How much did I make at my first programm ...

How much did I make at my first programming job?

Nov 18, 2021

Mind you, my first programming job was right after I graduated from college in 2008. While 13 years doesn't sound like a very long time, in the software development industry it's an eternity. Overall though, not much has really changed in terms of software developer salaries since that time.

Professors constantly told wild stories of jobs paying 6 figures and that we'd all be rich after graduation.

And that's still the common narrative being told. If you join the programming world, riches await you.

Well..for me it wasn't quite riches in the beginning.

My asking price

Because of this thing referred to as "Imposter Syndrome", I was relatively low in confidence right after college. It just didn't make sense that I would be asking for $110,000 and stock options when I could barely put together a Linked List.

I knew that if I wanted to increase my chances of landing pretty much anything in the industry, I would have to aim a bit lower.

So my asking price right out the door was $55k to $60k. To "most" people, truthfully, that's still a pretty fantastic salary. Particularly if you're in your early to mid 20's. So that's the number that I rolled with whenever I was asked during an interview.

Overall, I got mixed responses. Some employers laughed at my request, while others hesitantly told me that it was doable.


Negotiations are a part of any business deal, and it's no different here. Often times my $60k request would get dwindled down to around $50k, with "promises" of riches later on.

I, of course, said yes to pretty much anything that sounded like it would get me the job. A broke college graduate doesn't have much room for negotiations.

This is actually how I managed to get my first job. Some people may tell you that you should negotiate up and not down, but those people probably have never been turned down by 26 companies in a row only to hear a 'yes' before all hope is gone.

I remember I specifically told the Director of Technology that my salary requirement was $55k, because "reasons". He looked at me up and down, looked back at my resume which resembled a school syllabus, and looked back at me.

"If we can do it for $45k, then we'll make it work"

$45k!? That was $10k less dollars than what I was promised in college. Most recruiters will tell you to walk out on that offer. Or to counter with $50k. They will tell you to do everything except take the job offer.

Well, I took the job offer. I took it because no one in my family had ever come close to making $45k a year. It was double what my dad made, and he raised a family of 6 people with that salary.

I'm not saying aim low and take the lowest possible offer. I'm really not (even though it sounded like that). But I am saying that there isn't anything wrong with taking an offer that you find reasonable and that will pretty much be your starting place and can only go up from there.

And my salary has indeed gone up year after year since that time. So long story short, don't panic if your first job offer isn't a $120,000 salary package. If it works with you and your life, that might be the perfect offer.

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