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IT Salaries: It's Good To Be Chief

IT pay is up practically across the board, according to a recent salary outlook, but the biggest bump is in the C-suite.
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It's good to be CIO.

IT salaries are trending up almost across the board in 2015, according to recent data from IT recruiting firm Mondo. But the largest bump appears reserved for the kings and queens of business technology, with CIOs and CTOs getting 9% pay raises during the past 12 months compared with the prior 12 months.

Of course, the top of the IT food chain should probably command a top salary -- and it does, with the CIO/CTO role typically earning between $170,000 and $250,000 annually, according to Mondo. But the percentage increase outpaces just about every other IT role. For comparison, the hunted iOS developer got a 5% bump in average salary in the same time period. A QA manager? Around 3%. Ditto for a network administrator. A business analyst in the project management office (PMO) received a 4% raise, on average. The list goes on, usually (though not always) with similar percentage increases. The good news is, well, increases. But the C-suite's pay is increasing a bit faster.

"The CIO/CTO role saw a huge jump because of the big demand for highly qualified CIO/CTO candidates, and the limited supply of candidates with the skills that organizations are looking for today," said Laura McGarrity, Mondo's VP of marketing, in an email interview. McGarrity added that C-level security pros, typically with the CSO or CISO title, are beginning to see similar upswings in salary.

[Get more ammo to ask for that raise. See CIO Certifications To Advance Your Career.]

Mondo's report includes 3,500 job placements in nine US cities during the past year: New York, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, Denver, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Ft. Lauderdale. Pay ranges include the lowest and highest salaries the firm's candidates received for any given role.

The general upward trend jibes with other recent salary data indicating that compensation might be catching up to hiring. It's easier to fill your open positions when you're willing to pony up the cash. Robert Half Technology recently pegged year-to-date IT pay raises at 5.7% on average across a wide range of roles, for example. That's well more than double the national average salary increase of 2.3% across all industries.

The C-suite's not the only floor where pay raises outpace the rest of the IT organization. DevOps and software-defined networking-related positions, which Mondo groups together, are almost keeping pace with the big bosses. That's due in part to a commonly required skill, regardless of your level in the corporate pecking order: You need to be able to play well with others.

"DevOps roles require more interpersonal and communication skills than a traditional heads-down developer or operations person, so they are much harder to find," McGarrity said. "For these professionals, the creativity to solve real-world problems is also important."

Hallie Yarger, Mondo's recruiting director, adds that DevOps-relevant skills translate regardless of company size, which is further boosting hiring demand. And organizations struggling to find those skills essentially have two paths, according to Yarger: "[Employers] need to understand the market rate for their region and be willing to either get more flexible on training junior-level practitioners and [coach] them up, or show the money [to hire experienced professionals]."

A DevOps engineer's paycheck grew 7% in the past year, and tops out at around $156,000 annually among Mondo placements. Meanwhile, LAMP stack pros have been getting 8% salary bumps. Cloud computing and data-related positions are also commanding greater raises than some other IT cohorts.

As with DevOps roles, Yarger describes a common trait in the nascent SDN field: The experts are typically dynamic, adaptable professionals who are always adding new skills and knowledge as they go. "More complex IT environments, like the push toward big data, add to an increased demand for this skill set," Yarger says.

Mondo's report also recognizes the gender inequity in IT, noting that women currently hold only around a quarter of technology jobs in the US. In an IT industry that often bemoans a talent shortage, that stat -- as with broader data on diversity in tech, especially in Silicon Valley -- doesn't compute.

Yarger points out that the challenges women face in tech aren't necessarily limited to one industry.

"As with all industries, the issue can be boiled down to social and institutional factors and the need to push girls to pursue their interests, whether or not those interests follow the patterns of their predecessors," Yarger says. "Remember that you don't always get what you deserve but you do get what you negotiate -- so my advice to women would be to pursue what interests them, and don't let anyone tell you you're worth less than your counterparts."