How Much Do Tech Bosses Really Earn?

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Maybe you’re interested in making the big leap from team member to manager, and want to know how much those in the latter position tend to earn. Or maybe you’re just curious about the amount (roughly) your boss takes home every month. Either way, Dice recently crunched the numbers on how much some of the top posts in the tech industry—CIOs, vice presidents, and top-level managers—pull down in annual salary.

Before we plunge into the data, a few explanations about our methodology (and a few caveats about the actual numbers). Different companies sometimes use different names for what’s basically the same job: one firm’s “Chief Data Officer,” for example, is another’s “Data Guru” or “Head Data Scientist.” With that in mind, we did our best to fold as many variants as possible into single job titles.

In the explanation accompanying each of these job titles, we emphasize the median salary (i.e., the 50th percentile), as that allows us to mitigate the influence of “wild values” that could throw the data off. (The median is also a more robust measure of central tendency than the mean, which can be noticeably impacted by even a small handful of very high or very low salaries.)

Last but not least, keep in mind that salary doesn’t represent the whole of someone’s compensation package. Equity and perks can go a long way toward attracting (and keeping) top talent, especially at cash-strapped startups. While a CIO at a new company might “only” pull down $42,000 per year, they could also potentially own a sizable portion of the firm.

Starting at the top of the earnings scale…

VP of Engineering

Median Salary: $175,000

First things first: The VP of Engineering is not the same thing as a CTO, although some people tend to confuse the two. While the CTO ultimately decides what’s best for the company’s overall tech stack, VPs of Engineering tend to be more tactically focused, wrangling personnel to solve problems and ensuring that tech-related strategy is implemented in a timely way. They must possess a combination of soft skills (to wrangle big teams) and tech knowledge (to figure out a program plan).

VPs of Engineering have a big job—if a product they manage doesn’t make it successfully to market, the company could be doomed—with pay to match. According to Dice, the maximum salaries for the role top out at close to $450,000.

Next: Chief Data Officer, VP of Product, and more (click here or below)

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Chief Data Officer

Median Salary: $175,000

With the rise of “Big Data,” more companies have begun hiring Chief Data Officers to decide how to store and analyze enormous volumes of data. It is a role not to be confused with Chief Information Officers or Chief Digital Officers, although all three positions touch on some of the same systems and databases; rather, Chief Data Officers are almost wholly focused on data integration, management, and processing.

In addition, your typical Chief Data Officer will probably head up any and all Business Intelligence (B.I.) initiatives, which transform all that raw data into something the organization can actually use. While the median salary for Chief Data Officers is $175,000, many earn as much as $250,000 per year—and that’s before you start talking about equity.

VP of Product Management

Median Salary: $172,500

This title is often synonymous with “Head of Product.” It’s a senior position that incorporates team management, executive strategy, and workflow to ensure that products reach the marketplace. In startups and midsize firms, VP of Product Management is often a more tactical position; it’s not unusual, for example, to see an executive in this role talking one-on-one with a UX designer about a new app, or trying to wrangle a small team to meet a deadline.

In larger companies, VPs of Product Management can end up overseeing huge teams, and dealing with a lot of moving parts—everything from engineering and marketing to finance and legal. Maximum salaries tend to top out at $250,000 per year, but can go higher.

Next: DevOps Manager, COO, and more (click here or below)

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DevOps Manager

Median Salary: $160,000

DevOps Managers oversee engineers and production environments. Some may focus more on building and launching new products; others may devote the bulk of their time to maintenance, such as ensuring that an end-to-end cloud service is always available to customers.

In addition to people management, DevOps Managers must also stay abreast of the latest tools and techniques, and decide what to prioritize with regard to employee workflow. It’s a very collaborative, very tough job.

COO

Median Salary: $160,000

A Chief Operating Officer is ultimately in charge of day-to-day operations at a company. It’s hard to overstate the importance of the role. When Apple CEO Tim Cook was COO, his efforts in streamlining the production chain and guaranteeing a steady flow of components allowed the company to grow into a tech behemoth.

Companies without an effective COO (or equivalent) tend to flounder. That’s why the job tends to draw comfortably six-figure salaries, with the perks to boot. Some 99 percent of COOs earn below $293,125, but a few certainly make far more.

CTO

Median Salary: $150,000

The CTO (Chief Technology Officer) is in charge of everything tech-related within a company. It’s a “Big Picture” position, loaded with decisions such as whether (and when) to transition to the cloud. Unlike a CIO, who is often concerned with keeping existing systems maintained and secure, the CTO is looking ahead to determine the company’s future technology needs.

CTOs also examine what other companies are doing with their technology, and use that information in their own decision-making. If some new tech will give a firm an advantage over its competitors, the CTO must find and implement it.

Next:VP of IT, CIO, VP of Operations (click here or below) 

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VP of IT

Median Salary: $150,000

The VP of IT helps manage the company’s technology stack, overseeing teams and enduring that everything runs smoothly—both externally and internally. Although the rise of the cloud has limited the utility of VPs of IT at some organizations, many firms still need someone to enforce best practices. Maximum salaries can go as high as $350,000.

CIO

Median Salary: $150,000

As a company’s head of information technology, the CIO (along with any VPs of IT, although the role is sometimes interchangeable) must figure out what a firm really needs on the tech front. CIOs are also key managers, communicating needs to senior leadership such as the CEO while maintaining relationships with engineers and other technology professionals who keep systems running.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a security component. CIOs interface with IT security pros to ensure nobody hacks their systems. That’s just another reason why CIOs can earn as much as $600,000 per year; if things go wrong, it’s their reputation on the line.

VP of Operations

Median Salary: $150,000

In a tech context, VPs of Operations oversee the managers who oversee the engineers and other tech pros. If they don’t report to the CEO directly, they might answer to a COO. Max salaries for the position are around $500,000, but most earn below $461,250.