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The Almighty Buck Programming IT Technology

Reasonable Salary for Entry Level Programmers? 1525

An anonymous reader asks: "I will be graduating from college in May with a degree in computer science. I have begun the job search and gone on a few interviews. So far I have gotten two job offers which I am thankful for, but the salary seems low. I am not saying that I am too good to pay my dues and work my way up, but I could make more waiting tables. It is somewhat distressing that I have spent 4 years of college and years before that developing my programming skills. I am not trying to get rich, but I was hoping that the high level of skill required would account for something(no offense intended to waiters). Can anyone give me any insight about what a reasonable starting salary would be, for an entry level software engineer?"
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Reasonable Salary for Entry Level Programmers?

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  • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @07:59PM (#8923657) Homepage
    ...but it'll probably be paid in rupees.
    • by No_Censorship ( 667118 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:16PM (#8923860) Homepage
      $20 an hour is what I've seen. It's enough to live on and actually support a family.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:57PM (#8924174)
        $20/hour can mean a lot of different things. If it is a unionized government job with benefits in a low cost of living area-it wouldn't be too bad. I can easily see how that wouldn't go far in New York City or Silicon Valley-even for a single guy.
        • Cost of Living Index (Score:5, Informative)

          by tiltowait ( 306189 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:34PM (#8924439) Homepage Journal
          Yahoo's Neighborhood Profiles [] section, searchable by zip code, has lots of nice data if you're pricing a job.
        • by C10H14N2 ( 640033 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @01:28AM (#8925916)
          The national average for all "white-collar/technical" professions is $27.15/hour ($56k). However, in most metro areas, it is around $30 ($62k). Out of college, you should expect about 15% less than average or between $48k and $52k with some prior experience--although many, many people will be more than happy to offer you $26.5k. The point is, you should be able to hit the mean within three years. Don't let ANYONE tell you otherwise. If you are offered less than 15% below the aggregate mean (that is, everyone, not just IT) for your area, laugh hysterically as they watch your ass walk out the door. In most metro areas, that's about $45k, so 15% less is about $19/hour. Really, it's quite therapeutic and they deserve it. Another nice rule-of-thumb is if the salary is less than you paid for tuition, move on. If you went to a school like Georgetown that routinely offers jobs requiring master's degrees for $27k, which is less than a single year of undergrad tuition, you know what I'm talking about.

          Look here to get detailed information on actual wages in your area:

      • by ack154 ( 591432 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:07PM (#8924243)
        I'm making $18/hr just doing help desk. I have a business degree though, but still, that's useless. I would at least hope that a comp sci degree would garner a little more...

        Not to say at all that $20/hr would be bad, just by comparison. I'm actually quite happy with my wage.
        • by mr_luc ( 413048 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @11:47AM (#8929554)
          I just wanted to say that if I had Mod Points, I'd mod that Underrated. But for a different reason.

          "Not to say at all that $20/hr would be bad, just by comparison. I'm actually quite happy with my wage."

          Myself -- I'm making, quite literally, $10 per hour -- and coding at a very high level, database-to-business objects-to-presentation level, and am even occasionally (read: when I have the time) asked to write and create visual content for the end-user documentation. I only have a 2-year AS degree, from a small technical college. (I got it when I was 18, but it's still just an A.S.)

          I'm surprisingly happy with this job, despite the fact that when I work long enough hours, my actual hourly wage has gotten as low as $7.50. I think that the reason for it is two-fold:

          1) I live in an area with a fairly low cost of living, in semi-rural Minnesota. More importantly, I have a lot of friends and family in the area -- and it's not that easy of an area to find a job in!
          2) Because I am such a good value, I am afforded a lot more freedom in the way that I do my job, and in how I get to solve problems. This is a must, particularly when you occasionally have to work with procedural programmers (who are your superiors) that still feel that OOP (or functional programming, yadda yadda -- no elitism) is not "real work".

          And I should probably add to that list a third reason:

          3) I love programming. I respect programming as a real engineering profession, not as something that you can just *do*. Even with visual development tools :P. I am amazed by it as a science, enthralled with the study of complexity in general. And I am enormously satisfied by solving problems the *right* way; this is how I imagine most other programmers feel about their jobs, but I've met a few for whom this is very much not the case.

          When these sort of things work out in your favor, and you aren't tied down, and the work that you're doing is actually more satisfying the harder you work on it -- then as far as I'm concerned, you've got it made. Regardless of what you're making per hour.
    • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:29PM (#8923968)
      ...but it'll probably be paid in rupees

      Will there be enough to buy some hotpockets and a can of diet coke?
    • by sprior ( 249994 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:17PM (#8924305) Homepage
      Stock options...
    • by kootch ( 81702 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @11:02PM (#8925076) Homepage
      Not to turn this into a huge discussion on globalization, but the sad fact is that entry level programmers aren't just competing against the local competition in whatever city they choose, but they're also competing against high-level programmers in India and other lower-wage countries (Argentina among others) that will work for the same equivalent wage. While an entry level programmer would have to think about whether $20/hr is a decent wage, an experienced programmer in Argentina or India would LOVE to take that same job.

      Not to be a complete buzzkill, but at $20/hr (hopefully w/ benefits), grab that opportunity because it's a good one. If for nothing else, it gets you in the industry during a tough period at a very livable wage. Yes, you could live in NYC on that wage (would probably need a roomate or to live in one of the lower cost areas...)
  • Likewise (Score:5, Informative)

    by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:00PM (#8923668) Homepage
    Ill be graduating in May as well and the range Ive seen is 45k to 55k
    • Re:Likewise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by el-spectre ( 668104 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:04PM (#8923726) Journal
      I came out of school in 2000 (I heard the .com bubble go "pop" as I got my diploma), for 'bout 50k. Depends on your skillset and attitude.

      Be aware that you'll do better (bosses who like you and your work give better raises) if, in addition to tech skills, you show critical thinking and responsibility.
      • Re:Likewise (Score:5, Funny)

        by MagikSlinger ( 259969 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:26PM (#8923948) Homepage Journal
        Be aware that you'll do better ... [If] you show critical thinking and responsibility.

        That's just crazy talk! Those two traits are unwanted in investors, politicians and even voters!

    • Re:Likewise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by inKubus ( 199753 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:04PM (#8923729) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, that's about right. If you are a shitty programmer you'll end up making less. I don't think getting a job right out of college for a "demeaning" $25k is something anyone can complain about (give or take for metro area).

      Once you get out there and network, another job will come your way. I have a friend who graduated with honors from a big name electrical engineering college (Rice) and he's 10 months out of school and working for $30K and happy.

      It's tough out there. The solice of course is that if you're making 55k a year you're going to be doing $55k a year worth of work. Do you really want to jump headlong into 80 hours a week, on call, etc?

      It's not 1994 anymore, you have to work for your money, even in the computing business...
      • by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:17PM (#8923875) Homepage Journal
        do you really want to jump headlong into 80 hours a week, on call, etc?

        They can suck you into the 80 hour week at any salary. Likewise, many $50k plus people are adept at avoiding the 80 hour work week. You only get 45 hours of work done in an 80 hour week anyway.

        I really would be looking more at the company and projects than the salary. If the company is full of people making good money, then you will likely get good raises.

        Employers look for progression in your salary. Going in low and getting a good raise in the first year can really jump start a resume. Leaving without a good raise makes you look bad.

        So, if it looks like a company pays well, then going in low is a wise choice.

        • by MisanthropicProgram ( 763655 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:28PM (#8923966)
          I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you. In this day and age of offshoring, outsourcing, downsizing, and any other 'izing', you need to get everything you can up front.

          I've been through too many instances were I was promised all these bonuses and raises only to have them disappear later due to "lack of money." - not because of my performance. I would get these wonderful reviews and then told, "It's too bad it's not in the budget because I'd give you a big raise. I can only afford 3%."
          I would then quit. They were all pissed at me for quitting, but the old saying still holds true: "Money talks, Bullshit walks."

          • by gorfie ( 700458 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:36PM (#8924028)
            This reminds me of my first job out of college. I was fine working for my salary without benefits. Then some temporary bean counter notices that I've been working w/o benefits at full-time for well over a year and she makes it her mission to fix things. Basically I'm told (without warning) that I could only work 19 hours a week and that I would need to apply for my job when they had it posted.

            After a month I interviewed (4 hours of interviews for my own position) and I beat out someone else for my own job. The catch? They docked my pay 25% for the benefits (I was relying on my wife's benefits, $100 a month). My director said she's fix things in 3 months when the budget allowed for it. So, I basically played the waiting game and began applying for jobs after two months, and got an offer just in time to find out that she wasn't going to fix things.

            It gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment to tell her that I was moving on, especially since she was going to counter-offer but I told her not to bother (I was aware of her budget and she could only afford half of the increase I was getting). Ahhh... memories... :)
            • by Old Man Kensey ( 5209 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @01:12AM (#8925835) Homepage
              Three years ago almost to the day, I started working at comScore Networks []. My offer letter contained, among other provisions, the following:

              • In addition to my salary, I would be paid a bonus of up to 20% of my annual pay, in cash, quarterly, subject to a good performance review (there were benchmarks established -- so much percent of the bonus for reaching so high a level of objectives met).
              • They'd pay off my relocation expenses from my previous company. If I left within a year, I'd pay those expenses back.

              Sometime around the end of June, when my first performance review was due, a memo went out. The bonus plan was becoming an annual payout at the fiscal year-end, instead of quarterly, and it was going to be half cash, half stock options. Much grumbling, but in the economy of late 2001, having a job was better than not having one.

              Then right after September 11 (October 2, in fact), a bunch of us got laid off. The bonus-payout issue was raised. We were told (this is priceless) that a memo had gone out the day before, but our team hadn't gotten it because our project manager had forgotten to distribute it to us. The alleged memo said that effective with the last quarter (the first one where the deferred-bonus plan was in effect), all bonus payout was to be annual, at the end of the fiscal year, but now it would be all stock options.

              Essentially what they did was, in stages and retroactive to the previous two quarters, convert a quarterly cash bonus retroactively to an annual stock-option award. That didn't sit well with me, and with the "keeping my job" incentive removed, I decided to see what my options were.

              To make a long story short, the Virginia Department of Labor & Industry [] agreed with my interpretation, that since no employee signed any paperwork acknowledging the change in the bonus plan, the original offer letter's terms should stand. That I know of I'm the only person who fought them on this, but they didn't make me sign a confidentiality agreement so I made sure my co-workers knew. By the last day of December 2001 I had in my hand a check for 10% of my salary (6 months' worth of bonus) minus my relocation expenses. I probably could have quibbled over the meaning of "leave" versus "involuntarily terminated without cause", but by then I needed the money rather badly.

              Get all the terms of your employment up front, in writing, and keep that paperwork safe!

      • Re:Likewise (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gorfie ( 700458 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:26PM (#8923951)
        While I agree that the amount made doesn't necessarily influence one's happiness, I must disagree that higher paying jobs necessarily mean more work. I worked at a major university for 4 years, 2.5 of which were part-time while I was a student. I got paid a good student salary and all I did was fix computers. I got a full-time at the university and I was doing everything from ASP development to Exchange administration. Granted, I was self-taught and I did things poorly, but it was alot of work and I got paid pretty badly ($42K w/o benefits, $35K with). Now I'm working for a Fortune 500 and I'm making about 33% more (graduated in Fall 02). The benefits are better, the work is MUCH easier, I'm learning much more, I enjoy my work more, I work with others like myself, and I get paid more. I put in more hours at my previous job too. My advice to college folks is to get work experience if you don't have a 4.0 GPA at a recognized school (the GPA can help you alot, but if it's below 3 you NEED work experience). Work in a field you enjoy with people you like. Ignore salary unless you really NEED a certain amount (like if you have a child, etc.). Don't be too picky with your first job, it's a stepping stone to your career and you can recover from pretty much anything. Good luck grads!
        • Re:Likewise (Score:4, Interesting)

          by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:41PM (#8924070)
          While I agree with the parent poster, it is worth keeping in mind that recovering from a drastically low starting salary takes a long time. For the last few years, companies have been giving annual raises in the range of 2%, if you get one at all. I've heard of many people taking entry level jobs at really really low salaries with the promise of a big raise next year, which fails to materialize. So be willing to start low, but not too low.
      • Re:Likewise (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gid-goo ( 52690 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:18PM (#8924313)
        On call for 55k? Working 80 hour weeks? There had better be fat bonuses in real live cash, comp time, good vacation time. I work 80+ hour weeks every once in a while (I'm a games programmer) and if it wasn't for the possibility of royalties and huge bonuses once a year I wouldn't be doing it. For 55k I'll walk in at 9 and be out of there at 6 (probably more like 10 and 7 actually).
    • Re:Likewise (Score:5, Informative)

      by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) * <> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:16PM (#8923859) Homepage Journal
      I'll be graduating in May as well and the range Ive seen is 45k to 55k

      I started at $40k in January 2002, so the lower end of your range sounds reasonable for today. (It quickly went up from there, to where I was making about 50% more after two years.) As long as your expectations are reasonable (hint: $100k+ for slapping together crappy webpages in FrontPage is not reasonable), you should do OK in today's job market.

    • Re:Likewise (Score:5, Informative)

      by riptide_dot ( 759229 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:20PM (#8923894)
      It's hard to quote an average starting salary for anyone, because salaries vary so greatly across regions.

      A salary is based on several factors:
      1) The value of the position to the company (you can't really judge this one, but it matters to your potential employer - keep in mind that not all jobs are "required" for a company to survive and that if an employer decides they can't hire a qualified individual for the money they have allocated, then they might ditch the idea altogether.)
      2) The funds in the company that are available for the headcount.
      3) Your experience in the field of work.
      4) Your education level.
      5) The value of the position in the local market. (e.g. what it cost them to employ the person prior to you, or what it will cost them to hire the next person, or what it will cost them to outsource your job to another country)

      Those are in no particular order, but I would think that the most important from your potential employer's perspective is the amount of money they have available for the position.

      Your value to a potential employer doesn't necessarily pay off right away if you have no experience, since they will have to train you on how their specific environment works. People with real-life experience in a specific environment can command greater salaries because the cost their employer less overall because they require less training and are usually ready to "hit the ground running".

      My advice to you is to consider the whole package, not just the salary when you are scoping out a job. Does the employer offer good benefits? Can they offer you a signing bonus in leiu of a higher salary (it usually comes out of a different budget than the one the salary is paid from)? Is the workplace conducive to you learning a lot so you can become more marketable to your next employer? Will it be a high-stress job? Are the hours flexible? Is it close to your residence?

      While the salary is the most important part of an employment package, there's a lot more to a good job that just it's salary.

      Next time you're eating out, ask your waiter what kind of dental plan, medical plan, or 401k matching plan he has and how much it costs...

      P.S. - I've been a waiter before and most employers don't offer benefits unless you're full time (40+ hours a week), which is rare in a foodservice environment.
      • Re:Likewise (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EightBells ( 715154 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:10PM (#8924263)
        While the salary is the most important part of an employment package, there's a lot more to a good job that just it's salary.

        Just my $0.02, after 25+ years as a programmer: salary falls well below a number of other considerations.

        - Do you actively enjoy going to work each day?
        - Does your job consistently strech your technical capabilities?
        - Are your daily workmates more technically savvy than you, and happy to "mentor" you?

        Answer "yes" to these questions, and salary doesn't matter: not only will you be happy, but you'll find that your salary increases quite quickly all by itself.
    • Re:Likewise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by r_j_prahad ( 309298 ) <> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:28PM (#8924387)
      I'll be graduating in May as well and the range Ive seen is 45k to 55k

      I took early retirement last year, and that's all I was making then, after 30 years. If I had it to do all over again, I'd be an electrician, or a machinist, or a welder. Anything but a goddamned software slave. It wasn't worth it.
  • Hold on?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:00PM (#8923670)
    You found a programming job in America?
  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:00PM (#8923674) Homepage
    Approximately 3 outsourced India worker salaries per year.
  • by TheNarrator ( 200498 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:02PM (#8923692)
    Salary Wizard. []

  • by Squeamish Ossifrage ( 3451 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:02PM (#8923695) Homepage Journal
    The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps this sort of data, though possibly with some significant lag time.

    Try looking at: [].
  • by HungWeiLo ( 250320 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:02PM (#8923698)
    (Average Indian Wage) + (25% outsourcing overhead) + (25% less-likely-to-die-from-unstable-political-climate premium) + (25% understands lame jokes from upper mgmt premium)
  • Anything. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:02PM (#8923699) Homepage Journal
    Seriously...anything you can get is enough. It's an employer's market right now, and they know it. What you need to look for is the experience. A year or two down the road when a better job comes along, who's going to get hired? The kid who coded for peanuts but got two years of experience, or the kid who waited tables and got zero relevant professional experience?

    Only take the table-waiting job if you can accomplish more worthwhile projects on your own time, and have excellent documentation skills to prove what you did.
  • Sorry pal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:02PM (#8923704)
    Gone are the days when having a computer science degree was a license to riches. People in the service sector, eg. waiting tables can make more money than a grad. So what!

    I've been programming etc for over 20 years and I could probably make more money by driving a truck; various trades such as plumbing, electrician, ...

  • by .@. ( 21735 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:03PM (#8923715) Homepage
    I was hoping that the high level of skill required would account for something

    A college degree does not confer skill. Skill must be demonstrated before it can be rewarded.
    • by rritterson ( 588983 ) * on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:31PM (#8923987)
      skill is the application of knowledge. A degree is proof of knowledge, and thus proof of possibility of skill, which is much more certain than someone with no degree. Even so, I think you're just being flippant.

      Of course, someone with 10 years of experience would have the most demostrated ability which is why those persons make the most money.
  • Bad news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by betelgeuse68 ( 230611 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:06PM (#8923753)
    If you're starting out, I have bad news - given the decreases in salaries for people who've had 10 years experience, I hate to say this but the timing of your graduation is QUITE BAD. Offshoring fueling the latter along with the economic downturn and I don't expect things to improve much.

    I have over 10+ years in tech, worked at a major software company and left for the dot bomb craze. I gave up lots of salary for equity and while the company was profitable and public, the market tanked a mere few weeks before my first vesting period. Even if it hadn't the AMT tax would have probably screwed me over anyway.

    Since then I've worked some side stuff, waited tables, had the stupidity to try to sell cars and only in the last few months have things returned to what I call "normal."

    Never mind that I worked on shrink wrapped products, developed a source level debugger, have had lots of experience on both Windows and UNIX. It all didn't matter to anyone.

    I have to say, despite returning to a salary level that bests my previous best. I'm a changed person. Save, save, save.

    IT blows. That's my 2 cents. HR people simply care about the last six months and are clueless if you are well ahead of your peers. They don't have the capacity to make this judgement.

    You could tell them you architected (as an example) SSH and Kerberos have encryption patents and they might ask some stupid arse question like "Do you know JavaScript?"

    Anyone starting school today... my advice is forget tech. If you feel it in your soul (like you should do it), fine, go to a tech school like DeVry, start making money and save it. Going to traditional 4 year programs for CS is an utter waste of time. Way too much change and like I said it's always about what you did in the last six months.
  • You're worried? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grahamlee ( 522375 ) <{iamleeg} {at} {}> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:07PM (#8923758) Homepage Journal

    You've been offered a job and you're worried about the pay? It's better to be worried about finding a job, which is the bit you've already achieved. America (and indeed Britain) is in that all-too-familiar position where the number of CS graduates outguns the number of CS vacancies, so you can't expect to be paid too much until your name is equated with redhotness. Worse still for CS grads (at least this is how it works in the UK) is that many employers in the IT sector don't want CS grads to fill their computing positions, they want mathematics, science or even classics grads who they see as having more problem solving skills. As one employer said to me when I was starting at University (physics, before you ask) it's easier to teach a thinker to program a computer than it is to teach a computer programmer to think.

    So you start at the low end of the pay scale. That's not so bad. In a few years the waiter will still be earning the same salary when you're on a bit more.

  • Why should they? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SillySnake ( 727102 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:08PM (#8923769)
    How many people graduated with you? How many other schools graduated as many, or more people at the same time? How many programming jobs do you think exist? Granted, this number is growing, but still. As an electrical engineering major, I can tell that at least half the people that graduate aren't worth having in a company. They just don't retain knowledge and apply it well. Why should a company assume you're worth more money? You're going to have to prove yourself to them. For all they know, you're the guy like my lab partner, who did no design on a major project, built none of it, and wrote 4 of a final report when I asked him to write six. Of his four pages, I totally rewrote one, made him rewrite one, and had to correct all his others. One of the mechanical engineers that I work with has a resume that would impress people at NASA and JPL, but in reality, he knows very little. Considering the number of graduates who know very little these days, I think you should be happy for a job. Besides, you ought to take one based on what you'll be doing, not so much how much money you'll make. With a CS degree, those dreams of high salaries you had going into college faded while you were there. Work your way, and be happy with it.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:10PM (#8923795)
    1) Where are the offers, and more specifically what is the cost of living there? I would expect a job to pay around 1.5-2x as much in the Bay Area as in Tucson for the simle reason you'll need the extra money to have the same quality of life. Consider what it costs to get a house, go out to eat, etc where the job is. If it's cheap, don't expect to make as much. I mean in Tucson, you can get a 2000 square foot house for under $150k which works out to payments of under $1000/month. It's hard to impossible to get even a studio apartment in some cities for that price.

    2) What will the workload be like? If this is a company that believes in supporting it's employee, a 40 hour work week, and low stress, that is a factor. Don't sell yourself short on quality of life, but realise that less work makes you less valuable and thus will pay less.

    3) Benefits. Look at what the company offers you in other benefits, those all factor in too. If they pay your health insurance for you, that's something to factor in, it's not cheap. Same with other kinds of insurance. Make sure you are comparing the total amount you are compansated (as in how much they pay you and how much you'd have to pay for the benefits if they didn't) not just the amount you take home.

    4) Vacation. What's their policy on that? If the company offers good amounts of off time, that's something that's nice. Also generally reduces your pay though.

    5) Public or private? If you work a government job, it'll generally pay less than the private sector. The compensation is that most tend to have excellent benefits, plenty of vacation time, and little to no overtime.

    So look at the area you'd be living in, what kind of buying power you'd have with your paycheck, and what they offer in additonal benefits that you'd need to purchase yourself if they didn't. Then decide if what they are offering you is reasonable.

    Also consider what kind of learning experience it will be, what kind of industry connections it will give you, and what kind of advancement oppertunities you'll have. If a job pays less, but puts you in the position to advance quickly and to a high level, while learning valuable skills, it's probably worth it.

    So don't sell yourself short, but don't get caught up in the dollar amount you take home.
  • in 1994 (Score:5, Funny)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:11PM (#8923816) Homepage Journal
    I made 28K on my first job as Jr. Programmer.

    In 1995, I was making 55K
    2001, I was making $60 per hour
    2002 60K per year
    2004, 400 a week with unemployment.

    The look on my wifes face when I told her we were going to have to move into one of her moms houses, priceless.

    For everything else, there's Bahnglor express.
  • while it seems like the dotcom craze is over, we are really still at the dawn of what the internet and personal computers can do... it will be decades before this tech has realized it's full potential and the arc of innovation wanes and computers/ internet become just another commodity like the cotton gin or the radio

    therefore, within the span of your lifetime, there is much impact you can make on this world, personally, and of course, financially

    so after you come home from your thankless soul-sucking underpaid 9-5 existence, don't forget to tinker with the very sparks of imagination which got you interested in computers in the first place

    someone reading slashdot right now, either you, me, or someone else, will probably be making a contribution to mankind in the field of computer science which will forever alter humanity, and perhaps make that person fabulously rich... but that's an afterthought

    your prime motivation should be happiness, not money

    no six figure slary is worth self-hatred

    don't give up on any of the things that got you interested in computers in the first place just because you can't seem to find your happiness in a cubicle

    you will never be happy working for someone else, you will only be happy pursuing your own interests

    so think of your job as something to keep your brain cells well-exercised, and something that keeps food in the refridgerator, and therefore you won't look to your salary as some end-all justification for your existence

    your job will forever be little more than just a means to an ends, unless you yourself are deadset on making your life little more than what your employer decides you are worth, and that would be a sad day indeed
  • Waiting tables... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Supp0rtLinux ( 594509 ) <> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:12PM (#8923827)
    While you could make more waiting tables, as you say, you won't be gathering experince in the process. I'm a sysadmin... have been for 10+ years. It was around year 2 or 3 of experience that I was able to make a salary jump... actually, right after year 3 of experience, my salary doubled. Before being a sysadmin, I drove two trucks. Driving tow trucks paid better. But had I kept driving tow trucks and not moved to computers, I'd be making roughly 25% more now than when I started. And therw wouldn't have been a "3 year, double my salary" opportunity. Sometimes the temporary sacrafice has the long term payoff.

    BTW and FYI: you're in a very competitive market right now. Many development jobs are going overseas and there are a lot of developers with a lot more experience than you have that are looking for work right now. Many have been out of work so long, they'd gladly take the meager offers you're getting. Consider yourself lucky and take an offer. If a better one comes along within 3 months, take it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:14PM (#8923841)
    Assuming you are single, and just out of collge, and still willing to share an apartment to keep costs down, take any job offering $30k or more, AND is something you are interested in or could see a future in. In other words don't get hung up on salary alone, but consider what you want to do with your career and what you want to do. If you don't know exactly what you want to do with your skills, consider jobs that might offer a variety of opportunity. Remember, like any job, there will be pluses and minuses and you might have to reall look to see what the opportunities are.

    As for the money, remember the dot com days are over, and paying your bills while getting your career going is not a bad way to start in the "real world".
  • by Bubblehead ( 35003 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:14PM (#8923846) Homepage Journal
    SD Magazine [] has an excellent 2003 Survey [] that slices and dices salaries by age, experience, region, etc. - US only. Free registration required.

  • by gmajor ( 514414 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:17PM (#8923878) Journal
    I've also been trying to find starting salaries for several established companies. Where on the net can I find this information (for free)?

    Does anyone know what the starting salary is at Cisco? HP (California site)? Intel? Microsoft? Sun? Consulting companies (IBM included)? I'd appreciate responses from anyone that knows... even anonymous responses!

    Meanwhile, here are a few facts and figures I've gathered through some research. Can anyone confirm these numbers? Caveat lector, as these are _all_ from sources whose accuracy I cannot ascertain:

    IBM pays about $55K on average, starting off. However, they have many sites, so it would vary.

    HP (in Texas) pays about $50-55K starting for technical positions.

    Accenture non-consulting roles start out in the mid/high 20's for technical positions, from what I've heard. On the bright side, these jobs are unlikely to be outsourced, because you can't get much cheaper than that!

    I've also heard that Intel pays very well starting off. But I've been unable to get a number for them :-(
    • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @10:06PM (#8924708) Journal
      I do not know the position that you are seeking to apply, but if you are looking for any engineering position with a 4 year bachelor's degree in something like engineering or the sciences, you would get about $55,000 at HP (starting salary).

      I've heard that Intel pays a little more, but maybe not more than $60k.

      It would really depend on how much experience you have, what is it that you are looking for, the area you seek to work in and your degree.
  • by Lechter ( 205925 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:18PM (#8923885)

    The thing that really most matters your experience and/or your domain knowledge. If nothing else "real world" experience implies that you're generally familiar with the tools used by development teams that you wouldn't necessarily have needed while you were in college - thinks like source control, and bug/change request systems that simply weren't important for the projects a lone student (or even a team of students) would have used. These tools and habits aren't necessarily difficult, but they do come with time.

    Domain knowledge about general ins & outs, terminology, best practices etc. of an industry is also something that employers look for.

    Keep in mind that unless you can prove you have either of these, perspective employers are looking at paying you and receiving limited returns whilst you acquire "on the job training".

    PS. ...and no employers really don't value "keeping abreast of industry trends" (reading /., the Reg, &c)

  • by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:21PM (#8923905) Homepage
    With your first job, you should be more concerned about the opportunities you will be exposed to, especially with the job market tightening due to outsourcing. You will need to prove your chops really quickly in this business in order to survive your first layoff (which may be around the corner). I'm sure you've probably already catagorized one of your offers as "this is more interesting technology," but that shouldn't be the only non-salary consideration. Will you be exposed to the whole development life cycle, or confinded to only doing test or only documentation? Which job has the better educational reimbursement for grad school (you should be registered for grad school already - take one easy class for a term but then dive right in. Disenrolling for even one semster makes it *so* hard to start again)? Will one of the positions get you a certification or security clearance that might be useful for future positions (remember: you can't outsource defense work)? How stable is each position? Some people like small startups because they give you an opportunity to grow, but this means nothing if they don't last long enough for you to learn anything!

    In short, as long as the salary offer isn't an obvious attempt to screw you (look at both your offers and also ask classmates with offers from other companies and see if they're within, say, a 10% margin), you should be OK. Dive in on your first job, learn everything you can, get started on that graduate degree. In two years take a look around and see if your salary isn't up to par. Go to your manager, make a case on all the fine work you've done, and see what they can do. If you get no action by the tiem you get the graduate degree, start shopping around.

  • my advice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theMerovingian ( 722983 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:24PM (#8923925) Journal

    I've been out of school for 2 yrs, so some might disagree.....

    Hold out for a job in an industry you want to be in. Pay is secondary unless you have kids and stuff - it's better to get your foot in the door somewhere that does interesting development on projects you want to work on.

    If you take some job admin'ing windows boxes for the Arkansas Bureau of Indian Relations, it's easy to get pigeon-holed. Along comes a wifester, and suddenly its hard to uproot everything and take a risk with a cool startup or consulting firm.

    My advice: don't worry about a few dollars, go out there and get the most interesting job you can, regardless of location. Go balls to the wall for a few years, learn your trade, and have a good time.

    Interesting/hard jobs in technical fields generally pay good, but you will never be the best or make the best money unless you are excited and interested in getting out there and writing code.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:24PM (#8923929) Homepage Journal
    if you are in the US.

    Go to your local employment dept.

    They should have many programs to help you, like resume writing, interviewing techniques, how to negotiate, anf they are free.

    You can also get a list of average salaries for your area, as well as have networking opportunities.

    Also, decide what is important to you:

    What your are programming
    the company you work for.

    Now, lets say what you want is a large company, where you will work a pretty regular scedule, 40-50 hours a week.
    Call the HR dept. for the appropriet company, and ask for an Informational interview' with a manager in the appropriet dept., or with an HR person who deals with the IT staff.

    When you get one, show up.
    you are not interviewing for a job..directly.

    Ask questions like, what skills are they loking for. what would a Jr. programmer expect to make, there turnover rate, etc.

    Then send them a thank you card.

    Follow up a month later.

    If this doesn't get you an interview, it will at least give you information you can use to direct your career.
  • by CaptainPinko ( 753849 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:34PM (#8924012)
    I am also persuing a degree in ComputerScience. I am working on a combined Honours with Computer Science and Philosophy, but am planning on getting a Master's or PhD. I was wondering about how much does having OSS development on your resumé improve your chances? Does it count for anything in the 'real world'? Do employers look at it as 'real experience' like as if I had been been employed? Really what is it all worth? For anyone hiring what are you looking for? Would say that a Philosophy degree brings a little something more to the table (I'm taking philosohy because I enjoy it and find it more intellectually demanding than under-grad CompSci, not for monetary gain, but I do figure it should at least show that I am a flexible thinker)? How about non-CS job experience?
  • by batura ( 651273 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:41PM (#8924072)
    I've had this problem in my recent recruiting adventures. What I found to be the most correct assumption is that if you are looking for a simple programming job, it won't pay much.

    If you search for a job as a software engineer (which you should be prepared for given a 4 year cs degree), the starting salary should be much higher.

    I've recently interviewed for two positions at the same company. The software engineering position paid signifigantly better than the programmer and one of the recruiters and I joked about the likelyhood that the programmer would eventually get outsourced.

    This seems to be a pretty common thread in American companies. Programmers, in the view of corporate America, add lines of code. Software engineers add value, and are much harder to repalce and ofter make much more. Who are you going to replace? Someone who writes codes ``head-down'' all day, or someone who designs the product, meets with customers, documents and eventually programmes?
  • by CrazyTalk ( 662055 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:42PM (#8924074)
    Not to be too much of a downer, but here's one for $70 a week - and you will find lower salaries than that posted on this site here []
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @08:56PM (#8924173) Homepage
    If you actually studied hard, and know your way around, you should consider working up a portfolio. Most of the traditional creative arts require a portfolio. For years people saw computer science as an engineering-like process, and assumed a degree alone meant something. Actually, nowadays, a traditional engineering degree without a masters or PhD thesis doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot either.

    But I digress. The point is it is extremely hard to tell how proficient a programmer is by simply talking to them. OTOH, five minutes browsing their source code tells you exactly what they know, and how they use that knowledge. Beware though; if you didn't actually learn anything in school, that too will show through like a sore thumb - if this is the case, avoid the source code and try to get the interviewer to talk about his kids.

    Pick something random, peculiar, or fun. Try to do something that exercises all the areas you feel you are proficient in. Then write a simple program - a couple thousand lines is more than enough. If you're writing OO and use UML, consider adding that to the package. Same with unit tests, flowcharts, build scripts, or whatever else are the artifacts of your development process.

    It has worked in my favour on job interviews, and I always appreciate when a candidate that I'm interviewing has something to show.
  • by SirShadowlord ( 32925 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:05PM (#8924226) Homepage
    So, as one who has hired (and been hired) at a number of startups and medium size companies, I have a bit on insight into the dynamics of what salaries have been doing in the valley since 1996 (when I started at Netscape). I'm not so sure how the specific analysis applies elsewhere, but the general advice applies.

    Basically things got out of control between 98 and 2001 as venture capital flowed into companies that were required to grow quickly by the venture capital. All of the good talent was hired quickly, and then some of the average talent was hired. All that was left was the basic low-no skill talent.

    So, there was a situation in which it became difficult to find low-average talent, and our standard economic models tell us that when demand goes up and supply stays relatively stable (it takes a little bit of time to supply new IT/Developers) that the price per unit will go up.

    And that's what happened. The market tried to correct, everybody came flooding into the valley (as evidenced by Traffic Jams, zero rental inventory and huge monthly rentals) and, in order to have any chance of holding onto employees, companies started increasing salaries.

    Good employees had great salaries and average employees had salaries that they would never normally be able to earn as companies scrambled to bring on staff. Salary inversions happened all of the time as an employee who started at $50K/year doing desktop support was making $20K/year less than a guy who started a year later. Most companies leveled these off, bringing up the $50K/year employee to $70K which created even more pricing pressure on employees.....

    And then the Bust in 2001 when Venture capital dried up, the stock market basically collapsed. Public companies could no longer do secondaries to raise capital and Private companies, well, they grew very, very slowly if at all.

    Companies laid off employees by the thousands and people fled the valley. (As evidenced by vast rental inventories, much lower traffic on 880 and 101 and a 30-40% drop in the cost of rental housing). Salaries in some cases dropped (HP/Microsoft dropped by approx 10% in the valley) and in almost every case froze for several years for existing employees.

    For new employees, it was (and still is) a totally different situation - Basically for every IT job there are about 100-200 applicants. Only the good ones get hired and their salaries are at a competitive level. A solid IT Desktop Support employee at a mid-level company can expect to make 96-97 salaries in the valley ($50K-$60K). Sysadmins with 8-10 years experience are making $70-$90K. Everything has cooled off and the employer is in the drivers seat again.

    The good news is that Great Engineers (IT/Software Developers) are _always_ impossible to find in the valley, good/bad/otherwise. You basically have to steal them from another company in order to hire them as they don't typically come directly out of school. Their salaries haven't dropped at all (as their companies held onto them - Great employees are always the last to be laid off) at their current salary, or they made a lateral move (equal salary) to a new company if their previous company went out of business.

    What this means for you - If you love the business ignore the salary - it means nothing in the first 3-4 years of your career. Absolutely nothing. Work for free if you have to. Focus only on three things:

    o The Quality of the Job - What will you be doing, will you have the resources to do it, will you be given lots of authority and opportunity to do new things.

    o The Quality of the Company. Does it treat it employees ethically, Is it well financed (!!!), does it have great management, do you have highly skilled coworkers who will cross train you/develop you.

    o The Quality of the Opportunity - Is this company in a hot space, are they developing a great product, are they first movers in a cool new technology that will become a standard.

    Everything else will take care of itself if you are passionate, skilled and focussed. Don't worry about negotiating/looking for a great wage/etc... That will take care of itself. I promise you.

    Even if you do make less than a waiter for the first 18 months or so. :-)
  • by localman ( 111171 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @09:07PM (#8924236) Homepage
    If a signifigant reason you trained to be a programmer was the money, you'll almost surely be a lousy programmer and you'll be unlikely to make much money.

    I make good money as a programmer, but I started low ($30K in late '98). Though at the time that was actually a raise, the main reason I did it was because I just loved coding, solving problems in a practical way, increasing company efficiency, etc. Because of that I got promoted pretty quickly, and hired away once people who knew me needed someone with the skills.

    I'm not saying I'm great -- but I do love what I do, and that is why I'm pretty good at it. I've never met any good coders who didn't have some degree of love for the work itself.

    In other words, I'd probably still be doing this if I got paid less than a waiter. Which is why I'm paid more ;)

  • Just starting now? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ttyp0 ( 33384 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @10:13PM (#8924777) Homepage
    If your just starting your job search now, you're already way behind. The people who are making good money right out of school are the ones who worked full time during school. People wonder why they can't find a job after graduating college. You know what, there are thousands of people just like you with the same experience competing for a handful of jobs. You need to be different than the rest, and to be different that means skills and experience. If your a college freshman reading this, start looking for a job this summer, instead of drinking beer and partying. Get an internship or co-op and you'll be the one laughing at graduation time... (I speak from experience)
  • by moojin ( 124799 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @10:16PM (#8924787)
    "entry level software engineer" is not the right title. try "entry level programmer". at the entry level, i doubt you would do any engineering of software. you will most likely be on a team of programmers with specific requirements for the programming project.

  • by brsmith4 ( 567390 ) <brsmith4&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @10:43PM (#8924970)
    Most of the Jobs that I have found require minimum work experience along with a degree. That level of work experience is typically 3-5 years. Please do not confuse learning to code on your own or any other such nonsense as work experience. Yes, it helps to learn on your own, but its much better to get away from the computer and get work experience, even if it's a 7 dollar an hour internship at the university.

    Well, since you are already graduating, I hope you have work experience otherwise, it's going to be another 3-5 years before you can even hope of getting a job that makes those 4-5 years in school worth it.

    I've got a year and a half left (till my BS) and I already have 3 years of experience in computational software development and 5 years for systems administration (mostly parallel development and design and deployment of beowulf systems). I got lucky in high school and grabbed an intership at a local manufacturer. Worked for their IT department doing piddly things, however, the entry on my resume and some dumb luck made future Jobs come to me.

    I feel bad if you are getting this news too late. A friend of mine already graduated last semester and had little to no work experience. The best offer he got was an internship (internship??? the guy already graduated!) with IBM for around 12 bucks an hour to audit web code.

    To answer your question: If you have no work experience, CNN claims that the average out-of-college CS degree holder will get a starting pay of around $48,000 a year. I call bullshit on that one and have a more conservative estimate of around $35,000 if you get lucky (it greatly depends on your location). At this point, you should just take what you can get and keep your eyes open for better opportunities. At this point, someone else is probably right behind you in the H.R. line, with his/her CS degree, drooling for that $10 an hour job.

    If you have good work experience and have worked in a specialized field (not systems administration), the salary possibilities are endless if you know where to look. Accept nothing less than $50,000 or $60,000 if you know you're good, you have the experience to back it up, and you have sufficient funds to go a month or two without a job.
  • well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MattW ( 97290 ) <> on Tuesday April 20, 2004 @11:58PM (#8925392) Homepage
    I advise that you look strongly at contract-to-hire type work, or just straight contract work, if you're good. If you were better than your peers in school, are more into what you do, etc, then this will likely pay off. Talent, skill, and ability pay. So take a contract job to make yourself low-risk for your employer, and you'll likely find yourself being reeled in as a permanent. Negotiate up.

    If you're not good, say under the 75th percentile in skill, this will not work well, and it will be best at the 90th+. But if you're good, think about this.
  • by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @02:55AM (#8926291)
    I've worked for the past 8 months as the tech for a bank, having graduated nearly a year ago with a degree in Computer Science and every damn honor my college was allowed to bestow on me. I have written many many thousands of lines of code for 'fun', although I haven't kept track so it could just as well be millions. I started at $33k and got a raise to $36k after 6 months. With the hours I end up working, though, that averages out to about $12/hour.

    But the sun is shining through - I am currently tendering more than one offer in the $45/hour range, and the contract is short enough that I can still get more education starting in the fall if the sun isn't still shining.

    Moral of the story: Take what you can get. You need a paycheck so you can get situated and out of the college lifestyle. Eventually, a real opportunity will knock.
  • by Goth Biker Babe ( 311502 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2004 @04:22AM (#8926590) Homepage Journal
    Programmers are the production line workers of the 21 Century. It's not programmers that are needed but software engineers and the two terms are not synonyms. Software engineers analyse the problem, create designs and document them, create models (e.g. UML), use patterns, define APIs, integrate existing software components and the like. Once you've done all that properly the rest is just a mechanical process that any reasonably competant individual should be able to undertake. You need some management skills, design skill and a good general knowledge of technologies and software engineering concepts.

    The company I work for has outsourced some of it's programming requirement. This has indirectly sorted the software engineers from the programmers in house. For a typical project we now carry out requirements analysis, an iterative design approach resulting in a detailed model and documentation and often framework code. The then whole thing goes to our outsources so they can do the boring bit, filling in the blanks.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain