Entry-Level Amazon Tech Recruits Earn Huge Salaries

How much can a brand-new engineering recruit earn at Amazon?

That’s a pressing question as we head into summer, when many graduating computer-science majors in the United States are hunting for their first jobs. And while tech companies tend to keep quiet about their employment and salary data, candidates have a tendency to post their offers online—such as this magnificent Reddit thread.

We recently posted a dissection of Google’s entry-level salaries for software engineers, which made us wonder about other tech giants and how much they’re offering their newest tech professionals. We decided to take a poke at Amazon, which is much in the news thanks to everything from its one-day shipping policy to the travails at Amazon Game Studios.

In order to arrive at compensation numbers for Amazon’s wet-behind-the-ears software engineers, we relied primarily on the aforementioned Reddit thread. Here’s a handy breakdown of its data for your perusal:

One thing’s immediately clear from the Reddit data: If you’re starting out as a software engineer at Amazon, you can expect to pull down $108,000 in base salary, $70,000 in stock options, and anywhere from $64,000 to $44,000 as a bonus (which averaged to $51,142, based on the total number of respondents). The company was remarkably consistent about those payouts, if you take the data at face value.

It’s also higher than what the average tech professional earns, even those who are well into their careers. According to the 2019 Dice Salary Survey, the average tech pro pulls down $93,244—some $84 less than it was in 2015. 

Amazon’s entry-level compensation is great if you’re working at a branch facility in, say, Arizona. But if you’re placed at a company office in a major tech hub—such as Seattle (where Amazon’s headquarters, seen in the image above, is located) or the Bay Area—that money (while certainly generous) won’t go nearly as far as you might like. Big-city rent is hellishly expensive, and most of your stock options take years to vest. 

According to Glassdoor, the average software engineer at Amazon makes a base pay of $114,762 (based off 479 responses), with an average bonus of $20,959 and a stock bonus of $30,634. That’s not much higher than the average salaries reported by brand-new engineers—and the stock bonuses are actually much smaller. Interesting!

Highly specialized jobs, meanwhile, command a higher average salary. For example, Indeed reports that Amazon algorithm engineers can earn an annual average of $150,000, while principal software engineers can score $160,000. That’s before you factor in benefits such as stock options, which are clearly a big part of Amazon’s overall compensation package. (It’s worth noting that machine learning engineers, which are a particularly hot job category at the moment, can pull down $142,010 at the company, which seems a bit low—although those with the right combination of experience and skills no doubt earn quite a bit more.) 

If you’re looking for comparisons, it’s also notable that Amazon pays its entry-level software engineers less than Google, where total compensation can hit $210,000 (provided Googlers earn their full bonus, etc.). Amazon is clearly betting that its brand will attract tech professionals who want a big name on their résumé.

Meanwhile, Microsoft offers engineers at its lowest “SDE” level $105,747 in average annual salary, $28,650 in stock, and a bonus of $21,378. Over at Apple, the ICT2 roles (i.e., the lowest rung of the software engineering ladder) pay an average of $118,810 in base salary, along with annual stock options worth roughly $27,119, and a bonus of $14,619. Check out this chart:

8 Responses to “Entry-Level Amazon Tech Recruits Earn Huge Salaries”

    • Brent Andrews

      To be fair those employees would not have been local Queens residents as most likely they would have been out of state. Also the cost of living in NYC would have eaten most of that salary. So that $150k + would really feel more like $60k-$70k.

      • Tim Lin

        Seattle isn’t cheap either so 150k in seattle will be about 145k in Long Island city. (Like 160k in Brooklyn) and honestly wouldn’t Long Island and surrounding residents get a leg up in terms of getting a job there If they were to locate the HQ2 there? And by having a competitive job market wouldn’t that help rise the pay overall?

  1. Patrick

    I used to work at Amazon in a senior dev position, so I have some insight into this. The discrepancy between the Glassdoor and other numbers may be that the Glassdoor numbers are annualized. The bonus is paid out over two years, and most of the stock is paid in years 3 and 4. Since the average tenure of devs at Amazon is less than 3 years (mostly because the devs move on), most of the stock doesn’t get paid. Also, because Amazon stock has enjoyed good performance in the last few years, the dollar figure reported may be higher than the original award. Those numbers will change when Amazon’s stock stops going up 50% a year.

    So a good estimate of salary for the first two years is base + half the bonus.