Apple vs. Tesla: Which Offers Software Engineers the Biggest Salaries?

Apple and Tesla have been in the news quite a bit lately. First, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to meet with him about a possible acquisition, back when Tesla was struggling to produce its Model 3 electric car. Then, rumors surfaced that Apple had renewed work on an electric vehicle of its own—potentially challenging Tesla’s dominance.

If you’re a technologist interested in helping plot the future of autonomous driving and electric vehicles, in other words, there’s a possible scenario where both Tesla and Apple will have jobs available for you (although not for a number of years, in Apple’s case; it takes quite a bit of time to get car-manufacturing lines up and running). But how much do each of these companies pay their engineers? Let’s take a look at data from levels.fyi, which crowdsources compensation data from technologists.

Here’s what Tesla pays several tiers of engineers (note: for the P1 ranking, levels.fyi doesn’t include any kind of bonus):

And here’s what Apple pays its engineers at analogous ranks:

A couple of things to note here: The engineering goals of Apple and Tesla are pretty different; for example, Tesla is focused exclusively on vehicle-based software and A.I., while Apple’s software encompasses a wide variety of form-factors, from watches and speakers all the way to phones and desktops. That being said, there is overlap between the skill-sets that the two companies demand; or as Elon Musk once put it, throwing quite a bit of snark in Apple’s direction: “If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple.”

According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country (and at some of the nation’s largest companies), the top tech skills in demand at Tesla include Python, project management, SQL, software engineering, and mechanical engineering. 

At Apple, top skills also include Python, software engineering, project management, along with C++, Java, and machine learning. Of course, its ultra-secretive car division (supposedly termed “Project Titan”) likely needs technologists who are particularly skilled in building autonomous systems powered by cutting-edge A.I.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Apple’s whispered interest in automobiles will put it on a tighter collision course (so to speak) with Tesla, which is also battling the traditional automakers for road supremacy. No matter what happens, though, these companies are going to need technologists skilled in everything from Python to machine learning—and that’s where your opportunity potentially comes in. 

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