Our New 2021 Salaries Page

Launch School
Launch School
Published in
8 min readDec 12, 2022

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Update: we recorded a podcast episode about this article that you might want to listen to after reading this article.

Introduction

After speaking with many prospective and current students and alumni, in October we launched our new Capstone salaries and results page. The main changes we made were:

  • show more clearly what the job placement percent means
  • less marketing and show more data
  • break down salaries with more granularity
  • mention what happened to those who didn’t get jobs within the time duration

If you’re here just for the data, then check them out here.

For the rest of this article, we want to explain why we chose to redesign the salaries and results page the way we did.

Background

As we worked to put together the new design, one issue kept resurfacing: how do we reduce job placement information into one simple sentence? We want to say “X% of our graduates get jobs with an average salary of $Y”. Seems simple, right? But depending on how one slices the data, X and Y can be almost anything we want.

Job Placement Percent: Decreasing the denominator

The first issue here is about X%: how do we accurately represent the job placement percent to prospective students?

For example, say 100 students enter the program. Then, 50 graduate. Out of the 50 graduates, 40 get jobs.

Should we lead with “80% of our graduates get jobs”? While accurate, that feels misleading to prospective students. These percentages are supposed to offer assurances and the question behind asking for these percentages from prospective students is “what are my chances of success if I enroll?”. It’s not “what are my chances of success if I graduate”? The difference between those two words — enroll vs graduate — is critical!

If we assume prospective students are asking the former question, then we should also say “40% of our enrollees get jobs”. Suddenly, that doesn’t sound so amazing anymore.

Further, by focusing on graduate placement instead of enrollee placement, there’s an opportunity for the school to employ a bait-and-switch: use the high graduate job placement percentage to attract enrollees, then make it very difficult to qualify as a “graduate”.

Continuing with our previous example (100 enrollees, 50 graduates, and 40 accepted jobs), we could further increase the job placement percent from 80% by decreasing the already-misleading denominator. For example, we can say that out of the 10 graduates who didn’t land jobs 5 didn’t respond to our emails, disqualifying them from being considered a “graduate”. Therefore, our denominator (graduates) should be 45, making the job placement percent 89% (40/45). Can we find some other creative ways to decrease the denominator even more so we can manipulate the job placement percent higher?

This is the decreasing the denominator game that training programs can play. That’s why for our salary reporting, we chose to use enrollee (ie, those who entered the program) as the denominator and be very clear about how each percentage is calculated.

Salary: Base, Total Compensation, or Tax Returns?

The next part of that 1-sentence job placement summary is around reporting compensation. This, too, seems simple but is once again fraught with edge cases that can result in a sizeable range of numbers.

For example, say someone’s job offer is $105k base salary, with 40k restricted stock units (assume 4 year vest, so 10k vests per year), a $10k signing bonus, and other raises and end of year bonuses.

What should be the reported compensation number here? There are a few choices:

  • $105k
  • $105k + (10,000 * stock price)
  • $105k + (10,000 * stock price) + $10k

Depending on the stock price, there could be quite a large difference between these choices!

There’s also another option of tallying what people report on tax returns, which will include any income from other sources such as contracting jobs.

For Launch School, we’re always trying to think about what prospective students are asking behind the question. When people ask “what’s the average salary of Capstone graduates?”, we don’t assume total compensation or what people report on their tax returns, and only report base salary. This feels the most student-friendly number to use.

On a side note, the Launch School Capstone ISA also only considers the base salary.

Duration, the most important attribute

Recall the 1-sentence summary we’re trying to write is in the format of “X% of our graduates get jobs with an average salary of $Y”. This sentence is missing one critical piece of information: duration.

For example, if we say “95% of our graduates get jobs with an average salary of $105k within 2 years”, then suddenly that’s not very impressive. The 2 year duration is absurdly long.

Implied behind these job placement proclamations is that somehow our training directly resulted in the high paying job. And if there’s a very long duration between graduation and job, then one can’t be sure the training caused the job. For example, maybe they got a job despite the poor training by retraining themselves through other means within those 2 years.

On the other hand, if the duration is too short then it’s meaningless, too. Eg, if we said 20% of enrollees get offers after 10 days of graduation, that duration is too short to provide any insight.

At Launch School, we chose to report numbers using 180 days as the duration cut-off for our salary numbers.

But why is the title of this section “the most important attribute?”. It’s because we think that the “average duration to accepted offer” number is the one that most accurately reflects whether a training program readies their graduates for the job market.

For example, a 2-day training program can have a high job placement percentage given a long enough job hunt duration. This is possible by pushing learning to the job hunt phase so it doesn’t count in the official training length. Imagine the marketing slogan: “2-day training results in $100k salary!”.

The missing variable in that claim is duration to accepted offer. A low duration to accepted offer is the most accurate way of measuring training quality.

Further, Launch School reports duration to accepted offer, not to when the offer is given. There can sometimes be a lag of a week or more between when an offer is given and when it is accepted.

Numbers Game

All of the above is to say that these seemingly simple statements about job placement averages can be gamed in a multitude of ways, and often are. It’s important to understand how these numbers are derived in order to understand the insight they’re conveying.

Launch School’s Assumptions

For Launch School, we decided to take a more open approach in this redesign and show as much data as we could. Then, when we do report averages, we use:

  • enrollees as the denominator
  • base salary only
  • duration of 180 days

For 2021, we can say this: “95.8% of our Capstone participants got jobs with an average base salary of $124,628 within 180 days”.

One final note about the above statement: the percent includes all Capstone participants (71) while the salary only includes US participants (59). The reasoning here is that non-US salaries are substantially lower, and the vast majority of Capstone participants are US-based.

2021 Capstone Salary Numbers

Now that we’ve covered the reasons for the redesign, let’s turn our attention to the 2021 numbers. First, the 3 folks who didn’t get a job within 180 days:

  1. One person landed a six-figure role a bit after 180 days.
  2. One person is on a paused job hunt; they’ll restart the job hunt soon and we’ll update the results.
  3. One person decided to not job hunt at all, so we marked them as not graduated from Capstone.

This is how we get the numbers for 2021: 71 entered Capstone, 70 graduated, and 69 accepted jobs.

For this redesign, we broke down the US salaries a bit more with 4 salary segments and gender breakdown. Some data of note:

  • 64% landed roles with base salary of $120k or higher
  • 25% landed roles with base salary of $140k or higher
  • female Capstone participants did better than male participants
  • Canadian/UK salaries continue to climb, with an average of over $95k USD

In 2021, we saw that Capstone works and Capstone graduates, on average, make about $30k to $40k more than Core graduates. This is loosely based on informal data since we can’t officially track Core salaries.

Year over Year Trends

Since we broke down all previous years’ salaries by segments, we noticed an interesting trend of offers with base salaries over $140k:

  • 2018: 6% (1)
  • 2019: 14% (2)
  • 2020: 20% (5)
  • 2021: 25% (15)

So, as more folks participate in Capstone, more of them are getting the higher paying roles.

We combined Canadian and UK salaries and converted to USD:

  • 2018: $71,700
  • 2019: $64,811
  • 2020: $87,678
  • 2021: $95,315

Canadian and UK salaries continue to increase; we expect this trend to continue into 2022 and beyond.

Total Capstone enrollment has been increasing:

  • 2018: 21
  • 2019: 18
  • 2020: 34
  • 2021: 71

We will experience increased enrollment again in 2022.

Capstone graduation rates (graduated divided by enrolled):

  • 2018: 90%
  • 2019: 100%
  • 2020: 97%
  • 2021: 98.5%

Notes: In 2018 we had 1 person drop and re-join the January 2019 cohort. In 2020, one person dropped for personal reasons; they worked with Launch School staff 1on1 and landed a six-figure job, but we didn’t include data in results. The idea is that in Capstone, we don’t leave anyone behind.

And the most important metric, duration to accepted offer:

  • 2018: 9 weeks
  • 2019: 10 weeks
  • 2020: 9.1 weeks
  • 2021: 7 weeks

Summary of last 4 years:

  • Salaries are still going up, in US and UK/Canada
  • Duration to accepted offer is trending down
  • Graduation rate is near 100%
  • Job placement rate is near 100%

All of this while Capstone enrollment continues to increase. It took a decade to get here, but Capstone results continue to look very strong in tough market conditions.

2022 Capstone Salaries (so far)

Given the continuing tightening job market, everyone is interested in 2022 salaries. We’ve already had two cohorts hit the market with vast majority of enrollees having accepted offers, so here’s what the preliminary data looks like:

United States (42 accepted offers)

  • average salary: $127,196
  • median salary: $128,750
  • average duration to accepted offer: 8.3 weeks
  • percent offers over $140k base: 28% (12)

UK + Canada (8 accepted offers)

  • average salary: $91,253
  • average duration to accepted offer: 7.3 weeks

Overall, 2022 numbers look fairly normal for us thus far, which feels like an accomplishment given market conditions. One surprise: 28% of US-based offers thus far have been at or over $140k base salary. That’s probably not a trend that can continue to climb, but it shows what types of roles Capstone graduates are capable of competing for.

As always, we will report full numbers as they come in. In the meantime, enjoy our newly redesigned salaries and results page.

Update: we recorded a podcast episode about this article that you might want to listen to after reading this article.

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Launch School
Launch School

The slow path for studious beginners to a career in software development.