What GitHub Pays Senior Software Engineers vs. Google, Microsoft

If you build or maintain software, you’re familiar with GitHub. Millions of developers rely on the massive code repository for everything from source code management to version control and team collaboration. But what’s it like to work there? Specifically, how much do GitHub’s engineers earn in exchange for smoothly maintaining the world’s largest host of source code?

For an answer, we can turn to levels.fyi, which crowdsources data about software engineer compensation at some of the world’s most prominent companies. And what we found was pretty interesting: GitHub’s senior software engineers make an extremely hefty salary in comparison to Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, which have a reputation as some of the highest-paying companies in tech. Check out the chart:

How accurate is levels.fyi? Crowdsourcing isn’t the most scientific means of determining anything, especially when the sample sizes are relatively small. However, when we consult Glassdoor, which also crowdsources compensation data, we can see that it backs up levels.fyi’s claims of high engineering salaries. According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for all software engineers at GitHub is $159,072, with additional cash bonuses of $5,481 (remember, that includes junior as well as senior engineers).

As a company, GitHub has an interesting history. For years, it embraced a “flat” or “boss-less” organizational structure, without the tiers of middle managers that define many companies. However, this approach led to problems, such as claims (according to Wired) that the flat structure shielded some misbehaving employees from corporate scrutiny. As much as technologists sometimes buck against the perceived tyranny of management, organizational structures can help create and maintain a culture of accountability (if done right).

GitHub introduced more management into its organization, making it more “traditional.” In 2018, it took another huge step when it allowed Microsoft to acquire it for an eye-popping $7.5 billion. Advocates of open source felt the move was catastrophic, given Microsoft’s long history of attempting to squish Linux and open source; the tech giant’s history with acquisitions, including Skype and Nokia, is also pretty mixed. But so far, Microsoft seems determined to convince the tech world that its intentions around open source are good.

On a surface level, it’s clear from levels.fyi’s data that GitHub is more than happy to pay its software engineers a solid salary in a competitive market. After all, it probably doesn’t want those same engineers, with their priceless knowledge of building and maintaining systems at scale, to flee to the likes of Google or Facebook. As always, a specialized skill set will get you paid. 

3 Responses to “What GitHub Pays Senior Software Engineers vs. Google, Microsoft”

  1. The chart is not comparing equivalent levels. E5 is senior at Facebook, and L5 is senior at Google. levels.fyi (the source) even shows this. You should have compared those levels to L4 at GitHub (where they’re much more similar)

  2. Wesley R. Elsberry

    It looks like the author is following your recommendation. At least, the current table shows the levels that you specified, and that does show that Github’s salary and other compensation are in the ballpark of Google and Facebook instances at those levels, which does undercut the message somewhat. The salary is tops in the grouping, but not by any large proportion, and other compensation is weaker than the job classes at Google and Facebook. A better article title might have conveyed that GitHub is “in the club” of these other businesses, so far as senior engineer compensation may indicate, rather than raise expectations that there was some larger difference, either positive or negative, on that score. If one is choosing between senior engineering jobs among GitHub, Google, and Facebook, it would appear that unless one has an extremely tight budgetary requirement, the total compensation is not likely to be an overriding factor in making that decision, and issues such as fit to unit, corporate culture, and moral considerations of whether one wishes to become associated with some of these employers are then a more weighty part of making that employment decision.

  3. Anonyo-engineer

    Because there are only 4-5 data points on levels.fyi I do not trust this information. A friend I have a GitHub says the possible yearly stock range for that level is off by a factor of 2.