Battle Of The Tech Paycheck: San Francisco vs. Seattle

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported fewer job losses in March – the smallest loss in three years. But this only shows part of the story.

According to the Glassdoor Employment Confidence survey, fewer employees reported layoffs (48%) than prior recent quarters yet more employees (55%) said their employer made changes to the number of staff, organizational structure, compensation and benefits, or other perks in the past six months. In fact, 28% said that their own pay was reduced in some way in the past six months. So while the recent jobs data is a positive step, employees may still be wary of what’s ahead: in fact, 76% said they would be willing to take a pay cut to keep their job and 88% of unemployed job seekers would take less than they want.

Since many of the “rules” for pay have changed in the past two years, we decided to run some analysis and found some interesting notes for those in the tech sector.  While the average reported salaries on declined 6% in the past nine months¹, the average tech salary rose 3%.  Not to mention that a new Forrester report on information technology provided further evidence that an industry recovery is under way, with U.S. spending now expected to grow faster than previously believed.  Forrester Research now expects information-technology spending in the United States to grow by 8.4 percent this year, to $550 billion. That is up from its January forecast of a 6.6 percent increase compared with 2009.

So what does this mean to those competing for some of the largest categories of tech jobs?

We decided to look at the two hot beds for tech on the West Coast: the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle/Redmond region to see how each currently stacks up for pay – and see what some of the top companies are paying in competition for talent. Washington State is the headquarters for well known tech giants like Microsoft and whereas California is the home location for powerhouses like Apple and Google.

Across major categories of tech jobs in the past nine months, it’s not surprising the high cost-of-living Bay Area has more pay pull over Seattle – with average base salaries averaging between 5% and 28% more – the most notable in the electronics industry.

Here are a few  highlights from the Glassdoor analytics team that show which job categories in the tech sector rewards employees the most – and least – and some of the variances across markets:

Highest paying tech industries:

  • Seattle: Telecommunications equipment – $103,143 average annual base salary
  • San Francisco: Computer hardware – $112,065 average annual base salary

Lower paying tech industries:

  • Seattle: Industrial manufacturing – $69,057 average annual base salary
  • San Francisco: Industrial manufacturing – $76,808 average annual base salary also breaks down pay for specific job titles at specific companies.  The table below looks at popular job titles in both markets. Again, the Bay Area yields higher base pay, but the gap is lowest for product managers.

Which tech companies pay better in this market?   We took advantage of’s detail on pay by location and years of experience and have broken down what top tech companies pay for Software Engineers with 1-3 years of experience in each city.

So whether  you are currently in the market, one of the 36% who expect a pay raise in the next 12 months³, or one who expects to jump ship once the economy recovers, take some time to see what you’re currently worth in today’s market on   And, it can never hurt to make sure the company is a cultural fit for you by reading company reviews from other employees.

¹Nine month time period includes salary reports submitted between July 2009 and March 2010.

²Provides average salary; Based on at least 10 salary reports

³ Harris Interactive® fielded the Q1 Employment Confidence study on behalf of from March 19-23, 2010 via the QuickQuerySM online omnibus service among 2,315 adults ages 18 and older of whom 1,225 were employed full time/part-time and 210 were unemployed but looking. Data were weighted using propensity score weighting to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity, and propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.