Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are locked in fierce competition with one another. Amazon Web Services (AWS) dominates the market for cloud services and storage, but Microsoft is pouring tons of resources into catching up with its Azure platform. Meanwhile, Google Cloud is retooling itself in hopes of gaining ground on its rivals.
Given that existential battle, it’s worth asking how much these three companies pay their software engineers—the very employees who will ultimately determine the victor. Fortunately, we can turn to levels.fyi, which (anonymously) crowdsources compensation data from across the tech industry. While anonymous surveying isn’t the most scientific means of determining things, the compensation numbers quoted by levels.fyi roughly mirror those presented by Glassdoor, which relies on similar methods; therefore, we feel confident that these numbers are in the right range.
With entry-level software engineers, all three of these tech giants lean heavily on a software engineer salary as an integral part of the overall compensation package, with bonuses and stock comprising a more modest percentage of the totals:
For entry-level engineers, salaries very roughly match; you won't get a substantially better deal working at Microsoft than you would at, say, Amazon (although Google's compensation totals are higher due to stock payouts). As software engineers climb into the more senior ranks at Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, it’s clear that stock payouts become an increasingly big deal:
While the cloud is a prime focus for all three companies, they all have multiple lines of business. Microsoft needs software engineers for everything from Windows to gaming (although all those services are increasingly cloud-based), while Google wants technologists for everything from maintaining Gmail to building out its new Stadia gaming service. Amazon, meanwhile, must maintain its extensive e-commerce site—and the rumors that it will expand more fully into arenas such as gaming never seem to die.
Although the rise of “low code” and “no code” platforms has become a thing over the past few years, there’s always a need for software engineers and developers who are capable of conceiving, building, and maintaining huge, complex projects. And those kinds of projects are biggest at the world’s tech giants—which are more than willing to pay big compensation to the engineers with the right mix of skills and experience.
And for those with highly specialized skills in “hot” areas, the compensation can become astronomically high. A few years back, for example, Google paid some of its autonomous-driving engineers so much money that they opted to simply retire once they hit certain payout milestones. Indeed, top researchers and developers in the realms of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning can sometimes pull down seven-figure salaries, especially if they’re working in business-critical areas.