I'm in graduate school and plan on applying for a Software Engineering position at some of the top tech companies once I graduate (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc). How can I know how much to ask for? I know that I can check the salary tracking sites, but a "Software Engineering job in Mountainview" is different from a "Software Engineering job at Google, Mountainview". Does anyone have an idea of what these companies are offering new graduates? Also, what effect does the amount of education have on salary (i.e. Master's vs PhD). Thanks!

degrees may have some influence on your starting position in a company, and thus on your starting salary.
But overall experience and years of employment count for a lot more (something most fresh university grads are rather alarmed to discover, when they notice their salaries are lower than that of their boss's secretary who's been at the company for 20 years).

And as you say, area and to a lesser degree the company matter a lot as well.
The salary I make in Amsterdam is only a fraction of what I'd make in London or New York, but cost of living is also lower so it compensates (at least in part).

And oh, don't expect to be instantly hired by the big boys you mention. Most high profile companies get reams of applications from highly experienced people willing to take a paycut to work for them, so you're up against quite some competition.
If you're hired you'd effectively have a job not much better than a janitor. Probably something to do with testing or writing code samples and documentation.
That's in fact the junior jobs Microsoft Europe sometimes advertises here. Starters are hired to translate new versions of Microsoft software into other languages. The best few may get a job doing something else in the company, the other 90%+ don't get their 6 month contracts renewed.

Thanks for the advice.

Does anyone know what the general starting salary difference would be between a MS and PhD in Computer Science for a typical software development position? I'm trying to decide if I should go for a Phd.

I don't think a PhD makes you look any better than an MS to employers. It takes longer to get too. Starting salaries look for minimum requirements like a BS and x number of years for experience. In my area the starting salary is around 40k per year.

When you are applying as a freshers(without experience) you are generaly not asked for your salary expectations. The joining salary is as per the company standard for freshers. And when you are targetting any such big companies then their standards are always good, so I think a safe answer to give will be "As per the company standard", if asked in the HR interview.

I think agree that MS and PhD doesn't make much difference from point of view of employer when you are applying as a fresher. And rather then doing your PhD if you invest that time in field, this experience will count a lot. If you consider the starting salary after PhD and your salary as a 2 year professional experienced person, then of course the 2 years exp should be more(I think).

Hi there

I don't know if the US is much different from the UK but here graduates don't "ask" for any amount - they pretty much are happy with what they are given because the competition is so high!

Again, maybe the US is different but here there isn't much point in doing a PhD unless you want to go down the academic route ie lecturing or research. If you want to be an actual software engineer, the first step is to get your foot in the door, nevermind the salary and then apply for a better job once you have a few years experience behind you.

I agree.

As a fresher u dont have much choice regardign salary. Becasue you are not supposed to bargain without relevant experience. You have to go as per company standards.

Hi memeber,

This condition reminds of one quotation : "Beggars don't have choice." So don't focus on salary right now. Get some good experince under your belt and then think about the money.

regards
NAPSTER