Enterprise Software Engineers: A Lucrative Career Path

Many budding software engineers don’t want to work for a massive enterprise firm. They might think that building business-to-business (B2B) apps and services is boring, or perhaps they don’t want to end up stuck at a massive conglomerate where it takes twenty people to sign off on every decision. Nonetheless, working for a company focused on building enterprise software comes with some big advantages. For example, the salaries and benefits are pretty good.

As with our other comparisons of software engineer salaries and compensation, we relied on levels.fyi, which anonymously crowdsources salary, bonus, and stock data from software engineers across the country. For this workup, we chose IBM, Workday, SAP, Oracle, and Salesforce—companies that focus pretty much exclusively on B2B products. (We spot-checked this data against crowdsourced salary data on Glassdoor, which roughly aligned with the levels.fyi findings.)

Next, we chose to analyze software engineers at a mid-career level. These folks have a good deal of formal education and experience under their belt—they’re a long way from associate- or junior-level engineering positions, for instance—but they haven’t climbed all the way up to the “architect” or “senior principal” ranks. While a P3 at Workday might not prove an exact equivalent to a senior developer at SAP or an IC-3 at Oracle, for instance, we figured all of the following jobs existed in roughly the same “tier.”

With all that in mind, here’s the breakdown:

What’s our conclusion here? Software engineer salaries at enterprise companies are generally pretty good, but there are significant discrepancies between these firms when it comes to bonuses and stock options. Basically, firms such as Salesforce tend to provide generous bonuses and stock options in addition to base salary, while others (notably Oracle and Workday) are paltrier when it comes to bonuses. As we’ve mentioned before, IBM tends to pay out relatively low bonuses and stock, even to senior software engineers who have spent years working their way up the company ranks.    

(Of course, there’s a lot to complain about at any company. At Google, for instance, some employees are irritated over a lack of free weights in the on-campus gym.)

In the current economy, with tech unemployment at a record low, software engineers can land healthy salaries whether they work for a B2B or a more consumer-centric firm. Even if the “gig economy” isn’t paying its contractors/workers a decent wage, for example, companies such as DoorDash and Lyft are paying out pretty generous packages to the software engineers tasked with building and maintaining their core apps.

At Google, which markets products to both consumers and the enterprise, software engineers at the L7 level (a senior manager role; roughly equivalent to Microsoft’s level 67) can expect to pull down $256,059 in annual salary, $286,176 in stock, and a bonus of $83,294. And over at Microsoft, engineers who hit level 67 (i.e., principal software development engineer) can make roughly $222,714 in salary, along with $226,000 per year in stock options and a bonus of $73,143.

For those with highly specialized skillsets, such as artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning, there’s basically no ceiling on salary. Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about which skills to learn next.

Of course, working on enterprise software can prove just as interesting and dynamic as any “cool” consumer app or game. Just look at Slack, designed to “murder” email by making inter-office messaging fun and peppy. If shiny UX and “gamified” functionality isn’t enough, though, there’s always the thought that whatever software you’re working on—a cloud-based CMS, or a huge database system—is going to affect the working lives of millions of people. That’s potentially enough to get you out of bed in the morning.