Forget a Raise: Move or Ask for Better Benefits

Benefits, cost of living, job availability: these are all things important to any tech pro. New data suggests (once again) that Silicon Valley may be the coolest place to work, but it’s not always the best when it comes to the aforementioned things.

In addition to Dice’s Salary Survey, other outlets release their own data regarding tech pro income. Hired has just released its ‘State of Salaries’ report with some interesting figures. Scouring a pool of roughly 69,000 respondents in 13 cities, Hired also leaned on data from Numbeo regarding the cost of living in each city.

Hired found younger tech pros are getting solid job offers, with the under-35 crowd typically receiving $3-9k more per year than they were expecting. Mid-career tech pros (i.e., those aged 35-55) are receiving offers meeting or slightly undercutting their expectations. Those in their late 50s likewise get better-than-expected salaries, with expectations meeting reality once again after 60.

There are some interesting parallels between the Dice and Hired studies. Dice’s Salary Survey shows that 69 percent of respondents are willing to relocate, with 40 percent saying they were just as willing to relocate now as they were last year. And only 52 percent of tech pros are satisfied with their current salaries, the lowest mark since 2014.

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Hired asked respondents if they felt adequately compensated for the city they live in, considering cost of living, and 41 percent said “no.” This number, when taken along with Dice’s relocation query, hints at possible ennui amongst tech pros who don’t quite feel properly compensated, but don’t have the ability or drive to jump to a new city and/or job. (Hired further identified Seattle, Austin, Denver, Chicago and Atlanta as the top five places their respondents wanted to relocate to.)

Though Hired’s reported incomes are different from the data in Dice’s Salary Survey, its work with Numbeo’s data regarding cost of living is interesting. Hired asked: “If every city had the same cost of living as San Francisco, how much would tech workers’ salaries be worth?” Based on that metric, Seattle tech pros would see their annual income stretch by $50,000. Austin residents would pick up $84,000 in this exercise; Denver tech pros would see an extra $65,000; and Chicago pros would get an extra $60,000 (Atlanta wasn’t noted on Hired’s salary list, nor its cost of living chart).

As Dice’s Salary Survey notes, companies are offering better benefits as salary levels plateau (71 percent of employers are actively offering non-cash ‘motivators’ to retain tech talent), and there’s a strong desire amongst tech pros to work remotely. Asking for a remote-work benefit may prove successful for many. More time off is another bargaining chip in potential salary negotiations; Hired’s data shows most tech pros take 15 days or less vacation time annually, and presumably they’d like more.

While many bosses will gladly offer non-cash perks in lieu of a substantial salary bump, it’s also worth asking for a cost-of-living increase, if you think your employer is amenable. That being said, only eight percent of respondents to the Dice Salary Survey said they received a cost of living increase in 2017; most increased their salaries via a merit raise, while changing jobs ranked second for wage increases. If you want more money, you’ll need to demonstrate how your skills and experience contribute positively to the business… or find an employer who appreciates you more.