Salary Survey: Revenge of the Suits

It's payback time. The kids who ran the show during the Internet boom saw their salaries take a dip last year. But the economic slump hasn't hurt the over-40 set -- their salaries held steady and they were less likely to be out of a job.
It's payback time!

Remember how during the Internet boom time anyone over 30 was an antique? Being a kid was in. Wearing a suit was laughable, and black T-shirts and sandals became the hip office attire.

Well, the boom has busted. Only the few have survived. The kids have gone back to school or they've sold the Porsche and gotten an unpaid internship. Venture capital isn't being thrown at cool ideas, just solid business plans with an experienced business team. Older means wiser once again. The suits are back in charge.

And they're taking home the better paychecks again.

A recent survey by New York-based Dice, Inc., an online IT recruiting company, showed that the over-40 workforce has grown and their salaries have remained steady during today's economic slump. It's not so rosy for the under-30 set. Their salaries have dropped by nearly 5%. And those under 24 have been the hardest hit, with their salaries declining nearly 9%.

The average IT worker under the age of 24 made an average of $47,300 in 2001. Last year, she only made $43,200. An IT worker between the ages of 25 and 29 could have expected to make an average of $60,900 two years ago, but last year only pulled in $58,100.

But those in the 40-49 age bracket brought in an average of $79,700 in 2001 and held fairly stead last year with $79,400. IT workers over 50, however, faired slightly better. They brought in an average of $83,200 two years ago and saw that increase last year to $83,300. Not enough to bulge the wallet but certainly better than a decrease in salary.

And keep in mind that a salary staying steady is considered a boon in a time when the industry experienced a huge decline in demand for tech professionals.

''We really noticed this year that companies are looking for people with multiple skill sets,'' says Scot Melland, president and CEO of Dice. ''They want somebody who can be a programmer and a project manager. Those people tend to be a little bit older and have a little more experience... A number of younger tech professionals got their first job in the Internet business during its heyday and many of them didn't get the solid skill sets they needed.''

The Dice survey also showed that the gender gap not only still exists, it just got a little worse.

In 2001, according to Dice, the gap between men and women in comparable positions, with comparable skills and experience, was 12%. Last year, that gap widened to 14%.

''We can't explain it, quite frankly,'' says Melland. ''The good news, though, is that you're probably better off if you're in the technology business. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has the gender gap across all industries at 24%.''

The average U.S. salary across all industries is also reported to be $36,214, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And according to Dice, the average IT salary comes in at $67,900.

''Where you really see the big money is in contract work,'' says Melland. ''Contract salaries tend to average quite a bit more than fulltime salaries. The average contract salary is $94,800.''

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