In a world driven by rapid technical change and digital transformation, businesses will obtain a competitive advantage based on the quality of the technology leadership in their organisation.
The very best tech leaders are in demand but what is the average CTO salary in the UK and what does average CTO salary actually represent?
Historically CTO was the least defined C-suite executive role but as a result of this technological change it has fast become one of the more important.
It's also the role that most of our customers hold or aspire to achieve and when they ask us for assistance, it generally revolves around the following key outcomes;
What Does A UK Based CTO Earn?
Of course many large and small companies tech corporations' reward for senior roles is wrapped up in compensation packages where the low market-rate salary of today, can offset by attractive stock and equity options for tomorrow.
That said, there is sufficient evidence to form a view on the average UK CTO salary.
The salary range varies depending on factors such as education, experience, sector, and location.
According to Payscale, the average UK salary for a CTO is £87,350, while Indeed say £85,396.
Also, Glassdoor presents the average salary range as £98,192 based on the data of recent salary reports.
However, Payscale also indicate that total packages including base, bonus, and profit share can range from £51,000 up to £175,000, so knowing the average is interesting, but barely scratches the surface.
It is no great surprise that the average salary increases precipitously with experience. People with over 10 years of experience can earn up to 50% more than someone with <4 years of experience. Additionally, location makes a massive difference in the UK, with CTO positions based in London attracting the most, again no great surprise there, at £106,963.
The average figures range from £98,192 (Glassdoor) to £103,645 (Salary Expert) and £106,963 (Payscale). Besides, the CTO packages vary as per the additions that are included in the package.
Considering this factor, you can observe the differences of entry-level CTO positions to the most senior levels ranging between
Outside London and according to Indeed, you want to be living in Leeds or Southampton because their average salaries don’t appear to be far short of London (though I’d like to see the dataset they gathered these averages from because it doesn’t chime with what we see on the ground but …)
1. London (£104,447)
2. Leeds (£102,826)
3. Southampton (£101,727)
4. Edinburgh (£85,503)
5. Manchester (£83,061)
6. Birmingham (£74,330)
7. Glasgow (£72,761)
8. Cambridge (£66,785)
We view the Cambridge average salary in particular with a little scepticism.
It’s recorded very differently by Payscale (£92,500) and anecdotal evidence from that vibrant region (packed with hi-tech, fast growth companies) suggests that any company offering <£70k for a CTO will either be moribund or stacking it with very attractive benefits and stock options.
Determining the reward structure at startups is even trickier because the CTO and senior team are often paid below (sometimes well below) market rate based on work today, jam tomorrow.
You also need to consider what stage the company is with fundraising.
If the company is looking for seed funding, then the CTO / Tech founder (CTO) is likely to be getting paid half or worse than their market rate.
Additional factors that determine the salary of a CTO in a startup are the overall health of cashflow and the direct impact they bring to business growth. Everything is negotiable but never more so at the early stages of a company setup, particularly if much of early success relies on the technical direction and execution provided by the CTO.
Generally speaking, for an early-stage company with a Series A round, you'd expect the CTO salary to be around £80,000-£90,000 per year with stock options and other perks helping to soften that reduction in the standard market rate.
Reed is a great source for data on average salaries across all roles and levels.
Within their 2021 technology salary guide they detail a wide range of roles including data about the following non-CTO leadership positions in the UK;
CIO Average Salary
£130,000 (0-50 direct reports)
IT Director Average Salary
Head of IT
The tech field remains frustratingly male-dominated.
According to 205 survey responses on a PayScale survey, there are 96 men for every four women.
This needs to change. Diversity is great for any business but sorely needed in tech.
Which is why we’re delighted to support organisations like School of Code which promote greater diversity in tech and judging by their last cohort with a 50/50 split, are practising what they preach.
Problem with anything average, is who wants to be average?
We work with UK based CTOs attracting significantly more than the salaries indicated above though as mentioned, many of the truly breathtaking packages are wrapped up in the wider success of that particular company.
So reward comes down to two key factors.
1. Enhancing your own market value so you dictate terms, rather than accept the average;
2. Finding the company with sufficient ambition to realise your full potential.
And you enhance your own market value by the impact you’re able to make and impact at a senior role will be driven by leadership rather than technical skills.