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Wyatt Kash
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Federal IT Salaries Strong, But Trouble Looms

Government IT still pays better than other industries. But after three years of belt-tightening, half of federal IT employees are looking for a new job, InformationWeek salary survey shows.

to do more with less.

As one federal employee told us, "I chose to work IT for a lesser salary a decade ago in the federal sector due to the job security. That has been shattered this past year. Having our benefits cut and our job security threatened [has resulted in] losing the few qualified IT workers we have."

IT managers, meanwhile, ranked in the top 10 based on median salaries, which average $122,000.

Table 2: IT Management Salaries

2014 Rank US IT Management - Salary
rank by industry
Base salary (median-1000s) Total compensation (median-1000s)
1 Securities and investments $140 $165
2 Biotech/biomedical/pharmaceutical $134 $151
3 Financial services, other $131 $145
4 Electronics $130 $140
5 Energy $130 $150
6 Consumer goods $127 $146
7 Chemicals* $125 $138
8 Consulting and business services $125 $140
9 Insurance $124 $138
10 Government (federal) $122 $125
11 IT vendors $121 $140
12 Media/entertainment $121 $131
13 Retail/e-commerce $120 $132
14 Utilities $116 $128
15 Banking $115 $125
16 Food/beverage $115 $123
17 Logistics/transportation $115 $123
18 Telecommunications/ISPs $112 $123
19 Healthcare/HMOs $110 $118
20 Real estate* $110 $125
21 Manufacturing/industrial (noncomputer) $108 $117
22 Hospitality/travel $105 $120
23 Construction/engineering $99 $104
24 Distribution $99 $106
25 Government (local) $93 $94
26 Metals and natural resources* $92 $97
27 Nonprofit $91 $93
28 Education (college, university) $90 $90
29 Government (state) $87 $87
30 Education (K-12) $81 $84
* Low base, use with caution
** Rounded up to nearest thousand
Data: InformationWeek 2014 US IT Salary Survey of 11,662 IT professionals, February 2014

There are other challenges, too: Mid-career employees foresee fewer opportunities for better pay or advancement as older or more established colleagues continue to count down the days until retirement. And federal IT pros who once counted on continued on-the-job training report that those training opportunities aren't what they once were.

While 48% of federal IT staff and 62% of IT managers attended agency-paid training in the past 12 months, a fifth of IT staffers and a quarter of IT managers paid for the training themselves -- personally laying out a median average of $1,000 and $825, respectively. Nearly three out of 10 IT staff workers said they received no training or certification courses over the past year.

But there's a deeper concern, warns John Palguta, VP for policy at the Partnership for Public Service. As he put it in our in-depth report on federal IT salary trends, "Some employees also resent what they see as unfair treatment over the last three years, and it's going to take a while for that to dissipate. Two years of 1% pay increases are not viewed as cancelling out three years of a pay freeze."

Senior agency leaders counting on IT projects to help them boost productivity ought to be particularly concerned about one set of findings: Half of federal IT employees surveyed say they are looking for a new job -- including 17% of IT managers who say they are looking actively.

Those findings and many more are contained in InformationWeek's special report on federal IT salaries. And don't miss what IT pros across all 30 industries we surveyed this year have to say in InformationWeek's 2014 US IT Salary Survey.

Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators. Read our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue today.

Wyatt Kash is a former Editor of InformationWeek Government, and currently VP for Content Strategy at ScoopMedia. He has covered government IT and technology trends since 2004, as Editor-in-Chief of Government Computer News and Defense Systems (owned by The Washington Post ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
5/21/2014 | 1:38:58 PM
Re: Incentives
The biggest concern I have is government's growing reliance on LPTA (Lowest Price Technically Acceptable) contracts, which requires agencies to accept low ball bids for work that on paper looks doable, but everyone knows is a trainwreck in the making.  LPTAs put agencies in a precarious place --  and forces qualified contractors to think twice about taking on IT projects, or else consider hiring low-priced talent to make the numbers work.
User Rank: Ninja
5/21/2014 | 1:23:55 PM
It appears as if many workers are being demoralized by the prospect of less incentives over time. And surely there are a number of private sector jobs in the D.C. that are looking for technical talent. 

Therein lies one problem that I don't think many think about: If there are less incentives for government jobs, then workers will go to the private sector.

And if the government cannot fill those jobs, they will have to use private sector contractors. Which will be more expensive anyways, so it makes little sense to be cutting things that ultimately there are workarounds for. 
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