Even in down years like 2023, when there were layoffs and startup shutdowns aplenty, software engineer salaries remain the envy of pretty much every other industry.
Nowhere is that more clear than in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where most of the industry’s flagship companies are headquartered. Median compensation in the Bay Area for software engineers leads the entire country at $249,000, according to data from Levels.fyi.
That’s $24,000 more than second-place Seattle and $64,000 more than New York City, the third-ranked market. Rounding out the top-10 is Washington, D.C., where engineers are only earning $148,600 in median pay.
A year-end report from the tech salary tracking company puts some of that cold, hard pay data on display. Levels.fyi aggregates and analyzes tech worker salaries submitted by its users, who have to verify the legitimacy of their earnings with a paystub, a W-2 form or an offer letter.
There are limitations to the data. Co-founder Zaheer Mohiuddin said that smaller companies with fewer employees may not have their sky-high salaries reflected. Additionally, some companies may not be hiring entry-level engineers and are therefore not listed at all. It’s worth noting that stocks, whether through options, restricted stock units, or other models, constitute a large part of many engineers’ total compensation.
If you’re a San Francisco-based entry-level engineer—classified by Levels.fyi as green staffers with less than two years of experience, the top paying local company is UX design firm Figma, where median total compensation is $240,500. Local companies ranking just below that are Roblox ($238,120), Databricks ($230,500), Linkedin ($220,500) and Plaid ($220,000).
Perhaps the best-paying firm across all experience levels is San Francisco data analytics company Databricks—which has pivoted hard into artificial intelligence, acquiring local AI startup MosaicML at $1.3 billion in June. (It likely doesn’t hurt that it is one of the highest-valued firms in the world, tagged at $43 billion as of September.)
The company pays senior engineers, identified by Levels.fyi as those with more than five years of experience, a cool $584,250, while engineers with two to five years of experience can expect to secure around $380,000.
And then, of course, there’s OpenAI. The ChatGPT creator received a solid amount of media coverage last month about its engineers’ salaries, though that was overshadowed by the ousting (and de-ousting) of CEO Sam Altman.
According to the report, engineers with around a decade of experience could expect to make around $925,000—two-thirds of which was paid in stock.
However, the best-paying local tech company is a familiar name: Meta. A principal engineer at the parent company of Facebook—someone with more than 15 years of experience—can make over a million dollars annually, with two workers sharing this year that they had secured $2 to $3 million in stock options alone.
That could change next year, according to Mohiuddin, as the AI race escalates and companies that secured funding at lower valuations go back into growth mode.
“Netflix was often featured prominently in past years, but we’re seeing them beat out more often by other companies nowadays,” he said. “The AI talent wars are only beginning and I expect to see many more AI companies on the list for next year.”