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Chris Murphy
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Tech Managers Make $115,000, Staff $87,000. Why Are IT Pros So Worried?

After a decade of hard knocks, IT pros earn modest raises, our annual U.S. IT Salary Survey shows, but they face plenty of uncertainty ahead.

To understand the journey business technology pros have been on for the past decade, you need to look at the stats, and also the stories.

The stats, gleaned from the InformationWeek Analytics 2011 U.S. IT Salary Survey, show that IT remains a well-paying profession: IT managers make a median total cash compensation of $115,000 and staffers make $87,000, our survey of more than 18,000 IT pros finds. Salaries vary greatly by specialty, however, with high-skill staffers in system architecture, data management, and enterprise application integration typically making six figures, while help desk staffers make around $55,000.

For all IT pros, raises have been hard to come by in recent years. Last year's pay freezes have given way to small increases--the median total compensation raise for IT staffers is just 0.9% this year, 1.9% for managers.

The current situation seems a lifetime away from 2001, when the median raise was a stunning 8.5% for staff and 9.9% for managers. IT pros saw their salaries tank in 2002, amid a recession, a backlash from the pay hikes of the tech bubble, and the emergence of offshore outsourcing. Median compensation didn't return to

2001 survey levels until 2005. It has risen every year since then, except in 2008, when another recession took its toll (see chart, below).

The stories of IT pros are as volatile as the numbers.

Lisa Morgan made the leap from self-taught IT hand in the early 1990s to become a database pro, only to lose her job of 13 years in 2006, when real estate cratered and the title company she worked at folded. Morgan landed another job, in financial services, only to lose it in 2010 amid the banking crisis. So as she worked contract jobs last year, she spent $3,000 on more programming classes, bartered some home PC and networking work for a $350 used server to learn SharePoint, and in October landed her current gig, at a government contractor.

chart: The long haul: total cash compensation

Become an InformationWeek Analytics subscriber and get our full U.S. IT Salary Survey report.

This report includes one-of-a-kind research, including data on:
  • Salaries and raises by region
  • Salaries by job function, title and experience
  • How satisfied IT pros are with their pay, challenges, job security, and jobs overall
  • What benefits IT pros typically receive, and value the most
  • What IT pros think of outsourcing's impact on IT careers
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