Apple CEO Tim Cook Salary Beats Out Median Engineer Pay

It’s good to be Apple CEO Tim Cook. According to Apple’s new proxy statement filed with the SEC, he made $14.7 million last year, which included a $3 million base salary. It was a healthy bump from 2019, when he made $11.5 million, and solidified his place as one of the highest-compensated executives in tech.

Like many of the largest tech companies, Apple has a reputation for offering ultra-high salaries. In addition, the company’s burgeoning stock price has enriched employees whose compensation packages include a chunk of equity. 

Although Cook is richly paid, he doesn’t have the highest compensation among tech executives. For example, Sundar Pichai, CEO of both Google and Alphabet, pulled down roughly $280.6 million in 2019, according to estimates from financial analytics firm S&P Global. At Microsoft, Satya Nadella earned $42.9 million in 2019, the vast majority of it due to stock awards on top of his $2.3 million salary.  

Let’s compare Tim Cook’s compensation to what Apple pays its software engineers, from entry level all the way up to the highest tiers. For more insight into engineer compensation, we can utilize data from levels.fyi, which crowdsources compensation at various tech firms. (Although crowdsourcing isn’t the most scientific way of determining salary numbers, it does give us a ballpark estimation of pay; we also cross-check levels.fyi’s data against the crowdsourced numbers available via Glassdoor.) Here’s that breakdown:

If you ascend to the top ranks of Apple engineers, you’ll end up paid quite handsomely for your work—especially if you stick with the company for the long term, at which point your stock awards will become a very significant part of your overall compensation. Reaching pay on Cook’s level, however, would likely require becoming an executive. 

Like many tech companies, Apple is also more than happy to pay a substantial premium for technologists who possess in-demand skills such as artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning. In mid-2020, a report from Protocol also suggested that Apple is hiring lots of cloud-computing experts in a bid to compete more directly with the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, which have all made big bets on cloud-based apps and services. 

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