your salary will be dependent on the area you live in. Also that salary ranges are large for a specific title, sometimes even within a single corp.

It is extremely important to do your homework before going on an interview otherwise you simply won't know how much to ask.

My feeling is that it is best to let the company you are interviewing with make the initial offer and go from there if you feel there is room to negotiate.

Yes, but the original poster is asking how to do his homework! Since we know he isn't being graded, the least we can do is address the question.

I distrust salary surveys; in my experience, the numbers they give seem low. For instance, my professional organization recently sent a salary survey to randomly selected members. The number they quoted as a high salary for my geographical area was a little more than 60% of mine; the mean was about 40% of what I earn. Either members of this professional organization are generally not very good ;-), or something odd happened in either the sampling or the return rate.

So how do I research salaries? I ask my most trusted friends what they're earning, and I keep them up to date on my salary. Another good approach is to ask an honorable headhunter (yes, they do exist) what s/he would expect you to be earning. Headhunters usually have an excellent understanding of the local salary market.

I agree with everybody else that, sadly, companies often value you according to your pay, rather than paying you according to your value. When I see a resume that seems underpriced for the market (I saw one recently that was $20,000 low in my opinion), my immediate reaction was, "What's wrong with this guy? Why is he accepting this salary?"

Finally, it is VITAL, if at all possible, to make the other negotiator name a number first. If you give a number in negotiations, you are setting a ceiling on the offer you will receive.

That's too true. My wife gets soooo mad because I always have been the first to name a figure... and that's about what I got. Except one time, I named a figure outrageously high. That forced the hiring company to tell me the hiring salary range. Risky play on my part, but it paid off at the time.

Maybe there is a little PatternLanguage on job hunting, salary negotiations, etc., waiting to be written. 8-)

It's been written. Check out the NegotiatingPatternLanguage, grasshopper.

And where can I find one of those 6 figure jobs?!?!

Wall Street. Blechhhhh. (You'll make more as a DatabaseAdministrator? or SystemAdministrator, still more as a NetworkAdministrator?. You can practically name your own fee if you're willing to wade through misson critical COBOL written in the 1960s that will blow up on 1/1/2000.)

As far as asking a headhunter, you need to take what most of them say with a large grain of salt. For the most part their first interest is in placing people, not getting you the best salary. For this reason they will tend to understate salary issues.

Of course, some are better and more honest then others.

Second the comments on the goal of recruiters. In fact, good times and bad times both are bad times for getting through to a recruiter - he/she's either too busy finding bodies or companies to listen to a square peg....

As to salary surveys, the best I've seen was run by the Schenectady GE Engineers and Scientists Association (? might be misremembered) which had everyone put down their salaries by GE grade, and then reported the relevant statistics, including time between salary actions, average action by grade, salary per grade as a function of time in grade, etc. This only works with a relatively homogeneous population (same city, same company, roughly the same profession).

My favorite anti-pattern to bring this back, is CompetitiveSalary, which all depends on how the company defines "competitive."

-- Ken Meltsner

Here's a nice way to feel depressed about your current salary. I figure, whatever I'm being paid, my employer must think it's a good deal for them, therefore I must have lost the negotiation, therefore I'm underpaid. Waaaahhhh! Actually, since I do enjoy myself considerably at my job, the salary is less critical, though, let's face it, more is always better. In fact, having an enlightened employer and getting less money is much better than making tons o' dough and being stressed into a state of perpetual anger and misery. If money is paramount, I think such jobs are indeed available. Just make me your primary beneficiary. ;-> -- DonOlson

Remember, every commercial transaction stems from a disagreement in something's worth. When you buy a loaf a bread for a dollar from a grocer, you're saying the loaf is worth more to you than the dollar; the grocer is saying the dollar is worth more to him than the loaf. -- JohnBrewer

I like that! -- ChanningWalton [It's now on QuotePageFour.]

Didn't see a crowd like this in weeks. Maybe this is an exciting topic. -- MartineDevos

I've no idea how accurate the data on this Web site are, but here's a page that can help you even out the difference in salary in different US cities:

It doesn't seem very accurate at all. I tested 4 cities in the SanFranciscoBayArea. I (based on living here for the past 7 years, and living in three of them at various times) would rank them (ascending order):


With RedwoodCity? and SanJose? being fairly close (it depends on what part of SJ you live in, of course) and SanFrancisco being far and away the most expensive.

The Web site ranked them as


with RedwoodCity? and SanFrancisco almost identical (a salary of $60,000 in RC is equivalent to a salary of $60,028 in SanFrancisco) and SanMateo? being much more expensive.

-- WilliamGrosso

Some people say that salaries in Australia have about the same numeric value as non-SiliconValley US salaries. They're denominated in AUD instead (which currently buys ~0.63USD), but the cost of living here is a bit lower.

Maybe I missed it, but aside from the previous post, is anyone considering cost of living here? I work for a company that has offices in Rochester, New York (where I am), San Diego, and Boston. My salary here in Rochester wouldn't be enough for me to exist with the same standard of living in either San Diego or Boston. If I was offered a job in either place, I would have to ask for a salary increase to compensate. (Of course, one wonders what would happen if I started off in one of those offices and decided to move to Rochester - would I be asked to take a salary cut?!)

Salary surveys that don't take into account geographic location seem useless to me.

-- JohnPassaniti

It's sad that at the end of the day the only thing which matter is just negotiation. For instance someone does a really good neat programming, highly creative, but doesn't know well about the market, and is just willing to accept whatever the company offers, will just get a standard rated salary. On the other side there is another someone who does just a standard level of programming but knows how to pretend to be smart and is excel in negotiating then he will most likely get an overrated beautiful figure of salary. It'll never be fair, only in a rare case that a company will voluntarily give you what you worth. If we think we worth this much, then we have to ask for it, or move on.

-- Anonymous
See SalaryRamp, NegotiatingPatternLanguage, NegotiatingPatternLanguage

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