Also see: IT Salary 2012 Guide
It terms of IT salary levels, it is the best of times and the worst of times, to paraphrase Charles Dickens.
The good news/bad news IT salary picture reflects the tipsy-turvy tech world. The tech sector constantly reinvents itself, devouring the new, casting aside the old. IT pay levels are as economically sensitive as the tech companies that compete in this chaotic space.
So what do you want first, the good news or the bad news? Let’s start with the positive about IT paychecks.
This year’s IT salary guide shows clear upward movement. Last year seemed to put the glum economic downturn behind us, at least in terms of tech salaries. And this year continues that trend quite nicely.
But still, what a downturn it was – the IT market is still recovering. I'm sure you remember: After the 2008 shock to the financial markets, companies reined in hiring sharply. By the dark trough year of 2010, IT salaries either went down – a rarity in tech history – or merely kept up with inflation.
But this 2013 IT Salary Guide shows things looking downright sunny. Perhaps that was inevitable. Companies cannot avoid one central fact: tech expertise is essential to competing in today’s marketplace. The IT pro, often unsung, keeps the bells and whistles tuned and working. Consequently, you now hear reports of firms offering sweet benefit packages: creative perks along with handsome paychecks, sometimes with professional development thrown in as a sweetner.
The best news for IT salaries: the need for top tech talent is expected to increase in the years ahead. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that jobs for Web developers, computer network architects and cybersecurity experts will bloom an impressive 22 percent between 2010 and 2020 – outstripping the average for all job titles. Particularly impressive: database administrators will see a robust 31 percent job growth in this period, according to the BLS.
Research from Robert Half Technology – the source of this article's IT salary numbers – indicates that “the pool of available candidates continues to shrink, while demand for technology experts is climbing.”
The hot areas: Big Data, cloud computing, mobile and virtualization. Naturally, budget-conscious firms will try to stretch IT pros as far as possible. These hefty workloads will lead to churn in the job market, as professionals grow disenchanted with understaffed work environments. In turn, this will create openings – forcing IT salary negotiation opportunities. It will also keep the perennially healthy job market for IT contractors alive and thriving.
Skip through this article's list of IT salaries and you’ll see some real winners in this years budget increases.
Mobile applications developer – a red hot job title – command a whopping 9% over 2012’s average salary. And that was on top of a 9.1% increase last year. Better still: the average IT salary for mobile app coders is boosted if that coder has any of a long array of special skills. These skills include AJAX, Java, LAMP, PHP, and Sharepoint.
Also doing not too shabby are Network Engineers, who are enjoying a 7.8% increase over 2012’s average. This was on top of a 5.8% increase the year prior – clearly Network Engineer are far outstripping inflation. Again, special skills add to the salary; paychecks bump up for expertise in Windows 7, Cisco Admin, Linux/Unix and VoIP.
So we’ve seen that IT salary levels have been trending up. But what about the lingering pessimism about the economy? Some dismiss such worries, pointing to the consistent, modest growth in the economy. Yet the graphic below points to a worrying trend:
The graphic is courtesy Janco Associates, whose CEO, MV Janulaitis, pointed out that BLS data indicates a continued slowing in current IT job creation (in contrast with the BLS's rosy longterm IT job forecasts).
“According to the BLS there were only 4,600 jobs created for IT professionals – down from 11,700 created in January," Janulaitis said. "The impact of the sequester is part of the cause, the others are that no manufacturing jobs were added in April and the uncertainty of new taxes. In addition, more people continue to remain out of the job market with the lowest participation rate since 1979 – even as the published unemployment rate goes down.”
The stock market – at the moment – suggests that American business is in the pink. However, he opines, “There is concern that the pace of the recovery is too slow to generate sufficient demand for new technology and systems which would result in more IT pros being hired.”
So there you go: the IT salary picture can be viewed with pessimism or optimism. What’s your take? Voice your view about current IT salary levels in the Comments section below.