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While is is easy to find salary surveys for data scientists and related professions both at the junior and senior level, broken down per location and skills set, very few analyses show salary progress over the course of a 25 years career.

I decided to fill this gap by providing full details about my salary history and job titles / responsabilities, from the time I started my PhD in 1988 (computational statistics) until today. My career path might not be typical, nevertheless I believe this information will be valuable to many.

  • 1988. I worked part-time in a high-tech company (in partnership with my university stats lab) and as a teaching associate, when I started my PhD in Belgium. I was paid €18,000 per year, and the tuition (for the PhD program) was free.
  • 1993. By the time I fnished my PhD, still attached to the same university, my salary was around €25,000.
  • 1994-95. Postdoc, at the stats lab, Cambridge university. My job title was research fellow, and I was paid £20,000 a year, which at that time was 15% below my previous salary.
  • 1996. Moved to United States (North Carolina) to complete my postdoc at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences. The salary was $45,000 a year, at least 30% above my salary at Cambridge (at that time, the difference between the British pound and US dollar was much smaller than it is today).
  • 1997. I moved to the industry, initially as a statistician for CNET in New Jersey (they own download.com), an Internet company with a few hundred employees at that time. I started with $65,000 per year.
  • 1999. By this time, still at CNET, my salary, deemed too low, had been automatically boosted to $74,000.
  • 2000. I moved to San Francisco, worked for NBCi (acquired from CNET by NBC) as a Research Manager, earning $84,000 per year. Too low by San Francisco standards, but it was the time when Internet stocks were booming. I earned at least $100,000 in stock options exercises between 1999 and 2000.
  • 2001. I came back to CNET, but this time in San Francisco. I was now senior statistician, managing two employees in the BI group. My salary was $95,000 a year. Rents were crazy in San Francisco (ours for a 2 bedroom appartment in San Francisco SOMA went from $2,500 to $4,500/month), so we bought a house for $270,000 in the East Bay.
  • 2002-2005. My consulting years after the Internet bust: first with Visa ($55/hour, fraud detection project, the agency charged $175/hour to the client, but it was a great experience worth having in your resume). Then several months with Wells Fargo, at $45/hour. They really loved what I did for them.
  • 2005-2006. I started consulting with Infospace (click fraud detection, Washington state) at $90/hour, flying back and forth between San Francisco and Seattle. They eventually hired me (starting at $120,000 per year in 2005, then $125,000 in 2006), and I sold my house in the Bay Area for $520,000 (with a profit of $250,000 after expenses) and bought a $580,000 house in the Seattle area, in 2005.
  • 2007. Raised $6 million in VC money, created start-up called Authenticlick in Los Angeles, was Chief Science Officer. Salary started at $150,000 per year, went up to $175,000 per year. I sold a patent for $100,000. Declined an offer to join Adknowledge in Kansas City (salary was $250,000 per year) because of the location (Kansas City).
  • 2008-2009. Money stopped coming to Authenticlick. I joined competitor Adometry in Austin as Chief Scientist, still living near Seattle. Salary was $165,000 per year.
  • 2009-2010. Some consulting with eBay in San Jose ($85/hour) and Microsoft ($48/hour plus benefits, being employee).
  • 2010-2012. Chief Scientist al Looksmart (Ad network), $155,000 per year. Flying again back and forth between Seattle and San Francisco, but they paid all travel expenses including more than $40,000 in hotels.
  • 2013. Co-Founder, Data Science Central. My revenue is a bit difficult to quantify, but it is above $400,000 per year. I still live around Seattle. My house is now worth $720,000 while the one I sold for $520,000 in the Bay Area (Pittsburgh) in 2005 is now worth $290,000. I still do occasional consulting work (big data) for $100/hour, though I actually automate most of the work, thus my effective rate is well above $100/hour.

I actually created Datashaping, then Analyticbridge (which was acquired and became Data Science Central) back in 2000. Revenue was about $6,000 per year in 2001, about $12,000 in 2005, and $60,000 in 2010. I always invested in my company and have no retirement (instead a 50% share in Data Science Central, worth a few million dollars). I expect to earn some money from the sales of my data science book, and maybe later from our certification and apprenticeship. I was born in a modest family in Belgium. By the time I arrived to United States (I was 32 years old), I had no money. I also saved at least $30,000 by not having health insurance whenever I could (when I was an independent consultant); my health expenditures have been less than $100/year on average, even today at 50 years old.

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Replies to This Discussion

Vincent

Great article about the truth in Data, Software and IT salaries.  As a 25+ year technical Recruiter, my experience is that real salaries in major Corporations are heavily skewed.  Even in Seattle and SF high tech mecca's your incomes were very skewed. You have done well to create a company and brand and based on your profile, you appear not to be someone who will retire.

A Trend I have always noticed, is that Middle Management salaries lag until the people they need to hire make more than all the managers. And every company is looking for Superstar with 5 years experience, usually making more than the internal employees.

Your peaks and Valleys match my income over the years, and my years as a business owner create a self confidence and ability to comeback.

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