What Do Software Engineers Get Paid?

Illustration of employees working at a desk shaped like a money symbol
Illustration: iStockphoto

By: Tekla S. Perry

The ranks of highest-paying software engineering companies underwent a bit of a shuffle in 2020, particularly at the entry level. That’s according to Levels.fyi’s 2020 report on software engineering salaries.

Levels, founded in 2017, builds tools to help employers and job seekers calculate and compare salary offers using standardized titles and job descriptions. The company gathers salary data through self-reports, verified when possible by pay stubs and other documentation.

According to the Levels 2020 report, at the entry level, engineers at Lyft are doing the best, with a median package of base salary, bonus, and stock grants of US $230,000 annually. In second place at $222,000 came Roblox, a newcomer to Levels’ charts. Roblox, an online game and event creation system, took off during the pandemic as a way to help children communicate with each other, and even hold birthday parties online.

software engineers pay chart
Image: Tekla Perry

For engineers with two-to-five years of experience, Airbnb’s package of $295,000 put it in first place, though that number dropped substantially from $334,000 in 2019. And for engineers with more than five years of experience, LinkedIn took the top spot, with a package worth $461,000.

software engineers pay chart
Image: Tekla Perry

5+ years experience chart
Image: Tekla Perry

Regional differences in engineering pay became a hot topic throughout 2020, with most software engineering jobs turning remote and companies beginning to contemplate, if not institute, geographically-based salary adjustments for engineers who moved their home offices beyond physical commuting distance. 

salaries metro US
Image: Tekla Perry

Salaries Metro Non-US
Image: Tekla Perry

Levels did not include regional data in its 2018 analysis, and only reported limited data in 2019, so in the chart below, 2020 data stands alone. It reveals few surprises—the San Francisco Bay Area is at the top (minus cost-of-living adjustments), the position it has held in every regional study I’ve seen. These numbers may evolve over the coming year, as large California tech companies follow through on announced moves out of the region.

This article originally appeared in IEEE Spectrum on 7 January 2021.