I'm a software developer based in the U.S. I've been with a company for a few years.

I have 8 years of work experience, but I'm doing the work that someone with 15-20 years would typically do. My management has told me this themselves. However, when the topic of promotion or raises comes up, I've been told that paying me is tricky because I don't actually have 15-20 years of experience and management can't figure out how to pay me.

I'm consistently given more work and get good reviews every year. So, I think people trust me to do the work and are happy with the results.

Is this normal? Are companies normally this strict when it comes to number of years worked and how much you can get paid based on that number? Nothing signifies that in my work contract which is why I'm asking if this is a normal practice.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 12:56

6 Answers 6


If you want to get paid what you're worth you're probably going to have to change jobs. There's a 99% chance that management is lying when they say "they can't figure out how to do it"; with a 1% chance of general incompetence instead. Either way you're not getting it from your current employer.

Very large raises, and the equivalent to 7-12 years at once is very large, are difficult to achieve even if management is fully and enthusiastically supporting you. If they're not it's effectively impossible.

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    ^ this. There's nothing physically or legally preventing the company from paying you more. It's simply a matter of their willingness to do so (or lack thereof). You deserve to be paid appropriately for the work you perform, not according to what your career history looks like to get you where you are.
    – brhans
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 13:21
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    Right, there's very high up managers who don't know the impact of a good employee leaving, they're only looking at costs to make themselves look good. Then lower level managers have to deal with the fallout of rightfully upset employees who are leaving the company.
    – Issel
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 14:58
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    I think management is not lying - they're saying "we can't figure out how to pay you, because on the one hand we want to use the excuse that you don't have experience so we don't have to pay you too much, but on the other hand we don't want you to leave because you're valuable to us"
    – Stef
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 15:20
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    To add to this, depending on the size of the company, lower level management may WANT to give you that raise / promotion, but can't get upper management to approve. Difficulty increases the number of tiers up the chain the approval has to go.
    – mascoj
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 16:16
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    You didn't explicitly mention this in your answer, but: no, no-one should be paid according to years of experience (although some companies may do so).
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 17:16

When it comes to wages, employees and management simply have opposing views. You as an employee view this as an individual problem, while management view wages collectively.

From their view, giving you a raise could start an avalanche where others also demand more compensation - which they obviously want to avoid.

One way to manage this is by sweet talking an employee (as they currently are doing to you), another is to hand out more fancy sounding job titles, but no extra money. Basically, management want as cheap a deal as possible and will do whatever you let them get away with.

In your case, bringing you on par with the more experienced employees will not happen. The best you can realistically hope for is probably slowly closing the gap by getting above average raises for a number of years.

Your current wages are effectively 'anchored' at this level. The only way to get a substantial raise is to find another employer willing to pay and thus resetting that anchor.

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    Get a title bump and then look for a new employer - it will make it easier to get (even) more money at the next job
    – HorusKol
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 6:02
  • @HorusKol: I would say that qualifies as an answer
    – morsor
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 6:04
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    This explanation (especially on perspectives and the anchored pay) was extremely clarifying. I didn't realize how narrow my scope of the situation was. Thank you so much. Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 15:14
  • Contextual to employer, such leveling can occur in large companies, for example one employer would look at a large class of employees and add a bonus to raises on those below the average and reduce the raise of those above the average, thereby simultaneously leveling and raising the tide. If an employee got a title promotion and modest raise, they would tend to be at the lower end, but would have relatively larger raises their first few years in the role. Of course this particular employer had 60K people, raise and bonus targets, but in principle a situation like OP would not happen.
    – crasic
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 23:42
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    @JustBlossom In addition, many companies use pay rates based on the "market rates" for someone in that position. The tables that get published for market/average rates typically have years of experience as one of the inputs and assume that work output is proportional to experience (which is mostly true when you average together a large data set). That sort of statistical approach works well on average, but you're an outlier, doing work beyond your experience. You don't fit their statistical model, and they don't have data to know how to handle that.
    – bta
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 0:24

Is it "normal" to pay you only enough to keep you from leaving? Yup! Even though that's not your question, that's what "normal" is, in my experience, in the US.

I worked at one place, where, after a year in one department, I'd transferred to a new area. At my first review in that new area, my boss said, "this is all we're paying you? I've got to fix that!" and he did. I got a 20-30% raise out of it and was incredibly appreciative!

At my current job, I went 2 years without a raise because I'd exceeded the top of the pay range for my job title, and my boss and HR were working to find a new job title that didn't require me switching departments (all the people at the next level of the same title work in a centralized area and neither my boss nor I wanted me to move there), and a title that was similar enough to what I actually do and had enough pay range head room to make the switch worthwhile. I did get a reasonable bonus each of the review years that went by without a raise, so it eased the pain a bit, but it wasn't fun. We finally managed to find a new title for me and I got a raise at my last review. Of course, the base on which the raise was based was 2 years old, and no special accommodation was made for that, but it was better than being stuck for another year. (I also note that this is just one of the many reasons I put so little stock in job titles, but that's a totally different question...)

TL;DR: If you believe your boss is actively making a good faith effort to work with HR to find a way to give you a raise to get you to where you feel you should be and you like the job, ride it out. If you think he (HR) is just blowing smoke, freshen up the resume and get hunting.

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    Even if they are making a "good faith effort", start hunting if you want to guarantee an increase. Accept whichever effort comes to fruition first. Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 14:09
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    Your example is helpful. Between this answer and the others, I think I'm gathering that it may be normal but it's not something that employees should just accept as okay. Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 15:39
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    @JustBlossom remember - the employer wants the most work for the least money, while the employee wants the least* work for the most money. This tends to lead to a bit of contention around payday. ;) *OK, most folk are willing to do what's expected of them, but, generally, not significantly more than they feel they're getting paid for.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 15:54

In Canada, if the employer has pay grades, it is normal that salary is based on experience to a certain extent. Also, the two major employers (a hospital and the military) for which I worked had an establishment of how many people they could have in each pay grade.

Something else my two employers had in common was a salary range within each pay grade. In the military one would start at the bottom salary of that grade. I am not sure how the hospital did it. In both cases one would advance to the next salary level within the grade until the top level was reached. After that, the only raises would be associated with inflation.

Your question had the phrase, "promotion or raises". If your employer is like mine, in order to get promoted, there must be a vacancy. How those vacancies are filled depend on the employer but if you did get promoted, you should expect your duties to change. Getting a big raise without changing responsibilities would simply not happen.

The bottom line is that what you are experiencing is normal to me.


First off, pay is never strictly about years, primarily it’s about position with time in grade being a secondary consideration.

If this is a government and/or a union job, your manager may be correct in that there are hard experience requirements for some positions that simply can’t be overridden by competence. If it’s neither, then it’s likely that your manager could get you a promotion and with it a larger salary.

But all of that is irrelevant, what you want is a salary commensurate with your abilities and your manager has said that isn’t going to happen. Your choice is to either remain under paid or get a new job.

I would be asking myself how likely it is whether my manager can and will help me do that, but either way I would be planning on getting a new job.

  • A professor at my undergrad university in The Netherlands wanted more pay than the collectively union-negotiated and experience-based salary scales for professors could provide for. "Solution": the university invented an entirely new job title (universiteitshoogleraar instead of hoogleraar) so they weren't bound to those collective agreements. Regardless of what one thinks of such practices, it does show that if the employer wants hard enough to pay someone more, they might very well find a way even if restricted by government or union agreements.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 9:02

One thing that I don't see mentioned but it is important: after a while experience does not really matter for compensation, if anything I have seem experienced people adopt dont-get-fired-minimum-work plan where they don't care about learning new stuff or keeping up with developments.

So beside the fact that your management is probably lying even if they are not lying their promotion/compensation policy is idiotic so you would be smart to leave, or use a new job offer as a negotiation tool.

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    I know a lot of people whose experience and importance for the company still growth after many years. Your rant does not answer the question.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 6:23
  • @usr1234567 wrong, people just dont like the truth since it is a hard to swallow pill... There is a reason why FAANGs are full of young devs, with very few old devs. Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 11:47
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    venturebeat.com/2007/03/26/… Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 11:52
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    From that link: “Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family.” In the absence of those distractions, he says, you can focus on big ideologies. He added, “I only own a mattress.” Later: “Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”. Aka, he wants to hire young people he can work into the ground overtime, with no work life balance. This is so toxic, I it makes me so sad that this is the work culture at some places.
    – stanri
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 16:17

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