Startups or Publicly Traded Companies: Which Pay Developers More?

Some technologists really want to work for a startup. If you choose the right one, the mission is exciting, your colleagues are interesting, and the potential rewards are vast. But how does technologist pay at startups compare to that at publicly traded companies? 

A new survey by Arc suggests that, for remote developers in the U.S., a job at a late-stage startup can pay an average of $145,000 per year, which is 11.5 percent higher than they’d earn at a public company ($130,000). In addition, 14.7 percent of remote developers working for late-stage startups reported receiving stock options, versus 12.4 percent of developers at public companies. (Arc’s survey featured 2,839 remote developers from around the world.)

If you’re looking for a point of comparison, Emsi Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, estimates the median software developer salary at $98,728 per year, rising even more with the right mix of experience and skills. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for software developers is $110,140, making it one of the higher-paying roles in tech. (Another data point: the latest Dice Tech Salary Report placed the average technologist salary at $104,566, up 6.9 percent between 2020 and 2021.)

Whether you’re working for a startup, a publicly traded company, or some organization in-between, there are several skills that a software developer can learn to boost their attractiveness to hiring managers and recruiters. According to Emsi Burning Glass’s analysis of job postings, these include:

If your heart is set on a startup, keep in mind that many startups focus on highly specialized markets such as finance, and landing a job at one of those will require learning skills specific to that market. And don’t neglect your “soft skills” such as communication and empathy; when you’re a part of a small team that’s moving very fast, being able to negotiate and relate with team members and other stakeholders is absolutely vital to not only your job, but the startup’s survival.