December 6, 2021

Tomer Aiderapp

Consummate Business Technicians

Computer science salaries: A negotiator’s guide

When people focus on what’s most important in a job, compensation usually ranks near the top. Salary often outweighs other factors, like job security, or doing work that aligns with your skills and passions. 

And yet many people feel uncomfortable talking about money. In a 2018 survey, 64% of people polled said they rarely ever or never negotiate their salary. Reluctance to negotiate is especially prevalent if someone is staying in their present position, according to 2021 data compiled by a US-based business analytics firm. However, most managers and companies are open to salary negotiations. The survey found that 89% of organizations said they would consider salary negotiations for some or all positions after extending a job offer.

The average annual pay for an American worker across all occupations was $56,310 in May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. People working in computer-related occupations earned $96,770. If you’re entering or working in a high-demand field like computer science, and you’re not negotiating for a higher salary, you’re probably leaving money on the table.

Continue reading to learn more about negotiating your salary in computer science, information technology, and cybersecurity careers. You’ll also learn about what you should expect to be making –– allowing for geographic considerations, of course. 

Salary trends in computer science

The BLS projects that employment in computer and information technology will grow 13% through 2030. That’s faster growth than the average for all occupations. Computer science salaries consistently rank above the national average, according to the BLS.

People who help companies process and analyze data, and keep information secure, earned more in 2019 and 2020, according to a 2021 report. Cybersecurity analysts, data scientists, and cloud engineers saw large year-over-year salary increases. Tech-related salaries increased 3.6% between 2019 and 2020, in spite of the pandemic.

Some IT and cybersecurity jobs don’t require a college degree, but having one will probably increase your earning potential. Earning a tech-related, industry-standard certification can also improve your salary outlook. Location matters too. How much you make can vary depending on where you live. Check out this BLS data on tech-related job pay from May 2020:

Job

California

Texas

Virginia

Minnesota

New Jersey

Information security analyst

$125,990

$113,400

$116,920

$103,750

$123,280

Software developer

$137,620

$109,570

$116,850

$108,060

$113,220

Database administrator

$112,870

$106,280

$110,230

$106,380

$124,470

Understanding which factors influence the salary range for your desired role is step one. Next, you can focus on step two –– deciding what matters most to you. By doing this, you can target your negotiating efforts to achieve your goals.

Choose your focus: Salaries, benefits, bonuses, and more

Annual pay isn’t the only aspect of compensation with wiggle room. Once you’ve started a conversation about overall annual compensation, you can also take this opportunity to talk about benefits and other types of compensation. 

Tech job compensation may include an ownership interest in the company. Annual and performance-based bonuses are also common. Companies are more likely to pay signing bonuses to attract and retain workers. In some cases, signing bonuses may exceed $100,000.

Besides your pay, here are six benefits or perks to negotiate for: 

Remote work flexibility 

Remote work became common during the coronavirus pandemic. But as life goes on in the new normal, some businesses are calling people back to the office. Consider asking your employer for a certain number of remote work days each month. 

More vacation/paid time off 

A 2019 report found that half of US workers don’t use all their paid vacation time. If you’re part of the 45% who do use all available vacation, consider asking for more. You could tie earning the extra time off to work-related productivity goals. 

Technology stipends

Most companies provide their employees with appropriate technology for their job. But if not, consider asking for a monthly stipend. The extra money can defray the expense of making business calls. Or use it to cover part of the cost of a reliable, fast internet connection for your home office. 

A new job title 

An accurate, straightforward job title conveys a snapshot of your skills and experience. Job titles with “senior” or “manager” attached can influence your current or future compensation or job prospects. 

Education/professional development 

Ask if your employer offers tuition reimbursements, grants, or higher education scholarships. Employers may also pay for professional development seminars. In some cases, you’ll have to work in your position for a certain amount of time to qualify. 

Investments/equity

 Some organizations offer employees an opportunity to invest in the company or buy shares. If you choose to invest, you’ll share in the company’s financial success. Take time to learn how your company’s customers, financial investments, and revenue flow.

Go into your conversation with confidence

Once you understand employment trends and you’ve identified what’s important to you, it’s time for the last step –– the conversation. Here’s some guidance on approaching the task.

Knowledge and confidence are important starting points for salary conversations. One technique that conveys confidence is practice. Consider preparing –– but not memorizing –– talking points that can help you steer the conversation. After that, work on your delivery. One expert suggests that avoiding weak and overused words and phrases –– such as “like,” “usually,” and “state-of-the-art” –– signals confidence when communicating.

While confidence is important, remember to balance it with compromise. As one expert puts it, try to view the salary negotiation process as a collaborative effort instead of a conflict. That spirit of compromise means having a willingness to accept a reasonable offer, even if it doesn’t exactly match your goals.

Ready for the next step? We’ve prepared a guide: The five W’s that can help you negotiate your salary.

This article was reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

Monali Mirel Chuatico, a woman with long dark hair, smiles in a headshot.

In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with her bachelor’s in computer science, which gave her the foundation that she needed to excel in roles such as a data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.

Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a nonprofit called COOP Careers, Monali helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.

Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women, and educating youth. Monali’s goal is to gain more experience in her field, expand her skill set, and do meaningful work that will positively impact the world.

Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.