Is The Tech Job Market Better? Our Data Says 'Yes'

Taken as a whole, the InformationWeek Salary Survey suggests things have been looking up for the IT job market the past year. Not everyone's going to want to hear that.
Taken as a whole, the InformationWeek Salary Survey suggests things have been looking up for the IT job market the past year. Not everyone's going to want to hear that.The tech job market is volatile and uneven, far from a lift-all-boats phenomenon. There's a huge gulf in pay between the highest and lowest paying job categories. And there are ominous dark clouds within the data, from entry-level pay to age discrimination. But add it up, and our data-from a survey of more than 7,200 tech pros-shows the market stronger than it's been in years.

For the data junkies out there, we provide more material than ever for you to do your own assessments. Our Salary Adviser tool lets you slice the data by job category and geography. A 20-chart gallery lets you form your own opinons of the data, such as comparing pay for dozens of staff and management job categories at a glance, or look at pay for men vs. women.

Here are some of the data that points to a stronger IT job market. Foremost is that median pay is moving up-both base salaries and bonuses. The typical U.S. IT manager makes $105,000 in salary and cash bonuses, and the median staff compensation is $78,000. There have been several years over the past nine where median pay stagnated in our survey. Median pay has been on a compound annual growth rate of about 5% since 1999, but that's come in painful fits and starts.

A sense of job security is on the rise. Fifty-two percent of managers feel "strongly secure" about their jobs, and just 9% feel insecure. For staffers, it's 42% strongly secure, and 13% insecure.

One of the most surprising pieces of data-and most open to interpretation-has been the decline in how important "soft benefits" such as job stability and flexible schedules are. The percentage of people who listed those as a "most important" factor in a job plunged (just 33% of staffers cite job stability as important, from 58% last year.) Meanwhile, pay jumped up as a factor, as did factors such as working with cutting-edge technology. My read is that more tech pros feel the security to push for a raise and new opportunities, not just cling to a job.

There's plenty to worry about from the Salary Survey. Most troubling, median pay for those 25 and under declined from last year-just as the industry frets over how to attract the best young minds.

Besides the online data tools, our Salary Survey coverage includes a more in-depth analysis of the stats, and a How-To Career Guide. This is no time for tech pros to drop their guard in protecting their career. We offer advice on seven key strategies, such as moving into a higher-paying specialty, fighting age discrimination, and semi-retiring as a consultant.

Our Salary Survey has a track record. It accurately captured the salary stagnation that marked years like 2003 and 2004. It captured the boom that peaked in 2001, a year when soaring bonuses made up 18% of the typical manager's pay. It doesn't predict the future, but it has a solid record of capturing the moment. Does this year's data snapshot feel right to you?

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing