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Paychecks For Security Pros In The Heartland Catching Up To Northeast, Silicon Valley

Federal regulations and a growing fear of China's cyber capabilities are helping to drive up salaries for security professionals.

IT security professionals living outside of Silicon Valley and the Northeast are getting substantial raises.

An eight-year study by the SANS Institute shows that security professionals working in the rest of the country -- especially the Midwest, the Northwest, and the Southeast -- are catching up to their better-paid security brethren. When it comes to getting the best raises, these areas have been at the top of the charts since the end of the last century, with salary growth exceeding 7.5% yearly.

"There has been a leveling," said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, in an interview with InformationWeek. "It used to be that from New York to Boston and then in California, salaries were way ahead. That's where you went if you wanted a lot of money. Then the rest of the country discovered they were just as much a target for attacks as the California and New York firms were. It's not that they're getting paid more than New Engand, but they're getting bigger raises and catching up."

Have they caught up, yet, though?

According to Paller, the Mid-Atlantic region -- Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Washington -- has the biggest paychecks for security professionals, coming in at a mean salary of $95,615 for 2006. The Northeast came in second with $92,452, while the West, which includes Silicon Valley, rang in with $86,368. The Midwest is seeing a mean salary of $84,120, as the Northwest comes in at $81,186. The Southeast comes in at $80,123 and the U.S. Central, which includes Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, came in at $78,666.

Paller, though, was quick to point out that salary satisfaction doesn't come from having the highest salary. It comes from having consistent increases in your salary.

"Satisfaction is less related to the absolute value of your salary than with the change," he explained. "People who are getting good raises every year are feeling appreciated. Those people will be much more satisfied with their compensation than people who are paid well but haven't gotten raises in two years. Satisfaction in security is much higher in areas outside of the traditional high-paid areas, like Silicon Valley."

The SANS survey also shows that Federal Information Security Management Act and the advancement of China's technology capabilities are propelling salaries in industries like aerospace and professional service providers who work for government agencies, handling jobs like security assessments and auditing. Those are two of the industry segments that showed an eight-year total salary increase of 65%.

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