Machine Learning Engineers Win Silicon Valley’s Salary Race, But Top Salaries Drop Since Last Year

Illustration of dollar bills with faces walking into a wallet.
Illustration: Shutterstock

By: Tekla S. Perry

In a year-end review of Silicon Valley’s tech job activity for 2019, job-search firm Indeed found that machine learning engineers are commanding the highest salaries (averaging $172,792, up from $159,230 in 2018 and $149,519 in 2017), software engineers in general are in highest demand, and Amazon has been on the biggest hiring spree.

That’s a bit of a change from last year, when product development engineers claimed the highest salaries in Indeed’s database, at $173,570. It’s also different from 2017, when the big earners were directors of product management, with average salaries of $186,766.

The decline in top salary may reflect a slight softening in demand for tech professionals overall—Indeed’s researchers noted a 3.8 percent decrease in technology jobs listed on the site between October 2018 and October 2019.

Amazon, Walmart, and Apple posted the most Silicon Valley job openings on Indeed from January through October of this year. These three companies also claimed the top three positions in 2018, when Walmart stepped up its Silicon Valley hiring (though they shuffled positions slightly). Walmart ranked 13th in hiring in the region in 2017. Cisco, which was number three in 2017, slipped to fourth this year.

Indeed’s 2019 top 20 lists, below.

Highest-paying jobs in Silicon Valley

(ranked by average annual salary)

Rank 2019 2018 2017
1 Machine learning engineer ($172,792) Director of product management ($186,766) Product development engineer ($173,570)
2 Principal software engineer ($169,268) Senior reliability engineer ($181,100) Director of product management ($173,556)
3 Platform engineer ($154,801) Application security engineer ($173,903) Data warehouse architect ($169,836)
4 Senior software engineer ($142,794) Principal software engineer ($165,487) DevOps manager ($166,448)
5 Software architect ($142,372) Senior solution architect ($164,584) Senior architect ($161,124)
6 Senior system engineer ($141,013) Software engineering manager ($162,115) Principal software engineer ($160,326)
7 Senior product manager ($134,547) Software architect ($159,642) Senior solutions architect ($158,329)
8 Cloud engineer ($132,852) Machine learning engineer ($159,230) Principal Java developer ($156,402)
9 iOS developer ($131,979) User experience architect ($155,394) Senior software architect ($154,944)
10 Development operations engineer ($128,495) Platform engineer ($155,075) Platform engineer ($154,739)
11 Back end developer ($127,088) Data warehouse architect ($154,950) Senior SQL developer ($154,161)
12 Firmware engineer ($124,190) Director of information technology ($152,331) Senior C developer ($152,903)
13 Android developer ($124,024) Senior back end developer ($151,313) Machine learning engineer ($149,519)
14 Software test engineer ($123,531) Senior software architect ($150,970) Software engineering manager ($148,937)
15 Data engineer ($120,281) Salesforce developer ($150,923) Software architect ($148,171)
16 Full-stack developer ($119,954) Ruby developer ($149,944) Cloud engineer ($146,900)
17 Data scientist ($118,887) Server engineer ($149,435) Senior product manager ($146,277)
18 Front end developer ($118,768) Python developer ($149,331) DevOps engineer ($146,222)
19 Mobile developer ($114,560) Senior software engineer ($148,098) Senior back end developer $144,306)
20 Software engineer ($112,969) NA JavaScript developer ($142,185)

Source: Indeed

Most In-Demand Tech Jobs in Silicon Valley (ranked by share of job openings)

Rank 2019 2018 2017
1 Software engineer Software test engineer Software engineer
2 Senior software engineer Senior product manager Front end developer
3 Product manager Quality assurance engineer Full stack developer
4 Software architect Technical program manager Product manager
5 Full stack developer Machine learning engineer Development operations engineer
6 Front end developer Cloud engineer Software architect
7 Senior product manager Principal software engineer Java developer
8 Data scientist Firmware engineer Software test engineer
9 Development operations engineer Software engineering manager Senior product manager
10 Software test engineer Operations analyst Engineering program manager
11 Developer IT security specialist Application developer
12 Data engineer Product owner iOS developer
13 System engineer Senior data analyst Android developer
14 Back end developer Principal product manager Back end developer
15 Quality assurance engineer Technical product manager Quality assurance engineer
16 Technical program manager Senior design engineer Data warehouse engineer
17 Data analyst Information technology manager Automation engineer
18 Machine learning engineer Senior application engineer Machine learning engineer
19 Java developer Business intelligence analyst Senior Java developer
20 Cloud engineer Hadoop developer Cloud engineer

Source: Indeed

*Exact shares not available

This article originally appeared in IEEE Spectrum on 17 December 2019.