What IBM Pays H-1B Software Engineers and Developers

What does IBM pay its H-1B workers? That’s a good question, given how critics of the H-1B system insist that the major tech companies use the visa to import workers from overseas at cheaper prices.

For the purposes of this analysis, we used the H-1B Salary Database, which indexes Labor Condition Application (LCA) disclosure data from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). We isolated for the generic terms “software engineer” and “software developer,” as our recent analysis of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) dataset of H-1B visa applications for FY2019 found those were the most common terms for H-1B visa hires among tech companies (giving us a more comprehensive view of salary data).

What did we find in the context of IBM? The median salary for H-1B sponsored “software engineer” was $90,106 per year, although not every city was equal when it came to payouts. Take a look at some of the cities paying the most:

Among IBM’s H-1B sponsored “software developers,” things were a little higher, with the median salary clocking in at $96,762. Here are some of the highest-paying cities:

Just for imperfect comparison’s sake, let’s look at what IBM pays its software engineers in general. Before we plunge into the data, a couple of caveats here. For this kind of data, we rely on levels.fyi, which crowdsources compensation data from various tech companies; this data presumably includes salaries from H-1B and non-H-1B engineers alike. In addition, it also allows you to compare IBM salaries at various rankings; for the purposes of this article, we’ll state both entry-level and senior software engineer salaries, just so we have an extreme range.

According to levels.fyi, entry-level software engineers at IBM earn an average salary of $91,357, supplemented with stock worth $286 and an annual bonus of $4,214. On the other end of the scale, senior software engineers can make $162,889, with stock worth $1,111 and an annual bonus of $2,000. Of course, that doesn’t take into account how software engineers with very specialized skills (such as artificial intelligence and machine learning), who can make substantially more.

Just for giggles, here’s how IBM’s entry-level software engineer salaries compare to other prominent companies within the tech industry:

For software engineers in general, IBM’s salaries seem to be on the soft side in comparison to companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google. However, Big Blue seems more than happy to pay its H-1B workers in major tech hubs a decent salary.

40 Responses to “What IBM Pays H-1B Software Engineers and Developers”

  1. First, I doubt your methodology.

    Second, and more important, you are asking the wrong question. The question you should ask is what would employers have to pay if the H-1B did not exist. The H-1B is the government manipulating the market in favor of employers and to the detriment of American workers by artificially increasing the supply with foreigners. Increased supply results in lower price (wage).

  2. Tthe underpayment of H-1B workers is well-established fact, not rumor, anecdote or ideology. It has been confirmed by two congressionally-commissioned reports, and a number of academic studies, in both statistical and qualitative analyses.

    An employer survey conducted by the GAO[1] found that some employers readily admitted to paying H-1Bs less than comparable Americans, but noted that they were nevertheless paying the legally required wage (i.e., the “prevailing wage”), thereby illustrating that the latter is indeed below the market wage.

    The GAO found that, “some employers said that they hired H-1B workers in part because these workers would often accept lower salaries than similarly qualified U.S. workers; however, these employers said they never paid H-1B workers less than the required wage.”

    This jibes with a previous employer survey[2], commissioned by Congress, that found, “…H-1B workers in jobs requiring lower levels of IT skill received lower wages, less senior job titles, smaller signing bonuses, and smaller pay and compensation increases than would be typical for the work they actually did.”

    So two employer surveys, one by the government and the other commissioned by the government, had employers actually admitting to underpaying their H-1Bs. And the GAO shows that the employers admit that the prevailing wage, the legal wage floor for H-1Bs, is a joke. The data in the paper shows the underpayment statistically as well.


    [1] H-1B Foreign Workers: Better Tracking Needed to Help Determine H-1B Program’s Effects on U.S. Workforce
    GAO-03-883, US General Accounting Office, Sept. 2003

    [2] Building a Workforce for the Information Economy.
    National Research Council. 2001

  3. The crucial factor this article seems to miss is the fact that an H-1B worker is also dependent on the company sponsoring them, therefore is unlikely to quit, even if they are asked to work more than a US worker who has the option of leaving and working for a competitor. Even if not explicitly stated, an H-1B worker who is asked to stay a couple hours extra is not likely to say no, given the company has basically signed off on bringing them to the US.

    Also, there is a glaring omission (likely due to the fact that Dice is a job-finding site, not a political journal) of the overall context of the criticism of the H-1B program. And that context is that for the longest, Americans were coaxed into accepting immigration because the immigrants “are doing the jobs Americans are not willing to do.” It’s debatable whether Americans are willing to work menial labor jobs, but with the H-1B program, we see that even the jobs that “Americans are willing to do” are up for grabs by tech giants, who have no problem importing 10 thousand programmers who will do anything for their corporate masters.

    • Last time I checked it’s a free country, any employee on h1b can find and get a new job with any employer who is willing sponsor/transfer h1b. Sure they can’t quite at the same moment the employer ask to work for 2 hours extra as they might jeopardize their visa status.

  4. it is never about H1B, but the supply of labor in US.

    Before 2010, companies focused on employee training and career aspirations.
    Starting around 2010, companies today go through employees like water. The supply of labor is just so much greater than demand.

    Today, if you are applying on Linkedin, there are 170+ applicants per job within 2~4 weeks. H1B system gives employers the right to treat people poorly, with or without H1B needed.

    • Maha Guru

      Exactly correct!! The rich greedy tech have flooded the market with all kinds of so-called high-skilled in the name of BOGUS “STEM crisis” . Not only has the competition increased dramatically for even a basic job, age discrimination runs rampant. Try getting a job above 45 now (yes, it is not even 50) and you will see! When I went to my sons school to a career fair, the lines of a single job were so long and I was wondering how did they come up with the “STEM crisis” scam??? The rich greedy tech with able help from politicians of both parties have destroyed our workforce. In the meanwhile, universities perpetually starved for funding want more students from abroad again in the name of “STEM crisis”!

  5. Richard Schwartz

    A comparison of IBM’s H-1B salaries versus IBM’s entry-level salaries misses the point. The comparison should be against the salaries of all the software engineers and software engineers that IBM has laid off in the past few years.

    • Ding ding ding! We have a winner. Wasn’t the idea behind the H1-B that those would used to bring in people with talent to fill jobs with highly skills requirements? Companies are gaming the system by dumping older and highly skilled employees and replacing them with H1-B hires at something more like entry-level salaries. I’ve been seeing salaries for many IT roles declining steadily of the past 15-20 years. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve spoken to a recruiter who passes along a salary range for a position where I’ve had the urge to reply back: “Oh great… that’s what I was making in 1995.”

      • Immigration Numbers:

        Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or a university. This total includes about 800,000 Americans who graduate with skilled degrees in business or health care, engineering or science, software, or statistics.

        But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants. It also adds replacement workers to a resident population of more than 1.5 million white-collar visa workers — including approximately one million H-1B workers and about 500,000 blue-collar H-2B, H-2A, and J-1 visa workers. The government also prints more than one million work permits for new foreigners, and it rarely punishes companies for employing illegal migrants.

        This policy of inflating the labor supply boosts economic growth and stock values for investors. The stimulus happens because the extra labor ensures that employers do not have to compete for American workers by offering higher wages and better working conditions.

        The federal policy of flooding the market with cheap, foreign white-collar graduates and blue-collar labor shifts wealth from young employees toward older investors. It also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, reduces marriage rates, and hurts children’s schools and college educations.

        The cheap-labor economic strategy also pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and it sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with drug addictions.

        The labor policy also moves business investment and wealth from the Heartland to the coastal cities, explodes rents and housing costs, undermines suburbia, shrivels real estate values in the Midwest, and rewards investors for creating low-tech, labor-intensive workplaces.

        But President Donald Trump’s “Hire American” policy is boosting wages by capping immigration within a growing economy.

        The Census Bureau said September 10 that men who work full-time and year-round got an earnings boost of 3.4 percent in 2018, pushing their median salaries up to $55,291. Women gained 3.3 percent in wages, bringing their median salaries to $45,097 for full-time, year-round work.

      • Obviously its not fair to assume any single developers level of skill based on where they come from. However, in my experience as a PM and IT Team Lead for 29 years most of the developers assigned to me from Cognizant and Infosys are no better than recent US college grads who have no practical experience. Although, their resumes look stellar – advanced degrees and experience, etc. It is kind of a bait and switch. They are learning on the job the skills and experience they should have had when coming in. They sound smart but not so much. And they leave as soon as they get an offer from a big name company taking all the knowledge with them – revolving door! Then there is the language issue. Yes, they get by in English but they have a hard time keeping up in requirements meetings, etc. And then I have to write down explicit requirements for the meetings they just attended. Like taking care of my teenagers. It just takes longer – more of a burden on me. Anecdotal evidence to be sure. But this is my experience.

        • I had a similar experience. Some years ago — back when Russian coders were being touted as the greatest thing in IT since punch cards — I was on a project with 3-4 of those so-called coding elites. One guy barely produced anything at all and another guy *did* actually write something for the project before they were dumped by the client for lack of productivity. I wound up rewriting everything that those two had written (if memory serves, nothing they had written would even compile w/o numerous errors) and, in the end, probably wrote 60%-70% of the total code output and corrected problems in the remainder.

          A project I was involved with a couple of years ago, was dependent on code that had been written by a bunch of Cognizant coders. I often assisted the folks in charge of monitoring the nightly data loads that the Cognizant-written code was performing and we had to intervene *every single time* when their loads ran. And failed. They were either unwilling or completely incapable of fixing their awful code so that it didn’t require manual intervention on each run. I guess the fact that it would run successfully after a meatware assist made it acceptable. Truly sad that, after the project was canceled (after the election and the future of any projects related to the ACA had been placed in serious doubt) those bozos still had jobs with Cognizant spreading more of their garbage code to other suckers^Wclients while all the independents were left to beat the bushes for more work.

  6. Honestly, it is too late to discuss whether we should have H1Bs or not because majority of local talents have already been replaced by either layoffs, or forced retirements. If the H1Bs go, all these companies would be in a standstill, or go backward. So much for saving a buck in the beginning. Now, you end up paying the same as you’d have paid a local.

    • Only saw one H1B worker worth keeping. His expertise was an average and compatible to an average USA worker. Most are absolutely unqualified with fake diplomas and experience that have been bought. Bribery and corruption is rampant in India. Please let me know how a country stricken by poverty can have top notch education? Go watch some videos about India. It is gut wrenching.

    • It’s ignorant comment. Yes, without a doubt, India is rampant with poverty and corruption. Yet, due to the massive population, there’s is a fight for survival and to be competitive. To another gentleman’s point, Google is run by an Indian, Walmart’s CTO is an Indian, and Microsoft’s CEO is an Indian, former CEO of Citibank was an Indian… Pure luck? I think not; They earned their way to the top, a product of certain Indian Institutions. Btw, it’s harder to get into the Indian Institute of Technology than Harvard. You got to get past your ignorance. It’s comforting I’m sure but stupid.

  7. Ab Cdike

    As a foreign national, I have seen lot of abused on H1-B visa. H1-B visa is for high skilled persons which are difficult to find in the USA. But I have seen American companies or foreign contractors hire low level technical persons from a country like India. For example a job web tester, that can be performed by any US high school school kids. Even though they hire web testers from India. I feel b

  8. Honestly! This article is full of it. They even have consultants who’s main objective is to train tech firms on how not to hire Americans for these tech jobs. Dice is just another, of these types of consultancy firms hired as window dressing for what’s really going on and that is the wholesale capitulation to these tech Giants in the name of greed in exchange for providing diplomatic cover for these souless corporations to exploit foriegn labor to effectively normalize this type of poison corporate cultural malfeasance. So dice! Go peddle your feel good propaganda elsewhere, because the american people have been shit on for a very long, long time and are not buying Into it. They’re simply force fed but not by choice, irreverent, fascistic double speak.

  9. This article is based on hard data, 100% accurate and extracted from a government database. There is no “methodology” or “assumptions”. Pure data.

    The data is also very close to national H1B averages.

  10. You got to ask how these Indian companies make money. They probably take a huge cut of the H1B worker salary. Then turn around and lobby with this money for more H1B workers to come to USA. It is legalized mafia.

  11. The article looks at dollar amounts and implies that it’s a “good” or “fair” amount. It utterly fails to accurately portray the true state of things.

    The wage rules for H-1B and green card sponsorship are broken down into wage Levels I, II, III and IV, with Level III being the median. For software developers, the most common type of foreign worker on H-1B, the green card data show the following percentages of foreign workers at Levels I or II making below-median wages: Amazon 91%; Facebook 91%; and Google 96%. These firms, putatively in the vanguard of advanced technology and certainly in the vanguard in Capitol Hill lobbying regarding H-1B, are paying almost all of their foreign workers – ostensibly, the “best and brightest” – wages below the median for the given region.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) put out a report on the H-1B visa that discusses at some length the fact that the vast majority of H-1B workers are hired at the entry-level wage level. In fact, most are at “Level I”, which is officially defined by the Dept. of Labor as those who have a “basic understanding of duties and perform routine tasks requiring limited judgment”. Moreover, the GAO found that a mere 6% of H-1B workers are at “Level IV”, which is officially defined by the Dept. of Labor as those who are “fully competent”.

    Also, the author fails to acknowledge that when an H-1B worker is sponsored for a green card, and any aspect of that workers job changes while waiting for the green card to be processed (which can take many years), the H-1B worker’s green card processing needs to start from square one again. So that means the H-1B worker can’t be promoted, can’t change employers. The H-1B worker has no bargaining power to negotiate a higher salary over the years he has to wait for his green card to be awarded to him. There’s also little to no chance that the H-1B worker will leave the job in the middle of a critical project. There H-1B worker has absolutely NO bargaining power for YEARS. And today’s green card beneficiary becomes tomorrow’s H-1B victim.

  12. The dice author does a very good job of stirring the pot around H1B visas. (Never does the discussion include L1 intracompany visa)..

    These discussions never go anywhere. It’s a dice article for goodness sake!! You never hear from an immigration lawyer!

    What’s needed is a different forum for the H1b / L1 issues in the technology industry we all seem to share. Why can’t dice host a town hall with the experts lined up or congressional hearing looking into the details. I am aware of that there have been other congressional hearings regarding these visas, but nothing ever comes of it and there are hardly ever any additional action plans to take the pressure off American workers.

    The problem simply lingers and lingers and lingers on and on and on. Articals of this type are simply shit disturbing and don’t solve any problems.

    I see dice okays the subject matter because they know it’s a very hot topic to American techsters. My challenge to dice is to do something about it.

    American technical professionals need to challenge business lobbyists, immigration law lobbyists, Indian companies, and politicians who take money from US and Indian companies to keep this problem persistent and dragging and dragging and dragging over many years with no end in sight.

    Let’s face it… if American tech pros wanted this to stop, they’d be making a much, much bigger stink about it!!! They would never allow it to drag on. They would escalate it in the news and hike it up into news consciousness.

    Without that, they can complain their hearts out. There isn’t one gosh damn thing they’re gonna do about. Just a lot of mouth work. Even telling their congressmen to do their jobs won’t help one iota.

    Ok… now what?!?!

    • Talking to my Senators’ office on the issue of NOT increasing H1bs a few years ago when that bad SB744 was in play, the office worker said that nobody brought up my concerns when it was discussed in committee – only the companies touting the benefit of the H1b program. I pointed out that if I did go public with my valid concerns about H1b visas and their effect on the workplace it would not be a good thing for my career and let him reflect on that for a while. All I can do, I said, was to have my representatives consider the effects on their consitiuencies. I pointed out that the large building I worked in used to be a diverse group of people working on government contracts and now I, as an American, was in a small minority – the other people who were laid off had been competently handling the work. Now that company is struggling.

  13. While there is no doubt many of these top tier companies have a generous compensation package, the question that remains unanswered and quite pivotal is how many of the 85,0000 H1Bs actually qualify and eventually get these jobs. Not many. If I were to guess it would be around 25,0000 – GOOG, MSFT, FB AAPL, AMZN is not hiring all the newly minted H1Bs. So what happens to the remaining 60,000 who won the lottery. This is the category that is most vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and contributes to depressing wages. These are the guys who get hired via Indian Consulting companies and put pressure on the Wages, working hours and general manageability of employees. So, the real question is – Do you really need 85,0000 H1Bs?

  14. The problem with relying on the LCA is that a pay range is sometimes given on the form and, as I have read elsewhere, employers don’t always pay within that range. How much follow up on pay actually occurs to know the accuracy?

  15. Most H1-B workers come from countries that have free education so they don’t have the same debt load as an American and can afford to work in the USA at lower salaries, In addition, most start at companies through contracting firms, and when it comes to hiring someone fulltime, they already have a leg up as they are a lower risk as the companies have already trained them making it an uphill battle for an American to even get a job. I’ve interviewed with companies like Apple where all the people doing the interviews were not even citizens and asked questions that were not even pertinent to the job I interviewed. When in companies, workers where they are predominantly Indian or Chinese they didn’t speak English. US labor laws require English for work-related issues, but if you don’t speak the foreign language, how do you even know if they are violating the law? The laws are designed to benefit corporations rather than workers and US citizens.

  16. A truly STUPID article. What would salaries and opportunities be in this country without the unneeded H1B program? Did they keep up with inflation since the 1980s? Of course not. The wages are depressed and opportunities diminished for American Citizens because the pool has been expanded to include slave labor from abroad. Where the hell did you go to school? …or did sugar-daddy big tech pay you in some way to write this deceptive bullcrap. …much more likely.