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The Average Tech Manager Makes $105,000, Our Salary Survey Finds. Have Tech Jobs Bounced Back?

There's a lot of good in our survey of 7,200 IT pros. But dark clouds swirl around entry-level wages, job growth, and outsourcing.
THERE'S MORE TO THE PICTURE
Pay is rising in importance over soft benefits. Staffers call it a most important factor more often than any other--60% this year compared with 48% last year. Fifty-one percent of managers put a premium on pay, compared with 43% last year. In contrast, soft benefits plummeted in importance; vacation fell to 19% from 36%, flexible schedules to 27% from 47%.

Among the most troubling findings in our survey is that median pay for staff age 25 and under fell, to $40,000 from $45,000 in 2006. For IT managers that age, median base salary fell to $44,000 from $49,000. The 25-and-under group is the only age category to see a decline in median comp. One year might be an anomaly, but this is the No. 1 place to watch. If businesses don't attract young people, they'll never create the high-skilled veterans they complain are scarce.

Outsourcing and offshoring loom large. Just over half of IT pros say the trend has meant fewer jobs and lower morale. The sunny-side view has always been that outsourcing creates opportunities to do more innovative work as menial tasks get moved out, but most tech pros aren't buying it. Not quite one-quarter agree with that premise, while 21% say outsourcing and offshoring have led to salary reductions.

Tech pros aren't sure what to make of the future of their profes-sion. Only 39% of staffers think the tech path is as promising as it was five years ago, while 51% of managers consider it as promising.

There's a gulf between the highest-paid job categories and the lowest. Staffers doing system integration, data mining, infrastructure, and ERP jobs earn median compensation above $90,000. Help desk ($52,000 median), Web design ($65,000), and general IT ($66,000) jobs pay far less and show little growth.

LESSONS?
Money matters. After several years of lukewarm raises, IT pros are ready for more scratch. The No. 1 reason people look for a new job--cited by seven out of 10 of the more than 3,000 people looking for jobs--is higher pay. Other things matter--interesting work, quality management, fulfillment, responsibility--but managers would be smart to make sure the pay of their A-list team is in line with the market.

More specialities are generating top dollar. Total pay for five skill categories among staff hits $90,000 or more; only one category hit that threshold last year and none in 2005.

This survey doesn't tell us what the future holds for U.S. business technology jobs. But this snapshot, in early 2007, shows a profession that has shaken off a fierce downturn. IT is unquestionably a well-paying field. Can it also grow and expand, as well as nurture its next generation? Or will it move toward a high-paying niche? The stats don't tell us.