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SpaceX and Tesla Motors both received a publicity boost when SpaceX announced last year that it was opening up an office in the Seattle area. (GeekWire photo)

What do the employees at two of billionaire brainiac Elon Musk’s companies, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, think about their job situation? Newly released ratings from Seattle-based PayScale suggest that they don’t draw the highest salaries in the tech world, but see their jobs as extraordinarily meaningful (and stressful).

The two ventures lead a list of 18 top tech companies when it comes to the percentage of survey respondents who say their jobs have lots of meaning (92 percent for SpaceX, 89 percent for Tesla) and high stress (88 percent for SpaceX, 70 percent for Tesla).

That’s in line with the companies’ difficult but rewarding missions: Tesla aims to revolutionize the automotive and power industries with its approaches to electric cars and in-home batteries, while SpaceX aims to lower the cost of spaceflight and eventually turn humanity into a multiplanet species.

Based on PayScale’s data, the employees’ compensation isn’t as high-flown as their aspirations. On the scale for early-career median pay, Tesla ranks 13th at $81,400 a year. SpaceX is one notch lower at $78,500. That’s well above the median U.S. household income ($53,657 for 2014) but relatively low on PayScale’s list.

The survey isn’t exactly scientific: It’s based on the responses that PayScale’s users are asked to give when they sign up to see how much other people in the company’s database are making. The tech industry survey drew upon information from 35,500 non-retail tech workers, but there’s no guarantee that the salaries they reported were accurate. Also, the results are arguably weighted in favor of employees who are looking for other gigs.

Nevertheless, the comparisons make for interesting water-cooler chatter.

Image: PayScale infographic
The PayScale Salary Survey compares survey responses from employees at 18 tech companies. For an interactive version of the infographic, visit Payscale’s website.

“Facebook certainly looks like a great place to work – not only do Facebook employees report the highest median early career salary ($116,800), but collectively, Facebook employees are the least stressed,” PayScale said in today’s analysis of the survey results. “Only 44 percent of Facebook employees say that their jobs are highly stressful.”

If you’re looking for the anti-SpaceX, consider LinkedIn: That company rated No. 2 for early-career median pay ($110,800) and No. 1 for mid-career median pay ($159,600). No figures were provided for job satisfaction, job meaningfulness or stress.

For what it’s worth, Facebook’s respondents reported the lowest median age (29) while HP reported the highest (38). SpaceX had the lowest proportion of women employees among PayScale’s respondents (18 percent) while eBay had the highest (43 percent).

Again, those figures don’t necessarily reflect the statistics reported by the companies themselves. For example, Amazon says its workforce is 39 percent female, but that includes warehouse laborers as well as techie types. The figure that PayScale’s survey came up with, 26 percent, is closer to the 24 percent that Amazon reports for its management workforce.

So how does the Seattle area’s other tech powerhouse, Microsoft, stack up on PayScale’s list? The Redmond-based company comes in at No. 4 for early-career pay ($102,500), No. 8 for mid-career pay ($139,700) and in the middle of the pack for job satisfaction, meaningfulness and stress.

Where do you think your favorite tech company would rank? Feel free to weigh in with your comments. And for the nitty-gritty details, check out PayScale’s explanation of its survey methodology.

Update for 7 p.m. PT March 7: An earlier version of this story noted that LinkedIn was at the bottom of the list for job satisfaction, meaningfulness or stress, but that’s only because ratings for those categories were not provided.

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