IT Workers Conflicted, Dice Salary Survey Reveals
January 26, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Technology and engineering career site Dice has put out its annual salary survey to take the pulse on compensation rates out there in the tech market, and the news is good and bad. Average salaries were up at the end of 2008 compared to 2007, but IT workers are plenty jumpy because of the economy and what their employers might do to cut costs if things get worse or even just stay bad.
Dice put together its 2008-09 Annual Salary Survey by gathering up information from 19,444 tech workers between August and November last year. This was, you will remember, the peak of the economic meltdown in the financial services industry and when the stock market was bleeding like a shot pig. Despite all that, the average IT salary in the United States, where Dice does its thing, rose by 4.6 percent in 2008, to $78,035. Back at the end of 2005, the average IT salary was at $69,700. (You can see the full set of data that Dice has released publicly at this link.)
As you process this data, I want you to remember something I have pointed out before when talking about averages. When companies let go of entry-level employees and pay a little more to keep their experienced staff on hand, the average salary rises a lot more than real salaries do. If companies are laying off IT people–and there are no stats on this, but it is hard to believe that IT is not taking some hits as America lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008–then that will explain some of the growth. What I really want to know is how employees’ salaries have individually grown over time, and then average these to get a sense of what is really happening. The numbers could be very like those Dice and others present, but then again, they could be radically different depending on the pay offered to new hires and if there are layoffs in the IT department for relatively junior staff members.
By job title, Dice reckons that the average IT manager raked in $111,998 in 2008, up 3.9 percent, while project managers got $103,424, up 2.1 percent. MIS managers, which are the top dogs at smaller companies, had an average salary of $93,318, up 4.9 percent, while software engineers were slightly lower at $90,031, up 7 percent compared to 2007’s average reported salary for this job title. Analysts and other kinds of developers had average salaries in the middle $80,000s, and network engineers and system administrators were averaging in the low $70,000s. While average IT salaries are highest in Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York, the fastest salary growth for IT staff is in Charlotte, St Louis, Pittsburgh, Portland (Oregon), and Baltimore.
“That average tech salaries are rising even as the economy falls reveals how much has changed since the dot-com days,” explained Tom Silver, senior vice president at Dice in a statement accompanying the salary numbers. “Today, many technology professionals are seen as core assets where they work. As they enhance their skills, they’ll need to align those efforts with the market’s shifting demands. However, over the long-term, updating and broadening one’s skill set is the key to continued salary gains.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I said, basing your analysis on averages can be tricky. Still, there’s no question that IT is integral to business these days, and that those with skills and experience get the most dough.
Interestingly, 12 percent of those polled last summer and fall said that they really didn’t have any concerns about their career as they looked ahead to 2009. But 22 percent of those polled said that keeping their skills up to date and being valuable to their employer was a concern, and 20 percent said they were worried about having their positions eliminated. Some 14 percent of those polled said that they were worried about lower salary increase in 2009 if they were employees or lower billing rates if they were contractors. Another 12 percent said they were worried about cancelled projects or having fewer projects to work on in 2009, and 10 percent said they were concerned that their workload would rise in 2009 as the IT staff was potentially reduced.