What's the pay for a software architect in the S.F. area?
February 4, 2011 6:54 PM   Subscribe

What's the going rate for a software architect in the San Francisco area?

My buddy used to work full time as a software architect/designer in a C++, Linux environment. Then the company went belly up. However, the development project (in telecom) is being resurrected in a new company and he's been asked to work as a consultant performing the same duties as he did before. So how much should he charge?

He was making $120K/yr before the company folded. Does anyone know of any good websites where this type of information is available?
posted by storybored to Work & Money (8 answers total)
posted by harmfulray at 7:07 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

For Vancouver BC, and since the dollar is essentially at par, government info for a software engineer (NOC 2173-A) including software architecture is low:$20.77 / avg: $31.22 / high: $47.95 per hour for 2009 time-frame.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:42 PM on February 4, 2011

It depends on what his old company meant by "architect", as it's really sort of a malleable title and might mean the same thing as "senior software developer" at another place. If the title meant "project lead/technical manger", then $120k was not a particularly high salary. If the tile meant "individual contributor" then it was a pretty decent but not astronomical salary.

As a consultant, if he's now being paid hourly instead of on salary, I'd expect him to charge significantly more than what his old salary would have broken down to if you figured it out as an hourly wage. Obviously he can try and negotiate any salary he wants, but I'd probably start around $150/hour and be ready to accept $125. Note that I'm a salaried employee, and don't have any experience negotiating consulting prices. I'm also treating "consultant" as an entirely separate thing from "contractor", where a consultant is generally a high-priced, focused, short term position, and contractor is more like a regular employee that doesn't technically work for the company for bureaucratic reasons. If he's acting more like a contractor than my description of a consultant, then I'd expect his salary to be closer to his previous salary.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:46 PM on February 4, 2011

It really depends on what he'd be doing, but $120/hr is probably about in the middle of the range.
posted by rhizome at 7:50 PM on February 4, 2011

The general rule of thumb for a market rich in real and uh..paper architects is between 100 and 250k/yr.

Experience pays, demonstrable code architecture experience pays. You can expect for someone truly senior to 1099 (figure 2000 hours/year), at between 100 and 200/hour. It's a wide range, and a lot of it depends on the term of work, scope and if there is an expected after hours commitment. After hours is typically billed at 1.5x the base. Emergency on call, drop everything is usually 2x the base rate.
posted by iamabot at 7:59 PM on February 4, 2011

Do the math. $120K = ~$61.50/hr. Even considering lack of benefits, charging much over that is insane unless your friend is a total guru that can solve the problem (likely to be something he hasn't seen before and would need to get familiar with) in an hour. These days, we compete with India, Pakistan, China, etc. I'm particularly bitter about China. 2x pricing likely isn't going to work.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 8:51 PM on February 4, 2011

I hear what hungrysquirrels is saying, but the fact is that your buddy has a lot of hours logged on this system. That makes him a lot more valuable than someone from off the street...

Granted I live in the north east, but it isn't unheard of for software engineers to consult at 120-200 dollars an hour around here.
posted by Glendale at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2011

Yeah, keep in mind that consultants should be making more than their equivalent salary, since the company isn't paying any benefits / tax for them (and you get to pay ALL of your Social Security, etc).

So if he was making $60/hr ish before, I'd say at least 1.5x that would be reasonable... at least in terms of equalizing cost. Of course, since this is a different company, they may value his contributions very differently than the old one.

(I'm more familiar with salaries, and while architect is an extremely overloaded term here in Silicon Valley, the salary range iamabot gave is as good as I can do (100-250k, with a big big factor being small(startup) v large companies)).
posted by wildcrdj at 11:26 AM on February 5, 2011

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