How much you can earn as a CTO depends on the size of company you work for and where. But Information Age has gleaned what the average CTO salary is around the world
If you want job satisfaction, be a CTO. That was one conclusion drawn from research conducted by Python development specialist STX Next in early 2022. More than one in three (35 per cent) of 500 CTOs surveyed rated their job satisfaction at five out of five, with a further 43 per cent putting it at four out of five.
But only 18 per cent rated satisfaction with their salaries at five out of five. That’s interesting, because many CTOs are well-paid, with six-figure salaries widespread, and many earning considerably more than that. But whether you are already a CTO, or somebody who aspires to be one, it’s always tempting to wonder whether the grass might genuinely be greener elsewhere.
‘The average UK CTO salary is £192,000 for the private sector and £245,000 for the public sector’
Benchmarking CTO job specifications or CTO salary is difficult because every organisation – and thus every CTO role – is different. What we can say is that CTOs shape and execute technology strategy; building and managing teams to deliver that strategy. Those working for technology-based companies may also be closely involved in the creation of products or services that are core to the overall business model.
If working with technology is what you enjoy the most about your work, you will be doing more of that if you work for a smaller organisation. At start-ups, for example, says Tom Chambers, associate director responsible for the London technology division at global recruitment company Robert Walters, “a CTO will be deeply involved in technical work, day to day”.
Some start-up CTOs will also be co-founders, so may have a big stake in the business, but those hired from outside are also likely to be offered equity as part of their compensation package. Equity in a successful start-up, or one later acquired by another company, may turn out to be very valuable.
Start-up versus enterprise level
But even within the start-up world, the CTO’s role can vary. Once a company has more than about 200 employees, Chambers suggests, the CTO’s technical focus tends to become more strategic and less focused on day-to-day operations. These CTOs may spend more time engaging with investors, possibly discussing current and planned products with them. They are also likely to be building a layer of management to oversee different aspects of technology operations and development.
In larger businesses CTOs may do much less hands-on technical work. “They will be focused on budgets, stakeholder engagement and strategy,” says Chambers. Some may have an “ambassadorial role”, as Chris Bone, CEO and co-founder at technology recruitment platform Haystack puts it, selling the company to investors, customers and potential employees, particularly those who might work in tech roles.
“Because tech talent is so in demand, part of a potential candidate’s decision making will be based on the quality of the CTO,” Bone explains. “The CTO is the face of that company to the technology community, so they have to be engaging and inspiring.” For these CTOs, networking events, speaking at conferences and being active on social media are all important parts of the job.
What can I earn as a CTO?
So how much might these different types of CTOs expect to earn? That is a “how long is a piece of string?”-type question, but recruiters can offer some pointers.
Owen Reynolds, head of marketing at Jobbio, the service provider which powers Information Age’s jobs board, says his company’s figures suggest average UK CTO salaries are £192,000 for the private sector and £245,000 for the public sector. For early stage private sector businesses that figure is £175,000, including bonuses and stock options.
Chambers points out that some CTOs working for technology start-ups will be on higher compensation than some CTOs of well-established corporates. “I’ve placed CTOs who were on salaries of up to £400,000, plus equity, at a series B company,” he says.
>See also: How to answer top tech interview questions
What’s the salary for a midsized company?
The average CTO salary at a longer-established, mid-size company is likely to be somewhere around £250,000, according to Ricky Burns, regional director, UK and Europe, for permanent hiring in software, cloud, product, design and creative at recruitment firm Salt. Companies in some sectors pay more: Haystack co-founder and COO Mike Davies says a London-based CTO at a fintech or AI-based technology SME might expect to earn between about £275,000 and £350,000.
At larger corporates Chambers suggests salaries might range between about £280,000 to £350,000, with base salaries, bonuses and other incentives varying by industry. Some CTOs will earn much more: he gives the example of a CTO working for a London-based pharmaceutical corporate with a compensation package in seven figures.
Can I earn more working in the US?
Remuneration also varies by location. In the UK, salaries for London-based CTOs may be £30,000 to £40,000 higher than those elsewhere, Davies suggests. Employers in Europe tend to pay slightly less than in the UK: the average CTO salary in Germany ranged from €120,000 to €250,000 in December 2022, according to Jobbio. Salaries tend to be higher in some of the places that you might expect – Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin or Frankfurt – and in some you might not, such as Lisbon, which nevertheless is becoming a popular hub for technology-based businesses.
Many of the highest CTO salaries are paid in the US, where Jobbio figures suggest many salaries were in the $244,000 to $304,000 range in December 2022. Sectors where some US CTO salary packages reach seven figures include technology, financial services, oil and gas, and pharmaceuticals.
Other countries where CTO will find their skills in demand and well-remunerated include the oil states of the Middle East, says Chambers. But he does not think many Asia-Pacific employers are yet paying CTOs as much as they could earn in the US or parts of Europe.
In future it may be easier for US job hunters to find out how much a new position might pay than it is now. Four US states (California, New York, Rhode Island and Washington) now require some salary transparency, with employers showing a likely salary range in job listings. Reynolds expects more US states and some other governments and regulators to follow suit in the near future.
Whatever kind of CTO they want to be, would-be candidates should keep their eyes open, says Reynolds. “The best way to benchmark your role against the market is to go somewhere such as Information Age Jobs and take a look around to see what the requirements are,” he advises.
The good news for everyone who might be looking is that with technology at the heart of most businesses, there will continue to be opportunities for both experienced and aspiring CTOs, in jobs which can be varied, exciting and well-paid, for the foreseeable future.
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