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Who Is Your Best Employer? Mac vs. PC

By Susan Johnston

For years, consumers have self-identified as Mac or a PC people, a label fueled in part by Apple’s Mac vs. PC ads. Some research about the two companies' customers was even done by Hunch.com and it showed that many of the stereotypes are true. Mac lovers are typically younger and more likely to live in urban centers, while PC enthusiasts tend to be more politically conservative and prefer Harley’s over Vespas.

But let’s not forget the army of designers, programmers and sales staff who work for these brands. What kinds of people work at Apple and Microsoft and what are the companies like as employers? Data from PayScale.com revealed some interesting differences in median salary, benefits and work culture.

Who Pays More?

PayScale data shows that Apple’s starting median pay is $43,100, while Microsoft’s is almost twice as much: $86,900. Median age (33 at Apple, 35 at Microsoft) and years of experience (eight at Apple, nine at Microsoft) are roughly comparable at both companies, so what gives?

Al Lee, Director of Qualitative Data at PayScale.com, says the value of the companies’ stock is a factor. “Anybody in the tech sector who is looking at the total compensation package with equity, stock options, is going to reach a much different conclusion,” he says. “That’s the kind of thing that can easily be a 10 or 20 percent difference. Stock has gone nowhere at Microsoft [in recent years] so they’ve had to pay more in cash compensation.”

Which Jobs Are Available?

Lee also points to the types of jobs available at the two companies. Both companies hire high-level tech talent but Apple also employs people in other departments that aren’t as prevalent at Microsoft. “They have the whole sector around the music and video licensing that Microsoft has on a much smaller scale,” he adds. “All those designers, media relations people, people who are working in marketing the iTunes store are generally paid less than a senior software designer.”

Overall, the pay gap narrows by mid-career, when median pay is $112,000 at Apple and $127,000 at Microsoft.

Packing in the Perks

While both companies’ work culture often varies by department, employees rank Apple slightly higher on overall job satisfaction, while Microsoft employees rank their employer higher on job flexibility. In fact, Microsoft employees are allowed to moonlight and one former Microsoft employee said she organized an at-work yoga class. “You had the freedom to create your own stress relief,” says Sarah, who worked as a Microsoft employee for two years and as a vendor for five.

Lee says Microsoft is also known for its generous vacation time (three weeks per year compared to 2.1 at Apple) and paternity leave policy. A current Microsoft employee says the company’s healthcare coverage is the best she’s ever seen. “I have zero copay,” says Wendy. “You can order any tests at the doctor’s office because it’s covered. If your family is sick and you can’t get to the doctor, they have doctors who make house calls.”

Apple employees enjoy some perks of their own – like inspiration. A former Apple sales and marketing communications specialist, Hannah, remembers Apple’s “passion about the product, passion about the work,” as she puts it. Now self-employed she says, “I still think of myself as changing the world through the work I do and that’s an attitude I picked up at Apple.”

Just for fun, PayScale decided to put together a quiz, based upon their data about working at each company, and Hunch.com’s research on Mac and PC users.

Are You a Mac or a PC?

1. I would rather work:
     a. Beneath the tall evergreens of the Pacific Northwest.
     b. Tucked in the golden foothills of California.
2. When it comes to food, I either:
     a. Enjoy meat and can’t imagine living without it.
     b. Am or was once a vegetarian.
3. At snack time, I reach for:
     a. Sweet treats.
     b. Salty goodness.
4. After work, I wind down with:
     a. White wine.
     b. Red wine.
5. Politically, I’m a:
     a. Conservative.
     b. Liberal.
6. It’s important for my company to offer me:
     a. Good paternity/maternity leave.
     b. Awesome free tech toys.
7. I’d rather have:
     a. A nice, big salary.
     b. Stock options with good potential.

Mostly A’s: You’re more of a Microsoft person.

Mostly B’s: You belong at Apple.

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