How Much Software Engineers Earn in Boston

With seemingly every city vying for a spot as the second U.S. tech hub after Silicon Valley, it’s no surprise that technical talent—including software engineers—are curious where their skills will be most valued (and most compensated). While Boston has been an underestimated tech player in the past, its startup culture is a hotbed for growth and new ideas and by some accounts, the world’s best city to find a job. 

In this article, we’ll examine why software engineers in Boston love their city, as well as some other factors which might impact whether someone chooses this academic-heavyweight city as a place to start, grow, or live out their career.

2018 was a blockbuster for Boston tech workers

According to our data, Boston salaries for the average tech worker were on the decline from 2015 to 2017, falling from an average of $120k to $117k. However, things improved drastically in 2018, with the average tech salary jumping a full 9% to $127k. Salary growth rates near 10% are rare; the only other city that reached this rate of growth in our analysis was Toronto.

There are many potential causes of salary fluctuations between and within job markets. Last year, an influx of funding in Boston may have been one potential cause, along with some high-value exits, including both acquisitions (e.g. Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack) and IPOs (e.g. CarGurus). From tech giants to early-stage startups, companies in Boston are growing fast, building larger teams, and boosting the local economy.

Specialization is key for software engineers

When it comes to salaries, specialist engineers tend to fare better than generalists—perhaps unsurprisingly as more junior engineers will likely start in less specialized roles. According to Hired data, average software engineering salaries over the last 12 months were as follows:

  • Mobile Engineer: $138,000 
  • Machine Learning Engineer: $136,000
  • Search Engineer: $136,000
  • Data Engineer: $135,000
  • Backend Engineer: $135,000  
  • Full Stack Engineer: $132,000 
  • Frontend Engineer: $130,000 

Engineering roles in Boston are well compensated - especially given the average cost of living when compared to other tech hubs like San Francisco and New York.

Considering Boston’s cost of living 

While Boston tech salaries haven’t risen to the amount of San Francisco’s average tech income ($127k vs. $145k), cost of living is an important piece of the puzzle to consider. To see how other cities fare in a cost of living comparison, we asked, “How much further do average tech salaries stretch in other cities compared to San Francisco?”

Austin tech workers fared the best, with an average adjusted salary of $208k, followed by Denver and Seattle. The adjusted salary in Boston came in at $158k—a significant raise from the actual average salary of $127k.

With average tech salaries growing rapidly and a more appealing cost of living than San Francisco and New York, it’s easy to see why data from early 2019 suggests that both commercial leases and residential purchases are on the rise in Boston.

Salary isn’t everything

While financial compensation is undoubtedly an important piece of whether or not a job offer makes sense, don’t forget that there are a number of other factors worth considering as you choose a role and city for your software engineering career. 

Equity compensation is another key consideration which may help to offset a lower salary offer with an earlier-stage company in Boston. In addition, if you have an affiliation with (or interest in) a specific industry or academic circle in Boston (whether it be biotech or a top-tier university), those ties are a valuable consideration—particularly if it means working closely with collaborators or industry partners. 

Lastly, you’ll hopefully be doing more than shuttling between home and the office—and Boston is a vibrant coastal city with lots to explore:

  • Rich history: Sometimes called “The Cradle of Liberty,” Boston plays a central role in American history which is evident on nearly every street corner. 
  • Walkability: Boston is truly a walking city, with many people choosing to explore on foot, or take “The T,” Boston’s public transportation system.
  • Performing arts & culture: Boston is a major cultural hub, touting world-famous symphony, opera, ballet, and first-round theater productions from Broadway. 
  • Innovation: Boston is leading the way for technical innovation. With innovation hubs such as The Roxbury Innovation Center, Tech Stars, and the MIT Innovation Initiative, tech leaders are collaborating for future growth at an unprecedented level. 
  • Accessibility: For a little relaxation, just an hour drive away is the beautiful cape with coastal cities, such as Chatam, Hyannis, and Provincetown—relaxation from the job is just steps away. Plus, with easy access to other hubs on the east coast such as NYC, Philly, D.C., and Baltimore, Boston is the ideal city for tech workers.

With Hired, top companies in Boston will apply to you and many will provide large relocation packages, if needed. Visit Hired today to create a free profile and add Boston to your location preferences. You’ll start hearing about amazing opportunities in the area from companies like Wayfair, CarGurus, DraftKings, and many more on Hired ready to interview you.

About the Author

Napala Pratini

Napala is a consultant to early-stage technology companies. Prior to going independent, Napala led marketing initiatives across both consumer and B2B fintech for employers including NerdWallet and Earnest. In past lives she was a ballet dancer and a cancer researcher.