My manager told me that the industry doesn't pay overtime for programmers.

Is this true?


No, in North America any salaried job tends to not pay overtime.

Andrew Hare
... when they are in the private business, without union, federal regulations, state regulations, contract with overtime pay or sympathetic manager.
ilya n.
I wish I could downvote that comment for the mention of unions.
Stefan Kendall
+10  A: 

By U.S. law any employee who is paid hourly is required to get overtime pay (1.5 times the base pay). That being said, most programmers in the United States are salaried and are exempt from such rule.

Edit apparently, I am a little wrong. According to the comment by Eric J. computer professionals fall into a special status:

Note that the converse is not true; a salaried employee may still be entitled to overtime.
Captain Segfault
There was a case at the Canadian Supreme court that determined that salaried people should be paid overtime (
Nathan Koop
no kidding. that's pretty neat.
When you state "by Law" you might want to be specific about which Government you are referring to. Also, state laws in the US tend to enhance the federal laws, so that is worth mentioning.
@JohnFx: Yes and I read that if there is both a state and federal law then you default to the one that ends up giving you a bigger pay check.
Not true - the FLSA exempts computer professionals under most (realistic) circumstances:
Eric J.
+1  A: 

In germany I had 2 jobs that paid overtime, my current does offer to really pay the overtime, but I can track my overtime and can go earlier or get free days instead.

Patrick Cornelissen
that's essentially paid overtime, not paid in money but in time
I'll rephrase it a little :-)
Patrick Cornelissen
+3  A: 

Depends. If you're a contractor, overtime may be part of your contract. You'd have to talk to your rep agency and see if that's something they negotiate for.

If you're salaried, chances are you're out of luck. I've never seen a salaried position get paid overtime (in my experience). Quite the contrary. You're almost expected to work a little here and there...

Justin Niessner

Just like the US here in canada salaried workers (like most programmers) don't get paid overtime.

+3  A: 

It varies by location. Here in Iowa, state government workers are unionized. They are salaried workers, but they're paid overtime. Some of them are programmers.

Therefore, programmers get paid overtime in some places.

Robert S.
+2  A: 

It really depends on the nature of your payment arrangements. It's very common in the United States for programmers to contract with either a contract agency, or directly with the client they're working for. In these cases, a programmer is paid for each hour they work. This is not the conventional overtime, though, as most people see it. Usually the hourly rate is high enough that you don't get time and a half. You simply get paid for every hour you work.

The other very common payment arrangement is for full-time salaried employees. In this case, you are paid a set amount per year (usually divided into equal paychecks), and the amounts do not change regardless of the number of hours you work. The benefit of full-time employment is usually stability and benefits, whereas contractors tend to make a bit more money.

Scott Anderson
+33  A: 

In the US, this is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Check out this factsheet from the Department of Labor explaining who is exempt from overtime under the act:

Developers end up exempt from overtime because of the "Computer Employee Exemption".

Tina Orooji
Also check for specific state laws. Be sure to talk to a Labor Attorney before making any decisions based on any legal advice you find on the web including from this site.
Robert Kozak
Nice. This is what happens when you read Slashdot instead of vote.
The above link is broken, try this one:
Daniel J. Pritchett
Talk about a difference, if you are salaried you only have to make 23,660 to no longer qualify for overtime, if you are hourly it is over $100,000. Clearly if you want overtime never accept a salaried position. This is something that changed in the Bush admin, before it used to be even salaried people had to make over 50+K (I think it was 56 when I looked it up back then), I knew they had vastly expanded the pool of people no longer eligible for overtime but 23K is rediculously low.
+31  A: 

Yes, it's true.

I've only encountered one company out of 20 or so (personal experience and close friends too) that paid over time, and that was on a case by case basis, where the OT had to be agreed before you did it.

If you're expected to work over time constantly then get out.

If it's a few nights every couple of months coming up to a release, suck it up, it's par for the course.

Binary Worrier
+1 for paragraphs 2 and 3. This pair of points is hugely important for anybody just entering the North American software engineering workforce. The occasional long day/hellweek (typically associated with a major release) is just par for the course. If you're so fiercely protective of your personal time that this isn't acceptable, you want nothing to do with this industry. But if 50-60 hour weeks and working weekends are the normal state of affairs (and they weren't VERY clear about this at hiring), walk away; you're being taken advantage of and need to find somebody less skeezy to work for.
Binary Worrier
@Binary Worrier: I'm not surprised. But the question was about North America, which is where I (and the majority of the other code monkeys I know) have experience. Sorry if I implied the situation here was somehow unique; that wasn't my intent.
@BlairHippo: No worries dude, I was just saying you can find solidarity with with your European brothers - and sisters too of course :)
Binary Worrier
From the South American point of view... I have to say that is the same as in the North. I'm from Uruguay, and having a release close most of the time imply over time during the week and working on weekends. You not get paid for that, but informally you get extra free days or can leave earlier... at least in the company I work for, that is one of the main ones in the country
South Africa is largely the same. Some financial institutions might pay overtime (or did a few years ago).
Same too in Australia.
Cameron MacFarland
Same here in New Zealand, although you may get a day off later if you had to work during the weekend.
Why is it in my mind if working extra hours beyond 40 is 'par for the course' in the programming world then I would think that overtime pay should be EXPECTED. What am I missing here? If 'par for the course' means it's pretty normal to have to work extra sometimes as a programmer than you should get compensated for it.
@Ryan: Dude, I've worked in offices where I'd basically to clock in/out for lunches/tea breaks etc. and where one would be reprimanded for working more than 37.5 hours a week, one would be hounded to work in 15 minutes missed during a week. MY current company has a more friendly and flexible approach to time management, and it's much more satisifying. No one bats and eye if you're an hour late back from lunch because the queues at the bank were long, but it's understood that when the chips are down you'll pull a couple of late evenings. It's far less stressful and everyone benefits.
Binary Worrier
Well, a friend of mine was a developer for Alcatel-Lucent (in Poland) and they did pay him overtime (as long as it was consulted first).

I'm in the UK here and the company I work for have declared overtime as a "prior arrangement" affair, which basically means it'll only ever happen in the rarest of circumstances.

Contractors have more of a chance of this - they're a lot more plain-cut in terms of hours worked etc.

+2  A: 

Many programming positions, while salaried, also have some sort of goal-based annual performance bonus. Many of the goals are "stretch" goals (which means overtime will typically be needed to meet them). When the goals are met, an additional annual bonus is paid on top of the positions stated salary.

Unfortunately, the bonus pay often doesn't cover the overtime spent. That doesn't stop management from selling it as the alternative to formal overtime pay rules for salaried positions.

+3  A: 

In the US

The default rule is as follows.

Computer Employee Exemption

To qualify for the computer employee exemption, the following tests must be met:

  • The employee must be compensated either on a salary or fee basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate not less than $455 per week or, if compensated on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour;
  • The employee must be employed as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field performing the duties described below;
  • The employee’s primary duty must consist of:

1) The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;

2) The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications;

3) The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or

4) A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.

Unless your state has enacted seperate laws that essentially override this one, this applies. Does the above cover you? NO OVERTIME (unless your state has its own labor laws)!

Unless superseded by state laws. I believe there were a few cases in California.
David Thornley
Good point. Edited to reflect.

MOST jobs associated with higher education, including s/w engineering jobs, are classified as exempt, meaning they don't pay overtime.

ps. "Exempt" means exempt from the Labor laws that require overtime payments. The interesting situations are the highly skilled blue collar workers in industry such as model makers or other technicians. They get overtime and not infrequently earn more than the Exempt engineers. Of course, the engineers get nicer desks/cubes.
Larry K
Larry: good points! I'll also add that non-market forces also affect pay, such as union membership (where overtime is req'd in the union contract), job-specific legislation in some states, etc. Even in the context of the market, it's certainly possible for a skilled blue-collar worker to be compensated more than the avg s/w engineer, depending on the current market, location/cost of living, etc.

Here, in the Netherlands, overtime gets payed out normally. If agreed with the supervisor

Extra work under 45 minutes is not overtime.

+5  A: 

In summary:

  • Salaried employees rarely get overtime pay.
  • Hourly employees can get overtime pay, but few programmers work as hourly employees
  • Independent contractors can charge for all the hours they work. However, such workers are unlikely to get "time and a half" or other special types of overtime pay.
Kristopher Johnson
+5  A: 

In California

The following is the text of the law. As you can see from reading it, not only is the minimum pay requirement difficult to meet, but you really must be a high level programmer. Note that the law makes reference to $41.00. This was the rate in 2001. The rates below are the ones in effect for the years after that.

The following table gives the required rates of pay for the exemption:

                                Salary Required for Hours in Work Week 
Year       Hourly Rate        40        50        60        70        80 
2009            $37.94   $79,050   $79,050   $79,050   $79,050   $79,050  
Sep 2008        $36.00   $75,000   $75,000   $75,000   $75,000   $75,000 
2008            $36.00   $74,880   $93,600  $112,320  $131,040  $149,760  
2007            $49.77  $103,522  $129,402  $155,282  $181,163  $207,044  
2006            $47.81   $99,445  $124,306  $149,168  $174,029  $198,890  
2005            $45.84        NA        NA        NA        NA        NA  
2004            $44.63        NA        NA        NA        NA        NA  
2003            $43.58        NA        NA        NA        NA        NA  
2002            $42.64        NA        NA        NA        NA        NA

California Labor Code §515.5
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), an employee in the computer software field shall be exempt from the requirement that an overtime rate of compensation be paid pursuant to Section 510 if all of the following apply:

(1) The employee is primarily engaged in work that is intellectual or creative and that requires the exercise of discretion and independent judgment, and the employee is primarily engaged in duties that consist of one or more of the following: (A) The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software, or system functional specifications. (B) The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing, or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to, user or system design specifications. (C) The documentation, testing, creation, or modification of computer programs related to the design of software or hardware for computer operating systems.

(2) The employee is highly skilled and is proficient in the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized information to computer systems analysis, programming, and software engineering. A job title shall not be determinative of the applicability of this exemption.

(3) The employee's hourly rate of pay is not less than forty-one dollars ($41.00) thirty-six dollars ($36.00), or the annualized full-time salary equivalent of that rate, provided that all other requirements of this section are met and that in each workweek the employee receives not less than thirty-six dollars ($36.00) per hour worked. The Division of Labor Statistics and Research shall adjust this pay rate on October 1 of each year to be effective on January 1 of the following year by an amount equal to the percentage increase in the California Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.[The strike out text refers to pre-2008 law] (b) The exemption provided in subdivision (a) does not apply to an employee if any of the following apply: (1) The employee is a trainee or employee in an entry-level position who is learning to become proficient in the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized information to computer systems analysis, programming, and software engineering. (2) The employee is in a computer-related occupation but has not attained the level of skill and expertise necessary to work independently and without close supervision. (3) The employee is engaged in the operation of computers or in the manufacture, repair, or maintenance of computer hardware and related equipment.

(4) The employee is an engineer, drafter, machinist, or other professional whose work is highly dependent upon or facilitated by the use of computers and computer software programs and who is skilled in computer-aided design software, including CAD/CAM, but who is not in a computer systems analysis or programming occupation.

(5) The employee is a writer engaged in writing material, including box labels, product descriptions, documentation, promotional material, setup and installation instructions, and other similar written information, either for print or for onscreen media or who writes or provides content material intended to be read by customers, subscribers, or visitors to computer-related media such as the World Wide Web or CD-Roms.

(6) The employee is engaged in any of the activities set forth in subdivision (a) for the purpose of creating imagery for effects used in the motion picture, television, or theatrical industry.

As always, IANAL, check with an attorney.

For more info please checkout this site: Got Overtime?

Robert Kozak
I wish I could get 70K a year working 40 hours a week... God bless America!! :S
+1 for including a table in your response
The problem is that you are never paid overtime. You are only supposed to work 40hours/week. If you can't finish all your tasks in 40hours then you are obviously under-performing bad at your job and might have to work more unpaid hours yourself to make up for it or be fired.
Martin Beckett
Or you have unrealistic deadlines set by marketing and sales or general managements types that have no clue what goes on underneath the covers and think an application is the screens they see. The quality/money/schedule triad may not be in your control at all.
Robert Kozak
@mgb I wish I could downvote that comment
+1  A: 

I once worked on a contract where I received overtime. I was horrified. When we realized that, I gave it back.

John Saunders
I once worked a contract where the company (but not me) got paid overtime and if I had to work it even if there wasn't any work to do. A couple of Sundays spend surfing the web at work instead of doing what I wanted to do at home and I left.

From the South American point of view... I have to say that is the same as in the North. I'm from Uruguay, and having a release close most of the time imply over time during the week and working on weekends. You not get paid for that, but informally you get extra free days or can leave earlier... at least in the company I work for, that is one of the main ones in the country


Usually not, but particular positions may, or some sort of local law may apply. Consult a local attorney specializing in employment law before jumping to any legal conclusions. (It's neither as expensive nor inconvenient as some people think. In the US, anyway, consult your local bar association.)

David Thornley
+2  A: 

It is true that industry-wide, overtime is the exception and not the rule. When I came on board at my current company, all the other programmers got overtime, while I was subject to new rules laid out by the company's new owner, and I became the first salaried employee. Today everybody is salaried.

I would say it is also true that industry-wide, programmers do not put in massive amounts of overtime for free. We help out for emergencies. We also go to doctor's appointments and pick up our kids from school. We understand that our salary comes from the company's profits, and so we seek to make the company profitable. We do not, however, destroy our personal lives to enrich the company's owners. My experience is very subjective; I'm sure plenty of people have seen such situations. But I would say take advantage of the free market: if you are being asked to work significantly more than 40 hours per week on a regular basis, you can probably do better.

I think being paid by the hour is a symptom of Marxist thinking. Marx postulated that value was based on the labor that went into a product. He was totally wrong. Value is subjective.

Some hours, I produce zero value for my company. Other hours, I might produce a few hundred thousand dollars of value. My company is content that they are getting a good deal for paying a set price per year for me for the amount of work I do. If I want more money, I should become more productive and demonstrate my increased value to my employer. More hours do not necessarily equal more productivity; in fact, they may stifle productivity, and this may vary significantly from worker to worker, not to mention from week to week. In my opinion, I shouldn't expect to make more money without increasing my productivity in some way. Of course, I think I should be constantly working on increasing my productivity.


Most of my career has been with (U.S.) government contracting companies, and that has always meant that I'm an "Exempt" employee. Formally speaking, the terms of our contracts are usually that we're not supposed to work over 40 hours without approval of corporate management and government sponsors; then we are supposed to get paid for anything over 40. However, when that happens, the pay is straight time pay, not something more (i.e. we're "exempt" from the overtime laws). Practically speaking, if the job calls for more than 40 hours, we usually put the time in and don't get paid for it, since getting the approval is slow to impossible. We may get comp time, but usually that is limited in terms of quantity and/or when we can use it (usually within the pay period).

From my experiences outside government contracts and from talking to my friends in other realms, the general rule seems to be no overtime pay.

The exceptions I can remember: "consultants" or "contractors" (vs. employees of contracting companies like me) who charge by the hour. Also, I once met a programmer working for a trade union who said that his employer paid overtime to be consistent with what they demanded for their members.

+1  A: 

Paid overtime is a right in Norway, and everything above 37,5h/week should give you at least your hourly payment + 40% or more. By law. And this applies to all jobs.

I guess there are exceptions if you make special agreements, but that's a different story.

I like it here!

Arve Systad
+3  A: 

Wait, what is this overtime thing I keep hearing people talking about?

Seriously, I think there are jobs where what counts is time and jobs where product is more important. Example of the former would be receptionist, example of the latter would be programmer. My personal strategy when I see that work doesn't fit into normal hours is to push management to rethink schedule.

Add: Oh, ye, and I've heard rumors about that sweet thing called bonus.

ilya n.
+1  A: 

It's true here in Australia as well. Most IT jobs are salaried and get no overtime, except where you're employed directly by the government.

My first programming job was with a state government department and we got paid extra if we were required to work overtime. My last few jobs have been salaried in the private sector, and while I have been paid overtime from time to time, it was not written in the contract as a right, it was at the discretion of the manager (which usually came down to asking the client if they wouldn't mind paying some overtime to have some programmers help with an out-of-hours implementation).

Jeffrey Kemp
+1  A: 

Well, I work in California... And I get overtime (and I'm a software engineer). This is the only job I've ever had where that's true...

Technically, you need approval for overtime... But, if you kick ass long enough, and get a lot done, they're actually pretty lenient... I almost always get some overtime... (and sometimes, I get quite a lot).


Come to india....... No Specific time to come, No Specific time to go

You work a min 9-12 hours daily, You even end up spending a night in the company - Not because you are thrilled/over enthu to complete the work, but because you are screwed and need to match your deadlines.

Salvin Francis

What's overtime for Software Engineer, get back to Job.

This is what my Manager says when I ask for overtime.


In Alberta, Canada, this can depend on what kind of employment situation you have. Some people are contractors that get paid hourly and thus would get overtime as they are paid by the hour though depending on terms one may not get overtime pay for exceeding whatever one wants to call a normal work week. In other cases, developers could be paid a straight salary and thus be exempt from overtime, which could be made up by bonuses to some degree. I work with some contractors that can get that advantage though I don't know if they take advantage of it though. Just adding another voice to the discussion here.

JB King
-1: In Canada, it differs by province. For instance: there are no exemptions/exceptions in Saskatchewan for overtime.