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Software Engineer Compensation Guide - From Junior ($100K) to Senior ($500K++) Engineer Compensations

Today I am going to talk to you about the titanic pay gap between junior and senior engineers. I will mainly focus on software engineering, but it applies to engineering in general. I will also give you some tips on how much you should expect to be compensated and how you can compare yourself to others.

As an example, a junior engineer fresh out of college even with an unrelated diploma like physics, math, or industrial engineering can score a $100K compensation in Silicon Valley, while a senior engineer with a successful decade long career will get $500K and upwards. What are the reasons for this huge gap? Is it only years? Let us investigate.


You can find the video narration of this article on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q1GGW04hjw

Video has additional tips and illustrations. If you want to read the comments or leave a comment, do so under the YouTube video. If you want to contribute to the article, make a pull request on GitHub.

Salary and compensation comparison resources:

Learn to negotiate your salary from real recruiters:

Do not forget, before assuming your compensation based on resources above, compare your projects, publications, references, and accomplishments to others. The article will guide you on all these points.

I will create a dedicated in-depth article to help you estimate your expected income later on. It will include software and other fields of engineering, and perhaps some of engineering management field.

How Much Do Engineers Get Paid?

First things first, how much do engineers get paid. Let me show you some data from levels.fyi:

Software Engineer/Developer Compensation Chart

L6 Senior Software Engineer Compensation

The first thing to note is that charts display the total compensation, which includes salary, bonus, and stock options. As you can see, the pay scale gets progressively higher. When you reach the higher mid-tier, you stand at around half a million dollars. Top tiers are reserved for specialized positions, and your income will be almost entirely stock options and bonuses and will be open-ended. Check out the resources section above to get a list of websites that host up-to-date compensation charts for many positions in different companies.

Let us say you are a software engineer with 10+ years of experience and a great portfolio of projects, publications, a provable record of accomplishments, and good references. If you want to work for a Silicon Valley company in an engineering position, you should expect to be compensated $500K on average, as you just saw on the charts.

Why are Senior Engineers Getting Paid More?

Now let us start by exploring the reasons why seniors cost a lot. Remember, not everyone will have all these traits that I mention, but each one of them helps.

Why Do Juniors Engineers Get Paid Less?

Now let us explore why juniors get paid less. I will not go into much detail, but here are the top points based on my experiences from my junior years:

When it comes to seeking higher returns on your time investment in your career, always stay calm and collected. Be it during networking, job interviews, etc. If you cannot get what you expect, keep trying. If you get more than what you expect, play it cool. It is all about that “blue steel baby, blue steel.”

Negotiating Your Compensation (inc. Salary/Bonus/Stock Options)

Now you know what effects your total compensation, it is time to negotiate it with your prospective employer. Most of the time, the very first offer by any company that you interview will be their rock bottom offer. You would be amazed to see how big of a difference you can get with a couple of simple negotiation techniques. Getting a ~10% better offer with the gentlest of negotiations, and a lot more with a competing offer, is what you can expect! However, we engineers are not born into the business world. To me, talking about money always felt a bit awkward. If you are like me, and need professional and personalized mentorship before negotiating you salary, check out Moonchaser.io I’ve recently partnered with Moonchaser to help engineers like me to get the best possible starting compensation, so they will feel comfortable in their seats and concentrate on knowledge growth instead. You can book a free consultation with them at any time. Even that would help your odds of getting much better compensation. If you choose to give them a try, don’t forget to mention QuanticDev, so I can help you get a better offer from them. If you need help, ping me on my socials. Good luck, challenger!