Compensation for Software Engineers: San Francisco vs. Seattle

FEATURED IMAGE | Source: Teamblind Inc.

San Francisco and Seattle are two of the best locations for software engineers looking for competitive compensation packages. The biggest names in tech, plus a plethora of mid-sized companies and startups, are located in these two cities. In this article, we’ll explore how the compensation for software engineers compares between San Francisco and Seattle.

San Francisco

Junior Engineers: The typical base salary for a software engineer just starting out is about $120K-$130K. Vested stock offers are not very high at this level for larger corporations, perhaps in the $20K-$80K range over a standard four-year vesting period. Smaller companies or startups may offer a much higher RSU but with the stock unproven these can be a gamble. Performance bonuses or pay raises at this level can be in the $10K-$20K range. Total compensation will be in the range of $130K-$150K.

Mid-Level Engineers: Those with three to five years of experience can expect a base pay from $130K to $180K in the high end. Most vested stock options will be between $40K and $80K over four years, with some outliers at $100K. Yearly and sign on bonuses are $15K-$35K. The total compensation will come out to $160K-$200K for mid-level software engineers.

Senior Engineers: Senior software engineers will only see small increases in base pay with the RSU making up the lion’s share of the increase. A range of $155K-$190K is average for base pay. Expect four-year stock packages totaling $150K-$280K. Bonuses may total $30K-$50K. Your total compensation can be from $215K-$280K, with some hitting $300K-$350K.

Managers: Leaders in their field can have their total compensation go from $360K up to $500K, with some reaching even higher (in some cases towards a capital “M”). Base pay will only make up $170K-$210K of the compensation. Most of the yearly compensation will be from vested stock valued at $250K-$500K over four years. Bonuses can range from $40K-$100K.

Cost of Living: When moving to San Francisco it’s important to take cost of living into consideration. With a state income tax rate of approximately 10 percent and a sales tax of 8.5 percent, take home earnings will get reduced. More importantly, the Bay Area has some of the highest housing costs in the country. If a move for your job is required, there will often be a $5K-$10K relocation addition.


Junior Engineers: A junior software engineer in Seattle can expect a $105K-$120K annual base pay. Vested stock will be $20K-$80K. Bonuses can comprise an additional $10K-$20K. Total compensation can be $125K up to $145K.

Mid-Level Engineers: Engineers with more experience, in the three to five years range, can expect a base pay ranging from $125K-$140K. On a four-year stock vestment period, the typical offer can go from $40K-$80K. Bonuses can be around $20K. Average total compensation usually falls between $150K and $180K.

Senior Engineers: Senior engineers won’t see a big increase in base pay: $135K-$160K is common. $120K to $400K as vested stock can be seen at this level. Bonuses can make up $10K-$30K a year. Look for a total compensation of $180K-$240K in most cases, with some echelons reaching $300K-$350K.

Managers: Managers can have their total yearly compensation go from $340K to $450K. The biggest names might even double that in exceptional circumstances. The base pay can be $160K-$190K commonly. RSU will often comprise $200K-$400K income over four years. Bonuses can reach $20K-$80K.

Cost of Living: Something to keep in mind is that the state of Washington doesn’t enforce a state income tax. However, Seattle has a combined sales tax of approximately 10 percent. The housing market in Seattle is pricey as the city continues to expand, but costs are still much lower than in San Francisco. A relocation payment of $5K-$10K may be included by larger companies.

San Francisco and Seattle are some of the best locations for software engineers looking for their next job opportunity. Either city can offer rewarding compensation packages for all levels of experience.


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