How to Tell if Your Tech Salary is Fair

I am definitely underpaid.


Most people have no idea what the market rate or prevailing wage is for their profession and career level, much less where they fall on the pay scale.

I’m tired of fluffy unvetted career advice, so I’ve sourced and linked to ten ways you can determine what other people with your job are paid.

I’ve chosen to assess the example of a Web (UI) Designer that lives in San Francisco and has 2-6 years of experience. I chose a fictional Designer specifically because it’s tricky—there are a lot of different titles (e.g. UI, UX, Product, Interaction, Graphic, Web) and it can be difficult for both the designer and the employer to quantify the value of work produced. Even at a large publicly-traded tech company, Design is often viewed more as art than knowledge work; and, like purchasing any kind of art, its worth is in the eye of the potential beholder. It’s also one profession in the technology industry that has a particularly high wage gap between men and women, with women only earning 76 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.

I didn’t include “ask a recruiter, they can tell you to-the-penny” but I assume if you’re reading my blog you already know what a great resource recruiters can be, even when you’re not looking for a new job. If you didn’t know that, do it. Chances are if you’re good at your job, recruiters message you on LinkedIn, but you ignore them because you’re not looking to leave your job and don’t want anyone to think you are. Don’t worry about that, if you’re curious, schedule an informational call. Mine them for info. Don’t feel guilty taking up their time when you have no intentions of taking the job, but offer them a lead, referral or post something flattering about them afterwards.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The old standby.

2. Employee self-reported data for Designers at Google, Amazon, Facebook, Zynga, Twitter and eBay as of April 2012.

3. median range for a Web Designer II in San Francisco. I had to offer a lot of info before it produced this chart, so I wouldn’t recommend investing ten minutes in this one unless you can use it for negotiation purposes immediately.

4. salary range for a UI Designer based on 45 self-reports from employees in San Francisco

5. Tech Company Pay is an H1B data aggregator with LinkedIn mashup.  Super fast.

(no data for Square, Zynga, Twitter, PayPal, eBay, etc. Presumably they didn’t extend H1B visas to any Designers)

6. Quora. Quora is a knowledge marketplace, where people will provide answers based on their experiences (often anonymously) or expertise (very publicly).

7. H1B Employer Submitted Data. When a US company of any size sponsors an H1B via, they must disclose the pay rate of that employee and the prevailing wage. They must also post these publicly both in the office and online, it’s just (conveniently for them) hard to find.,, etc. are other examples

8. AIGA (Professional Association for Designers) This is an extensive research tool to determine market salaries for all different types of designers. A designer told me about this site after I’d started composing this list, I honestly hadn’t thought to Google “designer salaries,” yet there it is, A cursory Googling reveals that there are lots of other compensation resources like this for other industries.

9. allows you to anonymously compare salaries with a small group of your peers. You have to get others involved, but if you joined your company as a new grad or part of a class and were told you couldn’t negotiate because everyone is paid the same, this is a fun way to find out if that’s true.

10. AngelList Talent and other job listings that specify salary and equity. I found the super broad ranges irritating (e.g. .01-99.9% equity, obviously they can’t give the latter) but most seem legit, if not too generous on cash. If you’re thinking of joining an early startup, this is especially helpful for getting a sense of equity vs. salary compensation.

Below are the salary and stock option ranges for a UI or Product Designer at the Silicon Valley or San Francisco startups MindSnacks, Bloodhound, Storenvy,, PlayerPro, YourMechanic, StartupDigest, ChartBoost, Pintics, Postmates and (so meta) AngelList.

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    am definitely underpaid.
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