If you’ve just graduated college or a coding boot camp, and
you want to make lot of money as a software engineer at a big tech firm, you
might want to avoid IBM.
IBM’s base salaries for associate engineers, the lowest rung of its engineering ladder, average $91,357, according to data compiled by levels.fyi. That’s in addition to an average bonus of $4,214 and stock options worth… $286. That’s far lower than what Google, Apple, and Microsoft pay their starting software engineers:
In addition, it’s lower than the average salary in tech,
which is $93,244 (according to the
most recent Dice Salary Survey). Nor do things get much better when IBM engineers
begin climbing the ranks: Staff engineers, the next level up, average $112,400
in base salary, with an average bonus of $2,300 and stock worth $900 per year.
Again, this is generous by the standards of most industries (consider that
median household income in the United States is just
under $60,000 per year), but it lags behind what other big tech firms pay
their ascending engineers.
According to Glassdoor, IBM’s entry-level software engineers
make $85,362, which is even less than the levels.fyi estimates. Meanwhile,
IBM software engineer salaries at $81,002—remarkably low for the industry
(although its sample size is notably small).
However, IBM offers quite a bit of money to those with highly specialized skills. Back in 2017, Tom Eck, the CTO of industry platforms at IBM and a software developer who has been involved in A.I. as far back as the early ’90s, told the audience at the Markets Media’s Summer Trading event in New York that top-tier A.I. researchers “are getting paid the salaries of NFL quarterbacks, which tells you the demand and the perceived value.”
insinuation, of course, was that A.I. experts at IBM were earning those kinds
of paychecks. And that would certainly make sense, considering how IBM is “all
in” on A.I. initiatives such as Watson.
For newbie software engineers without
those rare skills, though, IBM might not deliver the most desirable starting
salary of the big tech companies. At least Big Blue, like many firms, is more
amenable to hiring
tech professionals who lack a degree, but have skills and an aptitude to