Sliver Of The Pie - InformationWeek

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Sliver Of The Pie

IT salaries are about the same as last year, and job satisfaction is down from two years ago. But the right mix of business-technology skills can still pay off. Third in a three-part series.

In business technology, it's always been tough to keep up with what skills are in demand and which are fading. Jerry Janis had his skills put to the market test last year when he was laid off from his job as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers after IBM bought the firm. It was the first time in an 18-year career that Janis had been out of a job.

Janis landed a new position as project manager of a $48 million enterprise resource planning, financial, and human-resources software implementation at the Chicago Transit Authority, which runs the city's buses and elevated-train line. He was out of work for three months, makes half of what he made at his peak salary in 2000, and logs even longer hours than he did as a consultant. But count Janis among the lucky ones: He loves the new job and is still pulling down a six-figure salary.

JERRY JANIS PHOTO

Janis makes less and works more at the Chicago Transit Authority than he did as a consultant, but he has better job security.
Well, it's not all luck. Janis has the right mix of skills, since ERP is one of only five business-technology skill groups where median pay for managers tops $100,000 in total compensation, according to InformationWeek Research's 2003 National IT Salary Survey. The median of tech-management jobs is $84,000 in base salary, up just 1.2% from last year. On the low end, the typical help-desk manager earns $64,000. For staff jobs, the median pay is $63,000, up 3.3% from last year. That ranges from $78,000 for an integration specialist to $44,000 for a help-desk staffer.

For most people, this year's paychecks look a lot like last year's, the survey of more than 15,000 business-technology professionals finds. It's not as big a shock as last year, when shrinking bonuses cut managers' total compensation 8% and staff compensation 11%. Instead, employees are grinding along: Median total cash compensation for managers is $89,000, flat compared with last year. For staffers, it's $65,000, up 3.2%.

Tepid salary growth only adds to questions about how bright the prospects are for business-technology professionals. It's still a well-paying profession, one that more than 80% of staff and almost 90% of managers find at least somewhat intellectually challenging, the survey finds. Just over half of the managers and staff are satisfied with all aspects of their jobs, including pay. Yet that's a 10% drop in satisfaction from two years ago, and seven out of 10 don't believe the IT career path is as promising as it was five years ago (see "Critical Path," April 21, p. 26; informationweek.com/936/career.htm).

SAME OLD PAYCHECK CHARTIn all, it's a market where managing your career becomes more important than ever, from making sure your skills are up to date to deepening your understanding of an employer's business strategy. In Janis' case, it also meant accepting some trade-offs. He's comfortable with the lower salary because of the better job security. But he also sees his role as much more than an IT person and believes his business-technology background provides plenty of promise. While his ERP and project-management skills landed him the job, he's hoping to manage other projects, including those outside technology. "I see this job opening up a window of other opportunities," he says. "Plus, it's more stable, has a potential pension, lifelong health-care benefits, etc., compared to the less-stable life of consulting."

Among managers, the highest-paying skill areas, in order, are Web security, enterprise application integration, wireless infrastructure, ERP, and Web infrastructure. All pay $100,000 or more with bonuses.

The best-paid staff jobs by title reflect the fact that, in many IT shops, laying out a framework and coordinating an implementation is more critical than hands-on coding. IT architects, systems architects, and project leaders garner the highest salaries this year when IT staffers' salaries are evaluated by job title. IT architects report a median base pay of $94,000, systems architects $84,000, and project leaders $80,000. Cash bonuses bump those to $100,000, $88,000, and $82,000, respectively.

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