Technology companies dominated Glassdoor’s new list of the 25 highest-paying companies in America.
The highest-ranked tech firm: Juniper Networks in third, with a median total compensation of $157,000 and a median base salary of $135,000. The company builds routers and network-management software.
Google came in fifth on the list, with a median total compensation of $153,750 and a median base salary of $123,331. In sixth was VMware, with a median total compensation of $152,133 and a median base salary of $130,000.
Amazon’s secretive Lab126 placed seventh with a median total compensation of $150,020 and a median base salary of $138,700. Lab126 is responsible for the Kindle e-reader, the Kindle Fire tablet, and the popular Amazon Echo.
The entire back half of the Glassdoor’s list is technology companies, starting with Facebook (in 12th), and including Twitter, Box, Walmart eCommerce, SAP, Synopsys, and Microsoft.
It should come as no surprise that, in an industry in which interns can earn an average of $6,800 a month, tech professionals are routinely pulling down six-figure salaries.
Given the current demand for top tech talent, though, employers need to do more than merely offer high wages to experienced professionals—they also need to dangle some perks, including flexible hours. Responding to a recent Stack Overflow survey, 50.4 percent of developers said that work-life balance was a top priority when hunting for a new job, followed by company culture (41.8 percent), quality colleagues (39.9 percent), and flexible work hours (37.1 percent).
For smaller firms without the enormous cash reserves of a Google or Facebook, such perks may be the only way to pull in the talent they need to build cutting-edge products.
In the meantime, tech pros who manage to land a job at the country’s most prominent tech firms can expect to earn a hefty salary in the process.
The country’s tech unemployment rate hit 2.5 percent last month, a slight uptick over the 2.4 percent reported in February 2015, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The technology segments monitored by the BLS experienced a mix of job losses and gains. For example, technology consulting added 4,400 positions in February, down from 4,600 in January. Data processing, hosting, and related services gained 900 jobs, a notable bounce-back after losing 500 in January.
Computer and electronic product manufacturing lost 400 positions, a considerable reversal after gaining 4,000 jobs in January. Manufacturing has long been a soft spot in the overall technology-jobs outlook, thanks in large part to a combination of manufacturing automation and outsourcing.
Overall, the technology industry continues to enjoy higher employment than the broader economy, where the unemployment rate stands at a (still historically low) 4.9 percent. While some pundits have expressed concern over recent layoffs at large tech firms such as Yahoo, and some smaller startups’ newfound inability to land lots of venture capital, the overall economy clearly still needs skilled technologists to help keep it running.
Competition for tech pros skilled in cloud technologies is fiercer than ever, according to a new report in The New York Times.
In Silicon Valley, six-figure salaries are common for those with backgrounds in cloud infrastructure; data from the Times suggests that anyone with five years of experience can earn an annual salary of $300,000 (if not more), sweetened with stock options and other perks. Workers with the right combination of skills, meanwhile, face a near-constant barrage of recruiting phone-calls and emails.
As Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle and Google build out their respective cloud platforms, the demand for those skilled in building and maintaining cloud-system architecture may only increase. That makes things more difficult for smaller tech firms, which may not have the capital to offer highly skilled workers a competitive salary. (One startup co-founder, speaking to the Times, referred to stratospheric compensation as a “Facebook tax.”)
According to Dice’s most recent salary survey, the highest-paying tech skills (by average annual salary) that relate to cloud include:
- PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service): $140,894
- OpenStack (used with IaaS deployments): $138,579
- CloudStack: $138,095
- Chef: $136,850
In a highly competitive environment such as the Bay Area, however, salaries only go higher. Over the past year, other tech hubs such as Boston have undergone similar hiring binges, as companies large and small seek the cloud professionals who can help them build out next-generation services.
Washington, DC tops the list of best U.S. cities for women in tech, according to a new analysis by personal-finance site SmartAsset, followed by Kansas City, Detroit, and Baltimore, with Indianapolis rounding out the top five.
SmartAsset bases its rankings on U.S. Census Bureau statistics, filtered for 58 of the largest U.S. cities. Using that government dataset as a foundation, the firm calculates the percentage of men and women in computer and mathematical occupations; the gender pay gap; income after housing costs; and three-year growth (or decline) in tech employment.
SmartAsset then averages the rankings, according to a note on its website, “giving half weight to tech employment growth and full weight to the other three metrics.” It also computes an index score based on those averages: “Cities ranked first in each category would score a perfect 100, while a city ranked last in each category would score a zero.”
This is the second year in a row that Washington, DC took the top spot on SmartAsset’s list; women in that city hold over 40 percent of all tech jobs, and earn around the same income as men. On a countrywide basis, however, things aren’t quite so rosy, with the ratio of women in computer and mathematical occupations at 26.5 percent. On average, women also earn roughly 85 percent of what their male counterparts take home.
“There is a significant positive correlation (49 percent) between tech industry representation for women and pay equity in the 58 cities SmartAsset analyzed,” the firm noted. “While it is impossible to say what exactly causes this relationship, it is clear that some cities have a better overall culture for women in technology.”
Here’s SmartAsset’s complete list:
For those tech pros open to conducting their company’s business from home (or a coffee shop), remote work offers many benefits, including a more flexible schedule. But working beyond the walls of a brick-and-mortar office is not without its challenges.
Take the example of Carlos Moreno, a front-end web developer for Oracle Commerce who started out in Oracle’s Cambridge, Massachusetts office before deciding to return to his hometown of Seattle. The company valued his contributions and wanted to keep him.
After the move, Moreno commuted nearly an hour into Oracle’s Bellevue office. Because he worked with East Coast colleagues, he often had early-morning meetings, and it was easier to take those calls from home. Eventually, his schedule led to working remotely full-time.
“My commute is 12 feet to my desk,” Moreno laughed, “and I’m not distracted by people walking by. I don’t have to deal with the noise and other conversations in the office and I can keep my environment quiet.”
Moreno’s biggest challenge is what he refers to as “the cost of a stamp.” Although he takes pride in his communications skills, and works on a highly interactive team, he needs to take a lot of steps in order to establish face-to-face interactions.
“I have to go through this process of [figuring out] what is the fastest or most appropriate avenue to communicate,” he said. While he finds Instant Messenger the most effective way to reach out, and can remotely access his team’s Thunderbird calendar, he must still consider the nature of each communication. Would an email be too formal at the moment? Should he call and, if so, should he use the cell or office number? Does he just need to talk, or should he show a colleague something on his screen, too?
“We have the tools,” Moreno continued, “but it’s always sort of an obstacle to get it to happen. That’s always the most important ‘con’ in terms of collaborating. The thing I’m trying to simulate the most often is, ‘Hey, come over here and look at my screen.’”
Remote workers who interact across an enterprise may encounter similar hurdles when communicating.
Renee Stetson, a data analyst for the Nashville-based Change Healthcare, has a home office in New Jersey. She started working remotely on a part-time basis for health reasons. Although that was supposed to be temporary, she ended up a full-time telecommuter when the company closed its local office.
She’s found working from home to be very beneficial for everyone involved. “They get 150 percent more out of me than they would if I were in the office,” she said. “I have complete focus here.”
Stetson has to gather information over long distances from several different departments throughout the organization. While her home group in sales is responsive, she’s found it tricky to get other colleagues, who may not know who she is, to answer phone calls and messages. She has to be persistent to get the information she needs. “It’s about the button you put in the subject line or first few lines of the email to get their attention,” she advised. “The goal is to not have them filter me out.”
Infrastructure can become another woe of remote employees. For example, as companies gain new subsidiaries, it takes time for legacy software and datasets to integrate into the overall stack. That creates issues for remote workers who need to access that software and data from many miles away. “A lot of the details that I need are dropped on the floor when they upload their data,” she said. “It makes it very difficult for me. I always have to go back to the people who handle those legacy systems and coordinate retrieval of the information.”
Not everyone is cut out for remote work. Both Stetson and Moreno see themselves as effective communicators who are also highly motivated and have a strong work ethic. They don’t allow themselves to get distracted; their constant engagement, despite not being physically present, gives them a stake in the workflow of their respective offices.
“My house is an amazing place,” said Moreno, “and there are all kinds of fun and exciting projects just sitting there waiting for me. If I get up to get coffee, I can see four things that could use attention. I have to have discipline to say, ‘No, I’m at work.’ So I get my coffee and return to my desk and don’t play my guitar.”
In the first two months of the year, a number of tech firms laid off staff. Yahoo let 15 percent of its employees go, for example, while BlackBerry slashed a reported 35 percent of its headquarters staff.
Nor were the layoffs restricted to massive, struggling tech companies. According to a handy chart compiled by TechCrunch, smaller firms such as NewsCred also culled staff.
“I think companies that had planned to grow through acquisitions don’t have the war chest they thought they would,” Teri McFadden, a vice president of recruiting at Northwest Venture Partners, told the Website. Venture funding, she added, has slowed in recent months.
Recent data from the National Venture Capital Association (as reported by Bloomberg) backs that assertion, showing that venture capital decreased from $31.1 billion in 2014 to $28.2 billion last year, even as 235 venture-capital funds closed.
When the stock market plunged earlier this year, taking the valuations of many tech companies with it, a number of pundits openly questioned whether the tech industry was in yet another bubble—one in the process of bursting. But as the Los Angeles Times recently pointed out, stock prices for many bellwether tech firms subsequently stabilized. Meanwhile, tech unemployment remains low, having hit 2.4 percent in January (down from 3.6 percent in December 2015, and far below the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent).
And despite some market turbulence, the tech industry looks nothing like it did in 2001 or 2008, when popping financial bubbles outright doomed dozens of tech companies, some of them very high-profile (hi, Pets.com!). Thousands of tech professionals aren’t losing their jobs; if anything, companies are fighting vigorously to secure top talent.
The technology industry’s unemployment rate edged downward in the fourth quarter of 2015, hitting 2.9 percent—a tenth of a percentage point down from the third quarter of the year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although that’s higher than earlier in 2015, when the unemployment rate in tech dipped as low as 2.0 percent, it’s still better than the overall U.S. labor market, where the unemployment rate hit 5.0 percent in the fourth quarter. Check out Dice’s latest Tech Employment Snapshot for Q4 2015 (PDF) in order to see the full range of jobs created/lost (with some nifty visualizations).
In the fourth quarter, a number of technology segments monitored by the BLS saw a notable decrease in unemployment. For example, the unemployment rate for Web developers fell from 5.10 percent in the third quarter to 4.40 percent in the fourth; for computer systems analysts, the dive was even steeper, from 3.80 percent to 1.80 percent during the same timeframe. Network systems administrators, software developers, and computer & information systems managers likewise saw decreases.
For a few other professions, unemployment rose. Computer support specialists saw their joblessness rate rise from 4.20 percent in the third quarter to 5.30 percent in the fourth; programmers’ rate bumped from 2.60 percent to 3.20 percent.
In sum, the technology segment closed out the year with low unemployment for many segments, and signs that technology professionals remain upbeat about their prospects. From an employer perspective, that means continuing pressure to offer competitive salaries and perks to attract the necessary talent. The Tech Employment Snapshot offers some additional data about voluntary quits, another important hiring measure, as well as layoffs and discharges.
The average annual technology salary in the U.S. hit $96,370 in 2015, according to the annual salary survey from Dice. Depending on experience, skill-set, and geographical location, some tech pros are pulling down far more—for example, those skilled in “hot” technologies related to cloud and data analytics can expect to make six figures, especially if they live in a tech hub such as San Francisco or New York City.
There’s also a wide salary range between full-time tech workers, who earned an average of $93,902 last year, and consultants, who made roughly $120,822. The average rate per hour for a consultant/contractor hit $70.26 in 2015, up 5.3 percent.
Another huge factor in tech-pro payouts is job title, which often reflects the holder’s experience and skills. According to Dice’s data, the following titles earned the most last year. While many are management-related (yes, CEOs and project managers tend to make a lot of money—shocking, right?), others represent in-demand technology segments, such as security. Check them out:
Up first: Executive Tech Management (click below)
Given the low unemployment rates over the past twelve months, it’s perhaps no surprise that salaries for technology professionals rose 7.7 percent between 2014 and 2015, the biggest increase in the history of Dice’s Salary Survey.
That’s obviously good news for tech pros searching for a new position, or seeking a raise from their current employer. Based on salaries, the most popular tech skills on the current market include enterprise applications, programming, databases, operating systems, and cloud/virtualization. More and more companies want to crunch enormous amounts of data and build out substantial presences in the cloud—and they need the tech pros to accomplish those goals.
Taking things to a more granular level, highly specialized skills with generous payouts included:
Despite rising pay, a full third of tech professionals (32 percent) told Dice they weren’t happy with their current salaries. Nor do many employers seem willing to propose other perks to keep their respective workforces engaged. Although 17 percent of employers offered increased compensation as a way of keeping their employees happy, far fewer resorted to flexible work hours (9 percent), the option to telecommute or head to a flexible work location (13 percent), interesting or challenging assignments (12 percent) or training and certification courses (3 percent).
All of those percentages paled in comparison with the 33 percent of respondents who said their workplace had given them no “primary motivator” in 2015.
In another Dice survey in late 2015, some 45 percent of tech professionals said they wanted more of a work-life balance, even if their current position made that difficult. In light of that data, it’s easy to surmise that employees at jobs offering no perks or “primary motivators” may soon look elsewhere for opportunities, especially given the high salaries being offered at the moment.
Whether you’re already working for a tech company, or looking to break into the industry, you can take advantage of the industry’s rising salaries by negotiating for higher pay. Given the rising salaries in many sub-industries and regions across the country, employers are acutely aware that good talent is valuable, and many are willing to pay accordingly.
Before you enter into any sort of negotiation, however, make sure you do your research. What has your company paid in the past for tech professionals with similar skill-sets and experience? What does your field tend to pay? What did the person who previously held your job earn?
While you may not learn the answers to all those questions, any salary-related data can give you a better idea of what to expect as “fair” from an employer. As a tech professional, you should also engage in a periodic (and rigorous) self-assessment in which you list your professional assets (i.e., your achievements, skills, and experience) along with any liabilities (i.e., failed projects, gaps in experience and performance). When discussing salaries with employers and potential employers, your assets give you leverage in asking for higher pay or better perks; but you should also figure out how to best explain anything in your liability column.
Despite the rising need for tech pros, especially ones with highly specialized skills, some employers may balk at offering higher pay. Fortunately, compensation is often about more than just money in the bank; your negotiations can extend to benefits such as flexible working hours or the option to telecommute. Although Dice’s salary survey suggests many employers aren’t offering those sort of motivators, that doesn’t mean perks aren’t off the table in a discussion.
Whatever your salary goals, make sure that your requests are justified by your skills and experience. It might be great times for tech professionals, but you still need to demonstrate that you have what it takes to succeed in a highly competitive and evolving environment.