So I was reading from a previous thread about App vs Game Development:
If it was for you to chose Game Development vs Application Development, which will you chose?

Which brought me to this site: EA: The Human Story

A lot of it talked about developers working something like 85 hours a week, and not getting paid overtime, or anything. Just getting paid for the 40 hours. Is this normal for most software companies? I mean where I work I'm only an entry level guy but I get overtime, and anything over 40 hours is considered this. But it got me thinking "Holy crap" I could never do that. My FREE time is important to me. But is this commonplace in most software companies? Or is more a rarity to certain types (game development, etc)?

Because it got me scared!

Like I understand having to put some extra hours in for a project... but like 80! that's ridiculous.

  • 2
    It has more to do with your location, IIRC. In some areas, certain jobs and types of employment (i.e. salary vs hourly) are exempt from overtime pay.
    – Adam Lear
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 18:46
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    I've never heard of devs being paid overtime, lucky you! That said, overtime shouldn't be the norm at most half-decent companies. Game development has exceptions due to deadlines more often than most; the "final sprint" can be killer. Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 18:50
  • @Matthew Read: I've been paid overtime, but it sure isn't common. In my case, the task was considered to be sufficiently important and not quite what I was supposed to be doing. Comp time is, in my experience, much more common. Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 19:18
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    @David, What exactly is "Comp Time"?
    – user6791
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 19:41
  • I believe, by comp time, he is referring to getting an extra hour of vacation for every hour worked over 40.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 20:08

9 Answers 9


Yes, it's common to not be paid overtime.

I frequently work 60 hour weeks and haven't received any immediate benefits. However, I often find that those extra hours are put in when I am working on something exciting or important. It never really feels like work if you love it. Often meals will be catered and other concessions made during these periods. Some of my fondest memories are with 3-4 other developers circled in the conference room to discuss some new wizzbang product while eating pizza at 10pm.

I've also had the good fortune to feel like I've been more than compensated through promotions and bonuses, largely due to hard work. I don't regret a thing, even if I have sacrificed more personal time than my peers. Just be awesome and eventually it will pay off.

I once worked with a great developer that worked tirelessly from 9am to 5:30pm everyday. Unfortunately for him, that became a stigma (maybe they thought he didn't care) and his work went under appreciated, while I went on to lead the department.

Whatever choice is right for you, there are programming jobs out there that fit what you are looking for. I think this applies to many careers.

  • 49
    +1 for liking your job, -1 for believing that your 60 hour work weeks have anything to do with leading your department. -1 for believing that the 9-5:30 guy achieved less than you because odds are he doesn't want your job anyways, -1 for thinking that someone who doesn't put in extra time means you don't care and perpetuating that management myth.
    – Dunk
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 19:28
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    @Frustrated: Management couldn't do that for me. I have children and a husband. Management can't do anything about my husband's irritation when I don't have time to do any housework, nor can it do anything about my kids losing touch with me (well, not entirely true . . . they could pay for a housekeeper for our family and invite my family to the provided meals when I work late, so I still get to see them at dinner - but haven't heard of this ever happening). IMO, it's up to management to make sure that people don't need to put in extra hours. Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 21:06
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    @FrustratedWithFormsDesigner: It's up to management to make an environment where extra hours are not necessary. If overtime is the norm, it means the managers are incompetent and/or exploiting their workers. Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 10:46
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    Is it possible to be truly productive for 80 hours in a week? I think not. By the 70th hour you are probably adding more bugs than you are fixing, or at the very least introducing more technical debt. Companies expecting you to routinely work 80 hour weeks (for months on end) are likely to fail due to shoddy software created either by tired developers or high developer turnover.
    – user43249
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 11:48
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    -1, Just because you enjoy what you do doesn't mean you shouldn't be compensated for it. Your Attitude is insane, Working overtime is caused by bad management, all management teams make mistakes, so Dev work late to compensate for those mistakes that's called being a team player. Working for team that has chronically mismanaged then happily making up for it by always working late is just plain stupid.
    – Morons
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 12:29

This question has been asked several times already. Anyways, I heard the nightmare rumors also as I was graduating, but I liked programming so much that I was prepared to put in whatever hours it took. Anyways, I was lucky and my first job paid for overtime. Ever since then 20+ years I've never had to work anywhere that didn't pay for overtime. The "above and beyond 40 hours is a requirement" is a myth that unscrupulous managers tell their developers in order to get free time out of them. Reputable companies that care about their employees are willing to pay for your time fairly. If that is your expectation then that is what you will get.

At my current job there are 2 developers that sit next to me that are of the opinion that being salaried you are expected to put in more than 40 hours and they do it regularly. On the other hand, if I have to work overtime I simply go to my manager and get it approved for pay. I've told these 2 guys that my belief is your salary is based upon an expected 40 hour work week and that's what I give the company, but they don't buy it. OTOH, I haven't told them that I get paid for my overtime. Also, my requesting fair payment for my time in no way is looked down upon by my manager as my reviews and pay increases reflect my results and not how many hours I am at the office.

  • See you sound like you have a good position, im in the same mindset. if Im gonna work more than 40 hours I want to at least be compensated fairly in SOME way
    – user6791
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 19:38

This happens in business software too; I work at a business software company and we were asked to put in 80 hour weeks for over 4 months. Some of the senior developers at the company had been doing it for nearly 9 months by the time release rolled around.

I will say that it is a very rare human being that can take working this sort of overtime without pay, comp time, or even food (they made us pay for our own meals when we stayed till 2am).

I will say this, however, the first 2-3 months of this Death March were actually really enjoyable as I was thrown headfirst into a codebase (this is my first job outside of university) and asked to create an SDK for their product. I didn't mind coming in extra because I was given a great deal of responsibility and leeway to do things the way I liked.

At the end, we were given a free $20 lunch and some ice cream to celebrate putting on 25 lbs and being indentured servants for the last 4 months.

This sort of practice, imho, occurs when you have a lot of top down management from reactive people. Middle managers get a plan together and execute, just to have the executives change their mind about what they want (but not the deadline). It just spirals out of control and there's tons of duplicated/wasted work. It tends to happen the most when the top level guys see some fancy new technology (cloud, mobile, etc.) at Gartner or something and think "Hey let's do that at our company! Gosh, I'm so proactive!"

I think it's really luck of the draw. Some teams will be fun and easy-going, but others will be mismanaged and horrible.

One last note is that it's my experience that most of these mis-managed teams tend to have a LOT of immigrant engineers. I think the reason is that visa-holders are reliant on their job to stay in the country (at least in the U.S.). Most are too scared to say 'no' to their boss for fear of being deported.

  • 4
    I hope you left that job, because I would never put up with that.
    – user6791
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 19:40
  • 1
    Just started applying yesterday and got my first interview request today :)
    – Vincesz
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 19:41
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    That's a really stupid pace. After a few 80-hour weeks, you'll be getting less done than if you were working 40-hour weeks. It's very definitely not good for your health either. Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 20:28
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    Working 80 hrs/week does not work in terms of long term productivity, plus there is the basic lack of respect that the "leadership" shows for the people that work there. BLECK
    – Zachary K
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 10:18
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    "At the end, we were given a free $20 lunch and some ice cream to celebrate putting on 25 lbs and being indentured servants for the last 4 months." - I would be absolutely insulted. I'd rather get nothing. Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 12:18

In the US, there is an exemption from overtime pay for computer workers (pdf) who earn over a certain amount, currently $27.64 / hour. Even hourly employees will not get paid above their normal hourly wage for overtime. This is not just salary vs. hourly.

Having said that, having to work 80 hours a week is unusual, and becoming more rare as we get further from the "dot com" days. From what I've seen, most programmers are asked to work 40 to 50 hours a week. I'd say about 10 to 20% work more than that because they are motivated or ambitious. I personally enjoy my job, but have a family - so I generally clock in right about the 40 hour a week mark. I am also careful to take jobs where that is fine and normal. I've mostly worked at Microsoft, both full-time (salaried) and contract (hourly), but now found a great position at a small company nearby.

EA gets a notorious black mark for the way they treat their employees and are not normal. If you end up in such a situation (80+ hours a week being required), quit if you possibly can, and hunt around for another job if you can't go unemployed. It's not good either for you or for your career in the long run. Gaming as an industry also has a reputation for being one of the more intense fields, although EA still stands out as being a crappy place to work (although I'd imagine that they've cleaned up by now . . . this all went down years ago).

  • 4
    Ya you sound about like me. I'd rather honestly get paid less and have a life then get paid a lot of money and work 80 something a week. But either way good for u!
    – user6791
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 20:05
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    @Mercfh - I actually still get paid pretty well. Skill is more important for getting a high paycheck than the willingness to work long hours, IME. Look at it this way: If a company isn't smart enough to avoid constantly overworking their devs, they probably aren't smart enough to pay well to get the top talent. And, the top talent wouldn't stay; the top talent already has all the money they need, and doesn't need to work with a bunch of exhausted, stressed-out coworkers. Commented Mar 10, 2011 at 0:10

As bethlakshmi answered it's the difference between salaried and hourly positions. In the US this is often referred to as exempt vs non-exempt.

Why would you want a salaried position as opposed to an hourly position? In theory it's more flexible. I don't have to take sick leave to go to doctor and dental appointments. If I'm feeling stale at 3pm, I can walk out the door and go for a run without having to clock in and out. In practice many employers will try to guilt you into working the extra hours without allowing you the flexibility you are supposed to have. In addition salaried employees may be eligible for 'upside' compensation that hourly workers are not. Presumably folks who work 80 hours a week are looking forward to a bonus or a grant of stock options. It's a gamble, but this can be worth a lot of money. Many companies will try to use salaried status simply as a way to avoid paying overtime without offering any upside compensation. Finally, it means your income is more predictable. While you won't get the upside of having overtime, you aren't exposed to the downside of having your hours cut (unless things get really bad and they start imposing furlough days).


I am working fulltime in the third company now - PHP - and I always got overhours paid or compensated with free time. In one company I worked, you got +25% for an over hour. It is always encouraged to just compensate yourself by working less on other days.

I would personally never ever consider working for a company that expects overhours without compansating those in an at least proportional manner. That is just very very very unhealthy. Only exception I would make if the salary was suberbial and by that kinda paying for overhours indirectly.

I record my worktime down to the quarter hour. And in my opinion that is fair for the employer as well as for the employee.


This is the basic difference between a salaried position and an hourly one. With any salaried position, the basic assumption is that the work is not easy to describe in terms of hours - it's not a factory job where a person is known to make x widgets per hour. 1 line of code could take 4 hours to get right, and then the next 40 lines of code could be finished and tested in an hour. And how can you possibly count up the the testing and debugging of it?

I'd say a great majority of the jobs I know of in software development are salaried, particularly when you are in a permanent position in a company. Contract/freelance work is different, and typically hourly, but it also assumes that the employee has a degree of experience that makes him particularly efficient so he's going at a known pace.

I don't think there's one rule for all companies or any particular industry on what a standard work week is. Just about every area of software development is driven by schedule these days - developers are pushed hard to meet deadlines and time to market can make or break a product. I don't know of any industry that doesn't have it's fair share of crunch time where people in short sprints are expected to put in overtime. But from there the average hours per week varies significantly based on industry, company maturity, and many other factors.

Given that a great many software developers have outside interests and social lives, I think its safe to say that most jobs are not so all consuming that they rule out personal time. But if you are wedded to a permanent fixed 40 hour a week position, consider a different career.

  • 4
    Whats wrong with 40 hour a week? I enjoy my job pretty well and it's good pay?
    – user6791
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 18:57
  • @Merchf - great work if you can get it! Congrats on having a rare position that never demands overtime. I'm just saying that after 10 years in the industry, I haven't seen overtime-free to be the norm. Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 19:29
  • gotcha! :). I mean I can work overtime too, but we get paid for it.
    – user6791
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 19:37
  • So, with salaried positions there is an assumption that the work cannot be time estimated. But the same manager that makes that assumption requires you to provide a precise time estimation of your work. And requires unpaid overtime work if you are wrong. Who is fooled?
    – mouviciel
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 13:11
  • If that's how your manager works, I suggest getting a new one... speaking as a manager, I generally get feedback from my team about time estimates, particularly when the work is new, risky, or otherwise difficult. About the only time I don't is when I have a very good basis for estimate (like great historical info). Not to say I don't fight for the team to work "smart not hard" and be as efficient as possible... but I don't dictate how that happens, and I don't wing an estimate w/out checking in... Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 22:45

I think, programming is creative work. It don't depend on number of hours you work. A skilled programmer, can complete a 'programming task' in 1 hour, where as an unskilled one don't complete it in 1 day also.


It's very common in investment banks. Some people in certain departments (notable M&A == Mergers & Acquisitions) put in ridiculous hours, like over 100h/week. On trading floors, the norm is 9-11h day (including lunch break), but you almost never work on weekends. You don't get any overtime, but the salary is high enough so that people don't complain.

  • Would you mind explaining what "M&A" is?
    – phresnel
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 16:35
  • Mergers and acquisitions.
    – quant_dev
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 21:04
  • Thanks! It's sometimes not easy to follow all abbreviations of you native english folks.
    – phresnel
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 16:14
  • LOL, I'm Eastern European :)
    – quant_dev
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 17:30
  • Considering your use of secret abrevations, there was a certain chance that I am right :P
    – phresnel
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 13:03