How much should a junior engineer at a startup/consultancy in SF make?
April 20, 2015 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I just graduated from a web development bootcamp and am starting to look for my first job in the field in the Bay Area. I'm getting wildly different advice about how much money I should try to get paid.

Some experienced people are telling me aim for 90k max, others not to accept less than 110k, etc. No idea what to believe.

My details: I didn't have any CS background and only a little JS and Unix self-teaching before starting the program, which was Rails-focused (I explored a bunch of other topics on my own). I did well in the program -- in my perception, which I don't think would be contested by anyone, I was one of the best students in the class, and had one of the best final projects -- and I had a lot of interest from employers who came to our demo day. Am working through a bunch of interviews that came out of that. Have had one offer so far, from a clearly very interested company (who I like a lot too) without a salary figure yet.

My bootcamp is established elsewhere, but just had its first cohort in SF, so I don't have an average salary for other alumni here to go off of. The average alum salary in the bootcamp's other market, run through a cost-of-living calculator, is $110k in SF terms. According to their marketing materials, Hack Reactor's and App Academy's alums make an average of $105k in SF (unclear whether that's first job or current job), but my bootcamp is probably not as selective as those (I didn't apply to them because I liked the one I chose more), and not having met anyone from there I don't know how I personally compare.

The most important thing to me is to join a team that has good practices around teamwork, communication, and learning. My goal isn't to get paid as much as possible, but I would like to be at least in the middle of the range, or to know how much I'm giving up if I accept a lower-paying job.

Any advice would be much appreciated! If you prefer to give advice privately, you can write to:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What makes this complicated is that both of those numbers are good advice, just for very different kinds of devs. As a few rules of thumb before getting to hard numbers: startups will pay significantly less than both big tech companies (Google, Amazon, Apple, Palantir, MS, and I guess Yahoo). Big non-tech companies (like writing software for Target, or whatever) will also pay less than big tech companies. There are pros and cons to all three types of companies. Big tech companies are very, very unlikely to hire you without a college CS degree until you have a track record at other jobs under your belt first. Landing a job at, say, Amazon without a degree isn't impossible, but landing your first tech job without a degree at Amazon pretty much is. That being said, most startups/smaller companies will be willing to take you (as you've alreay seen). Big non-tech companies it's about 50-50.

All that being said: for a freshly minted junior dev with a degree at a big tech company, I'd say aim for 100-120k counting bonus and stock. From startups and non tech companies, 80-95k base is a pretty solid range. Don't go any lower than 70. If you get a bonus on top of that its nice, but don't count on it. Stock from startups is worthless, don't count it for anything. If you're lucky it might make for a nice little boost down the line, but odds are you'll never see a penny of it.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:28 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Note: that's all in the Bay Area/New York. Places with lower COL and/or a less tight hiring climate will be lower.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:29 AM on April 20, 2015

As much as you can get. Startups typically offer things other than salary - new projects, grow with the company, lottery tickets^Hoptions, camaraderie, promotion beyond your ability, learning on the job... those things aren't worth much IMO, but I'm old and cynical and I work to live.

I suggest you go for the job where you think you'll learn most, and jump ship as soon as you stop learning.

(I wouldn't pay that much for a first-job rails dev straight out of a "bootcamp" (London-based here), but my market's probably different).
posted by Leon at 9:42 AM on April 20, 2015

Damn. I just graduated from a similar boot camp in NYC and was told to ask for $65K.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 9:52 AM on April 20, 2015

London in particular is an odd case; in my experience software engineer salaries there are extremely low considering the high cost of living compared to equivalent areas innthe States. It's why so many of the best engineers there tend to wind up working for banks.

65k in New York (or SF; the two markets are pretty much equivalent) is very low for anything other than small non-tech offices, and whoever told you that is either clueless or has ulterior motives. Was it someone who worked for the boot camp? If so, I'd suspect it's in their best interests to lowball you, since it'll make you more hireable and thus push up their job placement numbers.
posted by Itaxpica at 12:32 PM on April 20, 2015

Yeah, it was the "career outcomes" lead from the bootcamp. Makes total sense.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 11:25 PM on April 20, 2015

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