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Salary vs. Science When Choosing a Career in Tech

By The Brown Daily Herald

February 2, 2022

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Anika Bahl is a Computer Science Teaching Assistant at Brown University.

Like many other computer science concentrators at Brown, I began searching for a summer internship early last fall. In the weeks leading up to winter break, I saw many of my peers notify their LinkedIn connections that they would be spending their summers working for top tech companies. To my surprise, the majority of them demonstrated a dramatic bias towards Silicon Valley. The appeal of these offers is quite plain — the pay can be dramatically higher than alternatives in computer science research and academia. But I was still shocked to notice that even Brown students — as socially concerned as they generally are — were not driven to more impactful and experimental career paths.

Starting salaries at big tech companies can reach over $150k annually — and that's without the added bonuses and lucrative stock options they also offer. However, junior software engineers at these companies are essentially cogs in gigantic corporate machines: one of thousands of capable software engineers contributing to a codebase that is likely millions of lines long. This dynamic isn't inherently negative, but it does remove some potential for creative engagement and innovation.

While the average computer science academic makes significantly less — an average of around $103k for tenured and tenure-track faculty at public institutions, according to a study from the National Education Association — they also have a degree of autonomy that is near impossible to match at an established company.

From The Brown Daily Herald
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