Product Designer, California, Palo Alto, Entry Level Salary?


I might get an offer at the design firm i intern and i want to enter the office prepared. I have been researching annual salaries for a Product Designers in California for a couple weeks but i’m not too confident of the results i found. There seems to be a big margin from one source to another (40k-70k for Junior designers). I don’t want to enter the office shooting numbers at random, but i don’t want to get less than the going rate for someone in my position.

So here’s a little bit about the situation:
To skim through this, just read the bold parts.

-Bachelors of Sci. in Product Design & Development. from SF State finished Fall 2012.

-Working as a non-payed intern at a product design firm for the past 3 months (ends soon). Have been putting in between 30-40 hours a week.

-I’m pretty experienced in Solidworks, which is what this firm uses for all its product designs.

-No previous design related jobs. However i’m tool savvy and very mechanically inclined. I was able to show this with at least two of the projects i worked on.

-In the 3 months i gained a lot of experience. Things like designing parts for specific manufacturing processes (like molds), tool safe changes, 3d printing and 3d printer maintenance, create BOM files, and my favorite: figuring out mechanical issues in product testing.

-I’ve been involved with many of the products currently in progress. Updating Cad drawings; figure out mechanical failures in prototypes, make tool-friendly (and some non-friendly) changes to designs; in one case i redesigned a product from the ground up in order to make it work.

-Had positive feedback throughout the 3 months.

-The boss had informed me half-way through the internship that “we’re considering making you an offer at the end of the internship”

There’s more, but do you really want to read all this crap???

I like working there, and i’m pretty sure they like me (well…for now!).

What should i be expecting, and can a counter-offer backfire (as in, they’ll retract their offer and send you packing)?

You mentioned researching salaries. Have you been looking into the cost of living in the Bay area? Food. Reg. gasoline is running anywhere from $4.09 - $4.29 a gallon right now. Using as a search engine, two 1-bedroom apartments resulted in the “$700-1,000 per month” range. Utilities? Phone? Are you going to be paying off a student loan? A car? Auto insurance? etc.

edit - PA is in the fourth most expensive area of the US to live in.

Just a word of caution: the idea of “salaries are proportional to local cost of living” is sort of a myth, or is at least not as black and white as it seems. Most mid-level designers I know in NYC are making $40-55k.

I would be very prepared to be offered something in the $30k’s, and these days, I’d take it if I were you.

Keep in mind you are at the most junior of levels. No offense, but you have zero leverage. To be honest, with jobs so fragile, I’m not sure I’d attempt a counter-offer.

If you’re feeling brave, at least try to have a concrete reason for your counter-offer. As in, “I have to live no more than X miles away from the office, and rent in this area tends to be $X.XX” but don’t be pushy.

30K would be low and might not even cover living expenses in the area depending on where you live in SF

From my experience and talking to all my junior designer friends in the city I would gander that you’d be in the 40k-55k range.

40k -45k- minimum I’ve seen in the Bay area.
45k -55k - where a lot of designers with right out of school tend to be.
55k-65k - right were a little bit of experience can bring you too. (also proper negotiation/raises can get you here.)
65k -75k - working at a bigger name consultancy (factoring in better benefits as well + usually a bit more experience).
75k+ If you happen to nag a big corporation job (Facebook/Twitter/Google/Apple/Oracle) you might be closing in on 6 figures. (also factoring in that ux/ui pays a bit more than ID)

Also check for good insights. Find other consultancies you find comparable to your current one and cross reference.

Talk to friends in the city. Its supposedly a taboo topic to talk about, but in doing so within my group of friends a few people realized they were underpaid and were able to negotiate raises at there next reviews. Knowledge is power.

Here’s a link to the Coroflot Design Salary Guide, for Product Designer in San Francisco:

That’s a pretty specific set of criteria, and there are only 16 responses there. That graph shows the 25th, 50th and 75th percentile. Since this is your first job you should put yourself all the way to the left side of that graph.

If you back out to look at all of California you get some more detail:

Again, put yourself on the left end of that graph.

Hope that helps!

65k-75k+ for an entry level designer?!?! no way. plain and simple

expect a range of 40k-50k


the idea of “salaries are proportional to local cost of living” is sort of a myth

Personally i feel the same way. I really don’t think the pay should reflect if i have debts to pay or not. If i had $100K debt to my college, was up to my ears in debts for car payments, rent, bills, that justifies getting paid more than if I finished college debt free through grants, live with family, opted to buy a used car with cheap insurance? No, i rather be measured by what i can bring to the company, not by the size of my debt.

two 1-bedroom apartments resulted in the “$700-1,000 per month” range.

1 bedroom apartments in my area are more in the $1,500-2,000 a month range. Regardless, it shouldn’t have to matter. If i wanted to just get by, then i wouldn’t have gone to college for a degree.

Regarding those salary sites, i tried most of them, but again, their results seem vague.

If i get the offer it’s going to be in the next 2 days, since my internship ends tomorrow. I don’t want to sound arrogant, i realize i’m fresh out of college, but I’d like at least $50k. I’ve been there 3 months, so my boss knows my strengths and weaknesses, and maybe i can use that in my favor.
I guess i was more curious to know if i’m pushing my luck asking $50k straight out of college.

Either way, i’ll let you guys know how it turns out.

Wish me luck!

Good luck.

Firstly, good luck. I was in the same situation last summer but unfortunately there was a company wide no hiring policy, due to the economy and people being made redundant left right and centre.

On the salary side of things. here is what I am seeing in the UK at the moment (im a recent grad still looking for work):

Entry / junior industrial design jobs are being advertised at £18,000 - £22,000 ($27,549 - $33,671)

Middle Weight jobs are around £22,000 - £30,000 ($33,671 - $45,915)

Senior roles £30 + ($45,915)

Obviously these are ball park figures from job adverts that would be able to be negotiated higher at interviews etc but i think it gives a rough idea of the situation.

I would think there will be more factors than just the currency rate to take into account like health insurance for you guys and location (most of these adverts are for london) but taking Sain’s lowest estimate of 40k, that is (£)26k. That is a massive different. am I missing something here? or do i need to move to america? :slight_smile:


My point in mentioning, rent utilities, a car payment, insurance, et. al: while "proportional salaries "might be a myth, the cost of living where, and in the manner in which you are accustomed, isn’t. You might be surprised how many people, in the excitement of receiving a job offer, don’t consider this when negotiating a salary.

And of course you are correct. As an employer I wouldn’t care about the size of your debt, how much of your salary you spend, or if you’re supporting your grandma, or if you have to eat ramen noodles four nights a week to afford your apartment, all I care about is how much you cost me.

I would however be mildly curious to know if your potential employer asks for access to your credit information. It seems to be a trend in the last few years to collate a candidates credit rating (more precisely repayment habits) with reliability in the work place.

You really did a great job. I found your information very interesting and very informative. I think it’s great information source & I like your way of writing and explaining the topics. Keep it up.

a bit of spam brought this back to the top, I wonder how it worked out for the original poster?