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Software engineer salary in San Francisco: Averages and how to negotiate

Hi, I’m Brian, a former senior software engineer and now software engineering mentor at Pathrise. I have worked with hundreds of software engineers to help them land their dream job. Check out my article to learn more about the average software engineer salary in San Francisco and how you can increase your compensation.

Software engineering is a rapidly growing field. Employment is expected to grow 22% from 2019 to 2029 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, the role is extremely lucrative. Even entry level software engineers regularly make upwards of $100k per year. This makes it one of the highest paying roles in the tech industry, especially in a city like San Francisco.

San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world due to the high number of tech companies and workers who live there and in adjacent cities in Silicon Valley. As the tech industry continues to boom, the salaries (and living expenses) in San Francisco will grow in tandem. 

If you are looking for software engineering roles and wondering how you can increase your software engineer salary in San Francisco, we can help. We have helped thousands of people navigate their job search and negotiate 10-20% increases in salaries.

Average software engineer salary in San Francisco

The first step towards success in your negotiations is to do research. You need to know the averages so that you can get a sense for your starting point. However, if a recruiter or hiring manager asks you for a salary number or range, do not give a number. Even if you already have a sense, tell them that you want to research and get an understanding of the average compensation for the role. If you can avoid giving a number, then you can avoid pigeonholing yourself.

Let’s take a look at some average salaries for software engineering roles in San Francisco. All of these numbers come from Glassdoor.

  • Entry level software engineer – $91,965
  • Software engineer – $133,053
  • Senior software engineer – $152,951
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How to negotiate your software engineer salary in San Francisco

Now that you know the averages, you can start making plans for your negotiation tactics. Negotiation is a completely normal part of the process. In fact, recruiters expect that you will negotiate, so if you don’t, you are typically leaving money on the table. A higher starting salary early in your career can compound to increase your net worth by hundreds of thousands of dollars, so be confident and ready in your negotiations.

Most of the time, recruiters will call candidates to give them their verbal offer. This is an exciting conversation, but make sure that you keep a calm head on your shoulders. On the call, be very polite, friendly, and happy, but do not commit to anything. Instead, thank them and hang up so you can get an email with your written offer. This is important because you need to take time to read the offer on your own and potentially ask for feedback from mentors, family, and friends. Moreover, recruiters might try to push you into accepting the offer as is on the phone and it is more difficult to say no over a call than email. That is why we always recommend that candidates negotiate via email, so that they can stay calm, take their time, and get help if they need it.

Planing your negotiation

Once you get the written offer, spend time reading through it and make sure that you understand all of the points. Remember, compensation is more than just your salary. It also includes benefits, perks like PTO, and equity. If you have questions about equity or any other element of the offer, ask someone. A third party person would be better, like a mentor or family member, but you can also ask the recruiter directly so that you make sure you have the right information when you plan your negotiation.

Your asks will likely depend on the type of company. Big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon are known for giving high salaries and good benefits in the starting offer. Therefore, you might see better results if you negotiate on equity, relocation funds, signing bonuses, and other benefits with these organizations.

On the other hand, smaller startups might include lower salaries in their offers. So, you should focus on that, unless they explicitly mentioned that they cannot go higher. In that case, turn your attention to bonuses, equity, and benefits, which all add to your total compensation. For more info on how to increase your salary, check out our guide.

With this background knowledge on the average software engineer salary in San Francisco and these tips, you should be able to successfully navigate offers for these roles and negotiate to increase your compensation.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With our guidance, fellows in our program have gotten a 10-20% increase in salary from negotiation alone.

If you want to work with our mentors 1-on-1 to get help with negotiation or with any other aspect of the job search, join Pathrise. 

Apply today.

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Brian Wong

Brian Wong is an experienced senior software engineer and has worked at top bay area startups and organizations. In his free time, Brian works with Pathrise SWE fellows to help them land their dream job and learn insider tips on how to ace technical interviews.

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