IT Pros Get Meager Raises As Median Pay Hits $80,000, Our Survey Finds - InformationWeek
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IT Pros Get Meager Raises As Median Pay Hits $80,000, Our Survey Finds

Our annual salary survey finds big differences based on regions, industries, and skills. Median manager pay reaches $105,000.

'Right People In The Right Jobs'
The economic downturn hasn't affected the kind of skills that companies put a premium on; the ranking of compensation by functions and job titles in our survey remains fairly stable. There continues to be a premium on skills around architecture, data mining, integration, infrastructure, and security, with the lowest salaries going to general IT, training, and support.

To Bob Davies, a senior security analyst at Key Bank, IT work, especially in security, feels relatively secure, despite the turmoil in the financial services sector. Still, a few months ago, in an effort to make himself more valuable to his employer, he attended a one-week program to prepare for his CISSP certification as a way of boosting his security credentials. The company paid for it, but it meant months of studying, and he's not done yet, since he didn't pass on the first attempt. "It's an exercise in discipline," he says.

Anecdotally, companies seem a bit more anxious to hold onto seasoned business technology talent, perhaps realizing from the last round of layoffs five or six years ago that such expertise isn't easily replaced or outsourced. For the most part, though, money isn't part of any retention formula. Just 17% say increasing pay is part of their companies' retention efforts this year, compared with 35% last year.

David Kline, CIO at Discovery Communications, which owns the Discovery Channel and other media, has been on a mission for two years to get his IT staff to the right size and skill mix. With 240 full-time staff and 60 contractors inside and outside the United States, Kline's insisting that his people take company-paid training where needed--such as improving Java skills, as the company moves in that direction--and to make their IT work customer and business-process focused. People who can't or won't make the transition will be let go. "We're more aggressive about this," he says. "We want to make sure we've got the right people in the right jobs."

Jeff Weissler, head of IT governance and control at a large U.S. insurance company, says it's a goal in his IT group "to not cut people." The company has about 800 IT employees, mostly in the United States, with some developers in India. Its IT budget is down about 8% from 2008, with some projects put on hold, certain software and hardware purchases avoided, and IT contracts and licenses renegotiated where possible. Most people who leave aren't being replaced, except for specialty areas. Employees did get raises--though 1% to 2% instead of last year's 3% to 5% range.

charrt: Industry Matters -- Total compensation (in $ thousands)
Insurance and financial services companies have been among the most aggressive offshore outsourcers, and fears that trend would lead to U.S. job losses "weren't overblown five years ago," says Weissler. But now companies have a better sense of where they're willing to take the risk of handing their IT over to vendors. While respondents see outsourcing hurting the U.S. IT profession overall--61% say there are fewer jobs available--most don't think it has hurt them personally. Seven of 10 say outsourcing has had no impact on their careers; 14% say they have expanded responsibilities.

It's the economy that's the big worry for IT pros. One-third say their pay has been frozen or cut as a result of the economy, though an equal number say there's been no impact. Van De Voort says some companies are being more careful about letting experienced IT talent get away because--if the economy picks up or they want to cut costs through focused IT projects--they can't afford the lead time to bring new hires up to speed on company and industry practices.

Biotech Reigns
What industries are looking good? Perhaps surprisingly, the federal government's competitive, particularly with staff salaries. The median total compensation of $96,000 for government IT staff tops all but the IT vendor and investment/securities industries, and it ties biotech. For managers, it's a different story because there's less bonus potential. The median total compensation for federal IT managers is $115,000, putting them in the middle of the pack and well short of top pay such as biotech and pharmaceuticals' $140,000 median. State government, however, pays well below the industry median: $64,000 for staff and $85,000 for managers.

Health care is often assumed to be a recession-resistant growth industry, but the median pay is right around the norm for all industries: $77,000 for staff and $102,000 for managers. And it's not immune to economic downturns, as people put off elective procedures or can't pay bills as they lose their health insurance along with their jobs. Health care IT, however, should get some lift from about $20 billion in federal stimulus spending earmarked for electronic health initiatives over the next several years.

Bernie Lubitz isn't feeling that gain. As director of telecommunication technology, he's part of a 31-person IT organization at Martin Memorial Health System in Florida that has been moving to electronic medical records. This year will bring more work and no raise, as Martin Memorial has instituted a salary freeze amid declining admissions and a rise in unpaid services. Still, Lubitz and his colleagues feel like the added project work around digitized records provides a bit more job security.

chart: How's Your Job Security?

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