Average Info Tech Pay Drops To $103,000 For Managers, $76,000 For Staff, Our Survey Finds

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The most eye-popping statistic from InformationWeek's annual U.S. IT Salary Survey is the dip in median total pay, down about $2,000 to $76,000 for staff and $103,000 for managers. But digging deeper into the survey of more than 9,600 participants reveals other insights into the state of the IT profession, from how common raises are to how much training companies are providing. Companies put the brakes on raises in the past year. Last year, 74% of IT staffers and 80% of IT managers reported a salary increase, while only 65% of staffers and 71% of managers are getting raises this year. And the raises are smaller: IT staffers get a median base salary raise of 2.9%, versus 3.3% in 2007, while managers get a median 3.7% hike, compared with 4.2% last year. Since mid-2007, employers have gotten conservative with pay and raises, says David Van De Voort, of the human resources consulting firm Mercer. Also, the last remnants of special treatment--programs and perks uniquely tailored to recruit and retain IT people--are gone. "IT is being affected like everyone else now," Van De Voort says. Bill O'Reilly has gotten better-than-average raises over the past two years, but he's had to work for it. After six years as IT manager at Seattle Prostate Institute, which treats prostate cancer patients, O'Reilly bagged a 10% raise a year ago, in part because he had an offer from another job at a high-tech company at the same salary he was making, plus stock options and "lots of high-tech toys to play with." This year, his raise will be around 3.5% to 4%, and the job comes with good benefits and quarterly profit sharing that added $3,500 to $4,000 last year. The median bonus this year is down $1,000, to $3,000 for staff and $7,000 for managers. Bonuses make up about 4% of staff compensation and 7% for managers, which is the average percentage over the past 10 years if you ignore 2001, when the tech bubble ballooned bonuses to 16% of pay. Half of staffers and two-thirds of managers got bonuses. Most--63% of IT staff and 71% of IT managers--are based upon individual performance, followed by profit sharing (42% staff, 47% management), and project milestones (15% and 21%). Mercer's Van De Voort says information security isn't as hot an area across the board as in recent years, though our results show continued strong salaries. In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, anything security was in high demand, with tons of training classes and certification programs to feed demand for people going into that work. Now supply is meeting demand, and "lower-end security has cooled down considerably," says Van De Voort. High-end skills, though, such as security governance and security policy, remain hot, he says. Our survey shows total compensation for security managers rising to a median of $118,000, from $109,000, while security is the fifth-highest-paying staff function, up to $86,000. YOUR RAISE? YOU'RE NOW AN ARCHITECT Raises aren't as common this year, but raises in title only may be, which may explain some watering down of salaries for the very top job categories. Architects are a prime candidate. "True enterprise architects are always in demand, but there's been an inflation of the architect title," Van De Voort says. "Some architects are no more than developers, but the highest-level architects are doing design." That might explain one of the more puzzling findings: that median pay slipped for both architects and system architects--the top two staff jobs by title--though they still pay a median salary of $105,000 and $100,000, respectively. Total compensation for programmers also took a bit of a hit, though perhaps not as bad as one might guess, given the pressure the segment faces from lower-cost offshore competition. Median total compensation for staff with the "programmer" title was flat at $66,000, dipped $1,000 for programmer/analyst, and declined $5,000 for systems programmers. Steven Neel is a Web software developer who's been working for the same manufacturer of electrical products for 15 years, starting as a student employee. He feels fairly secure--his company does most all work in-house--but he's also feeling the caution that Van De Voort describes. The company's freezing open positions, and he expects his and most people's raises will be around 3%, not the 5% they might get in more bumper years. Regardless of title, a gender gap persists, though female staffers gained some ground the past year. While male IT staffers earn a median salary of $75,000, female staff earn $68,000--a 9% gap, compared with 13% a year ago. Male IT managers pull a median salary of $98,000, 10% more than women managers' $88,000, a slightly bigger gap than last year. Comparative years of experience in IT does not erase the gender gap. Help desk jobs remain at the bottom of the compensation scale--$51,000 for staffers, $72,000 for managers--and they also aren't the stepping stone they once were, says David Foote, whose research firm, Foote Partners, studies IT salaries. Gone are the days when the help desk was the entry-level job for IT pros starting their careers. "No one can find help desk jobs any more, and no one wants to be a help desk worker," says Foote, as those jobs get outsourced or automated. Instead, kids right out of college need to show business knowledge, such as finances or marketing course work, to help land analyst jobs, he says. CHALLENGE NOT AS IMPORTANT, NEW TECH IS Asked what matters most to them about their jobs, managers cite the challenge and responsibility more than any other factor, but the percentage fell to 55%, from 65% last year and 68% two years ago. Staffers had a similar drop--to 45%, from 56% the past two years. Working on new, innovative IT was cited by 37% of managers and 31% of staffers--maintaining last year's newfound emphasis on this, when this factor jumped more than 20 percentage points. In general, staffers put a bit more emphasis on bottom-line factors--base pay and benefits, followed by challenge and stability--than managers, whose top factors are challenge, pay, benefits, and working on innovative projects. Chad Ostroff, a Web site coordinator for the city of Sugarland, Texas, for about 18 months, is making a trade-off of stability and benefits over the higher pay he sees friends getting for contract Web design and development in the private sector. "I'm building up my experience and hope to springboard into the corporate world some day," says Ostroff, who says typical raises this year will be 3% to 3.5%. "I always have my ear to the ground." Like Ostroff, IT pros need continuous training and skill-building to compete in today's global IT market, but such spending could be one of the first things to fall if the economy slows down. Employers aren't likely to touch set programs like tuition or certification programs, says Lisa Van Fleet, who leads the employee benefits practice of the law firm Bryan Cave, but they tend to drop less formal education and training programs, such as e-learning and continuing education. And that appears to be where most IT pros get their training. Just 30% get reimbursed for tuition and 19% for certifications, while 57% of staff and 59% of managers attended some kind of company-paid training in the past year. About 13% paid their own way for training, at a typical cost of $1,000 for staffers and $2,000 for managers. As far as the training most in demand, 69% of staffers want technology-specific training, compared with 46% of IT managers. At the bottom of the list--7% of staffers, 10% of managers--is communication skills. Since over half of IT pros cite "interacting with customers" as critical to their jobs, this one might deserve more attention. IT pros clearly see their roles as bridging IT and business, though with one glaring omission. Half of IT staffers identify aligning business and technology goals, interacting with customers, and analyzing data as their most critical job skills. For IT managers, business technology alignment is cited by 80%, followed by the ability to communicate and collaborate with internal stakeholders (62%) and customers (57%). About three in five IT pros have held non-IT positions, most commonly in operations/supply chain/manufacturing, or marketing and sales. The glaring omission: Just 13% of IT staffers and 29% of managers list seeking new business opportunities among their most critical skills. Everyone loves cost cutting and communicating, but for IT to really be a hero around the company, its leaders need to drive ways to boost revenue as well.

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