April 5, 2023

Making sense of software engineer salaries in Chicago

Salary, quality of life, and career opportunities for software engineers in Chicago, IL

Making sense of software engineer salaries in Chicago

Software engineers are among the most sought-after professionals today, with more startups and established companies needing their skills. With so many opportunities out there, narrowing down your job search isn’t always easy. You must carefully weigh the salary, quality of life, growth opportunities, and cost of living in the area you choose to work in.

This article will break down these criteria for software engineer positions in Chicago, Illinois. Find out how Chicago fares when compared to the best cities for software engineers in the U.S. so that you can make the right decision for your next role.

Software Engineer Salary Chicago

Salary is a good starting point in narrowing down your job options. You’ll quickly find that salary can vary significantly from place to place, so the city you choose to work in has a major impact on what you take home. Data from Levels.fyi breaks down salary expectations for software engineers throughout Illinois.

In Illinois, the median entry-level software engineer salary is $146,977. The 25th percentile salary in the same category is $120,510. At the 75th percentile, entry-level engineers in Illinois have a salary of around $196,330.

Senior software engineers in Illinois see a significant boost, with a median of $216,640. The 25th and 75th percentile salaries for senior software engineers in Illinois are $182,790 and $280,280, respectively.

Data from Levels.fyi also shows what salary software engineers can expect from positions within the Greater Chicago Area. Entry-level salaries include:

  • Median: $148,940
  • 25th percentile: $121,860
  • 75th percentile: $196,330

Senior software engineer positions in the Greater Chicago area have salaries including:

  • Median: $216,640
  • 25th percentile: $182,790
  • 75th percentile: $284,340

Understanding what you can reasonably expect from your salary in your early and later career can help you make the right choice for your place of work. However, there are plenty of other things to consider before making your final decision.

Cost of Living in Chicago

Reaching a higher salary won’t necessarily leave you better off if you spend more money. The cost of living in your new city will also play an important role in your decision. Usual expenses like food, bills, and housing vary from city to city, as do any other expenses involved in making the most of your life.

One of the most effective metrics for comparing the cost of living between cities is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). CPI scores take into account the average cost of housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and more to provide a holistic overview of living expenses.

For the Greater Chicago Area, the latest CPI score is 278. You can compare this to the U.S. city average, which is currently 300. This means that Chicago can provide a lower cost of living than many other U.S. cities.

Looking closely at some prominent tech hubs, you can see that Chicago is highly affordable for software engineers. At 278, Chicago’s CPI is considerably lower than the latest scores from these cities:

  • San Francisco: 337
  • Miami: 322
  • New York: 319
  • Los Angeles: 318

If you’re trying to find a place where your salary can go further, then Chicago could be just what you need.

Major Companies Hiring Software Engineers in Chicago

Chicago is home to many different industries, most of which have some use for ambitious software engineers. Strong finance, publishing, and manufacturing sectors are always looking for innovation. You’ll also find opportunities in exciting startups and a range of international companies.


Chicago is home to the corporate headquarters of e-commerce giant Groupon. This innovative marketplace provides subscribers with discounts and unique offers in 13 countries. The company built itself on a foundation of innovation in reaching customers and pioneering new marketing models for the digital age. It continues to recruit new software engineers here in Chicago and abroad.


Coinbase is a fully distributed company that hires remote teams across the country. As the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S., it continues to drive innovation and plays a vital role in developing the emerging regulatory framework. Software engineers with experience and knowledge in crypto, Web 3.0, and other cutting-edge technologies should consider Coinbase.

JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase is currently the largest bank in the U.S. and the largest worldwide by market capitalization. Its Chicago offices occupy Chase Tower, an iconic part of Chicago’s skyline. The banking juggernaut conducts research and projects in the latest fintech applications. It needs a steady supply of software engineers at its many offices nationwide to support those endeavors.


U.S. tech giant Microsoft is always hiring new software engineers to support its many unique projects. It contends with Google and other major industry players to bring new solutions in an expansive range of fields. Software engineers with an interest in cloud technology, the internet of things, cybersecurity, and more can find meaningful careers with Microsoft.

Quality of Life in Chicago

Chicago is home to a wide range of unique attractions and opportunities to satisfy any lifestyle. It’s sometimes called “the Second City,” referring to its historical, cultural, and economic significance being second only to New York City — all while offering a much lower cost of living.

You’ll find many unique neighborhoods in Chicago that suit your lifestyle. The city is divided into 77 official community areas, ranging widely in housing costs and amenities. However, you’ll have easy access to many of the city’s top attractions no matter where you reside.

Facilities such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, and Millennium Park highlight the culture and history throughout the city. You can always take in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field or enjoy watching the city’s professional football, basketball, hockey, and soccer teams. Much of the waterfront along Lake Michigan has beautiful, green parks with plenty of activities.


Chicago offers many opportunities for software developers at any experience level. The low cost of living makes it particularly attractive to remote workers with more freedom to choose where they live. If you want to keep track of which points matter most to you when comparing cities, you can try Stashpad for a better way to take notes.

Photo by Blake Griffin on Unsplash

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