Google CEO Sundar Pichai Salary Crushes Median Employee Pay

Google employees have a reputation for high compensation (and great in-office perks, at least when those offices are open). But however much they make, it’s almost certainly a fraction of what Sundar Pichai, CEO of both Google and Alphabet (Google’s holding company), pulls down in a typical year.

Financial analytics firm S&P Global recently crunched the numbers and figured out that Pichai earned $280.6 million in 2019. For those keeping score at home, that’s 1,085 times the median Google employee salary of $258,708. Keep in mind that Pichai makes a mere $2 million in actual annual salary; the bulk of his pay package comes from equity valued at $276.6 million.  

Late last year, The Verge analyzed Pichai’s long-term salary numbers and found that he’d earned nearly $1 billion in stock grants over the past ten years. That puts him in the same tech-executive tier as Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose estimated net worth just passed $1 billion thanks to a heaping pile of Apple stock as part of his overall compensation.

If you’re interested in joining Google as a software engineer or developer, you’ll have a long way to go to land Pichai-sized compensation, but you’ll still be paid well, especially in relation to other big tech firms. Google offers a very competitive combination of bonus, salary, and stock to even the newest employees, according to crowdsourced data from

Then you have senior engineering compensation at Google and other firms, which is likewise high; however, these crowdsourced numbers don’t take into account what a technologist can earn if they specialize in a sought-after category. For example, those who work with machine-learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.) in the context of key projects, such as Google’s self-driving car project, can easily earn millions (just not Pichai-level millions).

Other tech firms have similarly outsized ratios between CEO and median employee pay. At IBM, it’s 354x, with former CEO Ginni Rometty pulling down $20.2 million in 2019, versus a median employee salary of $56,896. Intel, meanwhile, paid its CEO $66.9 million in 2019, versus its $96,300 median employee salary—a very healthy multiple of 208x. 

Are CEOs worth such a massive multiple? It’s the sort of pay that companies find easy to justify when they’re large and doing well—and difficult when the stock starts to fall.

15 Responses to “Google CEO Sundar Pichai Salary Crushes Median Employee Pay”

  1. Larry Kavounas

    These companies pay well, but also take only the best, the most passionate. “Learning to code” is always a good thing for someone who just wants to get a 9-5 job. These companies have ways of discerning and filtering out those who will just work 8h and walk away. They keep the ones for whom coding is a passion, will work extra hours for the passion, and have that passion permeate their lives.

    • Yes, indeed. Larry seems like someone who has worked in the high end of tech or startups. It’s not a life for everyone. Lots of long hours and hard work, but the rewards can be very significant. Definitely not like your everyday sort of work environment.

  2. Jeffrey Harkness

    Somebody needs to say this even though you have heard it before: Over compensation of this kind is nothing but extreme, obscene greed because NO ONE is worth that much more than the average worker – No one! Any CEO or person making more than 5 times or 10 times Max (the total compensation package) of the mean average employee of that company is quite literally financially raping that company. This is why there is such an extreme disparity between the classes. And finally, anyone who says that a CEO making $200 million (or even $2 million) will work harder than another CEO making $1 million (or $500,000) doesn’t know what they are talking about. 10 X the mean average (includes ALL compensation) should be the legal max.

    • It’s called ‘winner take all’. You’re the CEO, you’re *the* winner. Corporate boards set the compensation; they always give the same reason: the compensation has to be “competitive”, lest this CEO go elsewhere. So, is Pichai there because he is passionate about Google?

      But, if you were to double the “L3” salary, then you are paying an employee more than his value to Google. ’tis an interesting puzzle….

    • Sounds like a communist who wants to eat the rich. So, should every employee then be making millions? Do you realize what that would do to the price of everything around them and across the country, even?

      You should learn about supply and demand, and the competition in places like the Bay Area. Look at how much they pay entry level people (in California, but still) who have the right skills … They even say if you can swing working in their AI labs you can make millions. That’s how it is in Silicon Valley. It’s not easy to get in with these companies, trust me. With your attitude, I doubt you would get through the interview process.

  3. Christopher

    Why do so many people care what someone else does with their money? If any of you are owners in Google, speak your mind at the shareholder meetings or pull out of Google and find a company to own shares in that matches your preferences. Otherwise stop your greedy whining and let Google do it’s own thing with its money. You guys are super petty to dare to think you have any right to say how Google should spend their money. Especially when this is already saying they’re also compensating people better than they could get elsewhere. If these employees felt they weren’t being paid appropriately, I’m sure they’re intelligent enough to go somewhere they would be paid appropriately.

    Seriously all you greedy idiots talking about what should legally be the most a company can give an individual when it has nothing to do with you are the worst of the worst. Articles like this are pretty annoying also even when just to be informative, as they encourage the idiots out there to go sticking their noses in other people’s business.

    • I agree completely. The people who will wail about this are not, in turn, the same people who are going to give it 150% to work at a startup (or Google) and they don’t understand the culture of these Bay Area companies. They’re not likely going to be the ones to try to start their own ventures either … it’s easier to sit back and complain that they’re being mistreated.

      • Russ Whiteman

        I’m sure those billionaires really appreciate your support. I doubt they’d have any say in anything, if you didn’t speak up for them.

        Let’s be honest here, those CEOs did not create the company they run nor do they do the actual work that brings in the revenue (it’s a damned rare CEO who CAN do the work of his employees). Yet they have the full power of that concentrated wealth (the company’s) behind them when setting salaries for the employees. Still, you ultra-capitalists seem to think that’s a fine and equal competition, and everyone else should just keep their yaps shut.

        The worship of Mammon in this country (and to a lesser extent, across the world) is disgusting. None of these CEOs give a crap about their employees, just about getting a higher personal score on the leader boards. The few CEOs that DO care about their employees don’t take home tens of millions in a year, but their employees are paid much better than at other companies in the same industry (reference Costco and a handful of others).

        • Warren D Serkin

          Executive compensation is set by the board of directors. The board of directors is comprised of CEOs from other companies who have a vested interest in keeping executive pay as a percentage of the average employees pay orders of magnitude higher. The vast majority of CEOs in other countries earn about 50 times what the average employee earns, not several hundred times. It’s a rigged game.

  4. anonymous

    that is terrible news … 2 million … for nothing … Companies should cut the CEO salary and put more money in hiring more positions… All these fancy salaries for CEO or CIO or CFO should be stopped..