$85K Salary for 7 Years of Java Experience in Silicon Valley? Really?

A reader called to my attention this job ad, offering a position for a Java programmer at $85K in Fremont, an Easy Bay city considered part of Silicon Valley. (It actually makes for an interesting case study of changing Silicon Valley demographics, with the Indians becoming prevalent in areas of former Chinese dominance.)

My reader considered this $85K figure fishy, an impression that was worsened by the ad’s statement, “H-1B transfers welcome.” And to advertise a salary is rare in this field. And of course, since 7 years of experience is on the high end, there is further reason for suspicion.

To put this into perspective, consider the current Quora discussion as to whether a salary of $120-130K is enough to live on in Silicon Valley. Almost all the respondents say No (unless one is extremely frugal). They give grim dollars-and-cents expense breakdowns, and some note that the situation drove them out of the Valley, indeed out of the state, so that they could own a home and raise a family. And again remember, careers tend to be short.

So, what is really going on with that $85K figure? Could be lots of things, since there are loopholes galore in the statutes and regs, both for H-1B and green cards. I suspect, actually, that this is a “green card ad.” Whatever the route taken, it certainly shows the huge incentives employers have to hire foreign workers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. citizens/permanent residents are getting squeezed. The influx of foreign workers  (a) holds down salaries and (b) raises real estate prices to exhorbitant levels. Ouch!

I’ve made public suggestions before for economists to address issue (b). As a Bay Area homeowner, I’m a major beneficiary, but it is making life tough for those — Americans and others — who want to live the American Dream of a house and a family. So, (b) is something that is crying out for quantification, a sadly overlooked issue in the immigration debate.


20 thoughts on “$85K Salary for 7 Years of Java Experience in Silicon Valley? Really?

  1. Well, what do you expect? The average family income for the USA is about $50k, although that might be closer to $80k in high-cost areas like Silicon Valley. So a seven-year job paying average wages is – average. More years of experience mean nothing in software – at least nothing good! Maybe they pay more for less experience? LOL


  2. When the salary is listed it is a dead giveaway that this is a fake job as to support someone’s green card. The company needs to prove no qualified American is available. They are trying to fake out the PERM process. Dispicable.


    • Yep.
      IEEE Spectrum used to run jobs ads that not only specified the salary, but stated the qualification as “two years of experience in the job to be filled” — i.e. the job was already filled, by the foreign worker they want to sponsor for a green card. 🙂


  3. I live in high cost Northern Virginia and have 30 years of software development experience and $85K has been my salary for the last 5 years when I can find work. I am currently unemployed. This was also my salary in 1998. I have 7 years of Java experience but unfortunately 4 years of it was as an Architect which head-hunters do not count as development experience since they do not have a clue.

    The field has become a train wreck because of the H1Bs. Jobs have been dumbed down to entry level and all that matters is the number of years of a particular language. I just don’t get it. I recently picked up Python and wrote a production process after a few hours. The same with Scala, I picked it up quickly, fact much quicker than a former H1B they hired who had only done java previously and I was only on the project part time. In my past position that ended a few months ago I did Python, Java, Scala, SQL, shell scripting, awk, sed, soap, javascript……. This has condemned me to be permanently unemployed.


    • Remember folks, the industry lobbyists claim that older Americans have trouble finding work in IT because they lack up-to-date skills. Yet the writer above has tons of them.


    • >This was also my salary in 1998

      Exactly. And if you figure in something like 5% inflation per year over 17 years, the real wage has fallen by just about 50%. The rates in my database niche have fallen dramatically over the last few years, too, and the rates in the newfangled big data, devops, and data science are slightly higher but not enough to get excited about … although the handful of people in big data and data science with *actual* expertise are going for double or triple the rate, I assume.

      I think we have to capitulate. Salaried STEM work is no longer for the competent. Either create your own startup and win big or lose big, or get out of the field, open a sandwich shop or a car insurance agency, it pays much, much better.


  4. Thank you, Norm. This is a data point supporting the principle that immigration-stoked “overpopulation is profitable” for the amoral economic elites that exacerbate STEM talent gluts via procurement of the most liberal immigration policies in the World. Talent gluts drive down wages – and selfishly boost corporate profits. 😦 While the economic benefits of these policies are largely privatized, the unprecedented costs are socialized.


  5. 7 years experience on a six year H-1B visa – doesn’t leave much time to work (!) if the employer really welcomes H-1B transfers.


    • Some of those years could have been in the home country, or in a combination of OPT and H-1B, for example.

      Note that if a foreign worker is being sponsored for a green card, he/she can renew the H-1B past 6 years, 1 year at a time, until the green card comes through.

      Note by the way that transfers of H-1Bs from one employer to another do NOT count against the H-1B cap.


      • a large number are sponsored as their sponsors are treating this as a profit center by charging them first to sponsor their H-1B and then later to sponsor their green card.

        My understanding is they get $20,000.00 for the green card


  6. It’s even more fiendishly clever. If you compare the USA aggregate median household income ($53,657 in 2014) to what STEM pros in Sili Valley, we’re obviously way way over-paid, don’t you see. Never mind that a bunk in a 30 person group house costs $1,800/month and a starter home is over $116K in Sili Valley. So, they can point to a STEM pro getting $60K and claim he’s over-paid, compared to the national median for every occupation, industry, and location.

    But even in an old AAAS EurekAlert from 2002 February, they noted that 90% were doing worse than 20 years earlier (1982). Ah, and in 2001 median household income was $42,228.

    Let’s see…
    Median household income…
    USA: $57,657
    California: $60,487
    Florida: $46,140
    Indiana: $48,060
    Mississippi: $35,521
    Ohio: $49,644
    West Virginia: $39,552
    ahh, see, obviously all those STEM pros (many of whom could not afford to buy a home, marry, and raise a family in Sili Valley) are way over-paid. So we must have 3 or 4 or 10 times as many guest-workers to cope with the terrible shortage of STEM pros willing to work in Sili Valley for $54K/year.

    Wellll, as usual the easily accessible data are skew from what one would like, so I will leave it at that. Perhaps I’ll go back to it when there is time.


  7. ok, I hope I am not going to get shot for this post. But if you look at the post:
    you notice that there is the basis of a pretty good idea for a business that would fit a veteran programer population, given that you keep the servers in Canada or Mexico (but I tend to trust better Canada). You could have an invitation only monthly paid fee scheme. The biggest issue is with the identification of walk-in (maybe the project Glass 2.0?).


  8. In order to see who was hiring in my area, I went to the labor certification database, I did come across a number of previously unknown to me tech companies in the area. In as much as the person needing the job is disabled, any lead is welcomed. With the lottery being oversubscribed this year, there may be unfilled openings. In addition, the average salary is also listed.


  9. From Zillow:
    The median home value in Mountain View is $1,344,000. Mountain View home values have gone up 22.7% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 6.2% within the next year. The median rent price in Mountain View is $3,950, which is higher than the San Jose Metro median of $3,500.

    That’s why I don’t even entertain job offers from Silicon Valley or SF Bay area. Throw in LA Metro as well.


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