# Salary of a Software Engineer at Google
Are you just starting your journey as a Software Engineer, or have you been out of the job market for a while? You might be wondering what the typical salary of a Software Engineer at Google comes out to be (or any other tech company that's worth joining!). Never fear, SWEPro is here to break down the key components that make up an engineer's total compensation (TC) and what salary progressions look like for those of us that have been in the SWE field for the past several years.
# Anatomy of a typical Software Engineering Salary at Google
If you've never been in the SWE industry, you might be surprised to learn that SWE compensation packages aren't always just comprised of cash! Further, although big tech companies typically offer a fairly standardized comp package in terms of the different components of said package, the total reward amount given to each engineer varies wildly by level, company size, company brand strength, where the company is located in the world, and many other factors.
For the purposes of this section, let's assume we're talking about Google or another similarly large, US-based tech company. At these companies, you'll often find that a large chunk of compensation comes in the form of equity awards which have distributions every few months for a period of usually 4 years. An example compensation package for an E3 (junior) level engineer at Google is listed below (credit to levels.fyi (opens new window), an excellent resource for comparing salaries across levels at many tech companies):
As you can see, while the base salary ($137k) is the vast majority of the TC for this candidate, there's also a substantial stock grant at an additional $33k/year as well as a bonus. How do stock grants work you might ask? The answer depends on which type of grant it is!
# Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) and Incentive Stock Options (ISOs)
Google, and most other large tech companies issue Restricted Stock Units (RSUs), which means that every few months for a period of usually 4 years, Google will issue you a certain number of shares of $GOOG based on the current stock price when the offer letter was sent. To make the offer look impressive for the candidate, many recruiters will list the stock compensation as the total value instead of the per year value which can be misleading. In other words, this candidate's offer probably read something like "Stock awards: $132,000" which is technically true, but keep in mind that this candidate won't see the full $132,000 (or more/less, if the stock appreciates/depreciates) until 4 years of service, and sometimes there's even an initial cliff period (typically a year) where the candidate doesn't receive any shares at all. Confused? Don't worry, we cover compensation in in our software engineering course (opens new window) and go into great detail to explain how the math works!
On the other hand, keep in mind that many smaller startups don't use RSUs at all and instead give employees the option to buy into incentive stock options (ISOs). There can be serious tax benefits with ISOs, but they also come with some significant "gotchas" that you should be aware of. This is another item that we cover in the course (opens new window) with real world war stories of the perils of not understanding the implications of exercising ISOs and ending up with a hefty tax bill!
# Example salary progression from Junior (E3) to Staff (E6) Software Engineer
Wondering how a SWE salary can change over time? Let's take a look at a real example of a SWE's base salary progression from 2014 (E3 / junior SWE) all the way to 2021 (E6 / staff SWE):
Here are some more details on what happened with this particular real world candidate from 2014-2021:
- 2014: initial job at a large tech company - E3 at 1 year of experience
- 2015: performance raise
- 2016: new job at an early stage startup - E4 at 3 years of experience
- 2017: performance raise
- 2018: new job at a late stage startup in a new city - E5 at 5 years of experience
- 2019: performance raise
- 2020: performance raise
- 2021: promotion - E6 at 7 years of experience
As a very important note, the above doesn't include the equity awards value of this candidate, who started with a ~$125,000 TC and ended 2021 with a $2,000,000 TC! This is certainly not easy to do, but with hard work and a touch of luck, this amount of money is possible for those that remain in the SWE industry for the medium to long term.
# In conclusion
We hope you found this guide to salaries in the SWE industry useful! If you want to know how to level up from E3 to E6, when to switch companies, and which tech companies to join/avoid to maximize your TC at different points in your career, be sure to check out our Software Engineering course (opens new window) where we cover these topics thoroughly! Best of luck on your journey.