Developer Salary Showdown: Tech Companies vs Agencies
Posted by Roger Jin on June 13, 2017
The digital revolution is showing no sign of slowing down, which is great news for developers. The only real question is, where should a contemporary developer choose to work?
Now that 35 percent of the US workforce is freelance, the numbers reveal that carving out your own path is becoming the norm. But if you’re determined to leave your mark on the digital world as part of a large brand, you’re left with two options: a leading tech company or a leading agency.
But before we crunch the numbers, let’s take a look at the benefits of each.
What Developers Really Want
A good developer doesn’t code just for the money. A good developer wants to make an impact. Software builder Rob Walling did a great job of listing what developers want in a job, for their career and desired lifestyle. Inspired by his list, here are some especially relevant concerns for software developers:
- Being in an environment that promotes individual to success
- Having excellent management to pathe the way for projects
- Learning new things and exercising creativity
- Building something that matters
- Not having to get approval for every micro-step
- Having few legacy constraints
Interestingly, Inc’s research suggests, while compensation is the most common reason for software engineers to quit, they would accept a lower salary to work in a great culture and for a great brand.
The book Drive by Daniel Pink famously describes employee motivations. On top of money, people are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In short, when the bills are covered, you become more interested in perks without a price tag.
Having said all that, everybody has their own unique wants and needs, so without any further ado, let’s get into the comparison between top technology companies and top agencies.
Working for Leading Tech Brands: Salaries and Perks
Going into 2017, here’s what interns and new graduates can expect from Silicon Valley:
Pretty generous, right? But let’s dig a little deeper.
Working for Google is the dream of many software developers.
At the time of writing, $112,672 is the typical Google Web Developer salary per year, while salaries across the board at Google can range from $64,143 to $152,669.
Now, Google is a company that can offer its employees incredible perks outside of the base salary — and that’s exactly what they do. From sleeping pods to the famous Googleplex headquarters, a gig with them comes with extraordinary benefits.
Here are some perks that they publish:
- Generous parental leave policies, retirement savings plans and death benefits
- Onsite fitness, wellness and healthcare services
- Google matches all charitable donations and adds donations for hours their employees rack up as volunteers
- Flexible working hours and vacation time
- In some Google offices, you can even bring your dog to work
At the time of writing, the typical Microsoft Web Developer salary is at $83,609 per annum, although Web Developer salaries can range from $56,000 to $126,347.
They highlight the following perks:
- A wide range of healthcare benefits
- Flexible work hours
- Microsoft matches all charitable donations made by employees
- Onsite fitness centers
- Company-wide social clubs
- Electric car charging stations
Let us also remember that Microsoft now owns Linkedin. Joining LinkedIn specifically would bring you the following benefits:
- Medical insurance for you and your family
- Adoption assistance
- Access to Lynda.com courses
- Pet insurance
At the time of writing, Web Developer salaries at Salesforce can range from $101,023 to $108,668.
Beyond the basic salary, here are additional perks from third party reviews and their official benefits website:
- Discounts ranging from fitness and sunglasses
- Subsidized public transportation
- Education reimbursement
- Free food and drink
- Onsite package/mailing service
$73,097 is the typical salary of a Web Developer in IBM. The salaries at IBM can range from $40,640 to $87,847.
IBM employees can also expect to benefit for perks such as:
- A career development program
- Leisure time through vacation, personal leave, and holiday plans
- Income protection in case of illness
The typical Oracle Web Developer salary is $65,579. Web Developer salaries at Oracle can range from $54,000 to $78,718.
Here are additional benefits for Oracle employees:
- Employee stock purchase plans
- Child care and car insurance
- Discounts on travel, entertainment, events and electronics
- Group legal services
Working for Leading Agencies: Salaries and Perks
Because the overwhelming majority of agencies are private companies, it’s a little harder to figure out what the average salary is for interns and graduates. However, we dug deep to find the relevant numbers from the world’s leading agencies.
At Something Digital, you can expect a salary within the range of $60,170 to $119,488 at the time of writing.
They list non-monetary perks as follows:
- Continuous paid training, certificates and conferences
- Free lunch
- Open door policy on all levels
- Launch celebrations
- Team activities
The typical The Nerdery Software Developer salary is $74,727. Software Developer salaries can range from $55,803 to $97,792.
Additional perks include:
- A breakfast bar
- Foosball tables
- Video games
- Free-flowing caffeine
Developer salaries at Siteworx can range from $49,152 to $64,645.
- 401k contributions
- Diverse medical plans
- Monthly cell phone stipend
- Remote working
At the time of writing, Faster Solutions pays its developers around $33,907 at Faster Solutions.
Reviews of the company cites the following perks:
- Strong internal structure that promotes communication
- The chance to work with big clients
- Friendly and supportive management
At Verndale, you can expect a salary between $79,742 to $140,095.
They list the following perks:
- Company outings
- Discounted Zip Car membership
- Bi-weekly visits from an ice cream truck during the summer
- Catered lunches every Friday from Boston’s top restaurants
Over to You
As the numbers show, no agency will be able to match the salary or perks dished out by the likes of Google. However, they seem to be the exception to the rule, as many of the listed agencies offer competitive salaries when compared to the likes of Microsoft and IBM.
However, a notable perk offered by big tech brands is the stock purchase plan that accompanies the salary. While earnings are not assured, those stocks have the potential to make you quite rich indeed.
A differentiator for agencies would be the type of brands they would work with. You would get to work with ambitious startups and enterprise-grade companies looking to push the boundaries of current technologies. An agency like Siteworx for example lists clients ranging from Time Warner to Sears.
On top of project diversity, you may also prefer the fact that most agencies have far fewer employees compared to tech giants, giving your role more purpose, and making the community feel more accessible.
In the end, both avenues have their perks. Some are monetary, while others are cultural. It’s down to you to decide which option best suits your world view.
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