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Slight Increase in IT Salaries a Ray of Hope

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IT salaries appear to be on the rise, but don’t get too excited. According to the just-released Computer Economics 2010 IT Salary Report, IT organizations are budgeting to give the typical IT worker a 1.8 percent pay boost.

The glimmer of good news for IT workers comes at a time of high, double-digit unemployment rates across the economy.

But Computer Economics found that IT organizations plan to increase operational budgets by a median of 1.8 percent in 2010, and that more than a third are planning to increase staff, restoring some of the positions shed over the past two years.

“Over the last year or so it’s been easy to find talent and there’s been downward pressure on salaries,” John Longwell, vice president of research at Computer Economics, told

Longwell took the findings as a sign that IT jobs and budgets are on the road to recovery, and said he was surprised to see wages bouncing back so quickly.

By historical standards, the 1.8 median pay rise is a pittance. But with the backdrop of high employment, Computer Economics said the finding indicates IT executives are responding to a need to retain their best workers and boost damaged morale.

“There is always going to be some skill set, like an expert on cloud computing or the hot technology of the day, that’s going to be in demand,” Longwell said. “Project management was an important area of growth before the recession and fell off a bit. As people start renewing their spending on new initiatives and capital spending returns, we may start seeing more demand for these kind of cutting edge technical skills.”

Good news for developers

Developers are slated to enjoy the highest salary increases with a 2.1 percent boost, according to the report. This group includes application programmers, data analysts, database administrators, business analysts, architects and others involved in the development of new systems and the maintenance of existing systems.

Not far behind are operations group staffers at 2.0 percent. The data center operations group includes computer operators, production control analysts, technical support representatives and help desk representatives. Computer Electronics also includes technical writers, trainers and librarians in this group.

Closer to the median increase are network and systems support personnel, set for a 1.9 percent pay bump. This group includes network administrators, system administrators, storage administrators, security analysts, telecom analysts, and webmasters, among others.

A breakout of the survey finds that C-level executives and directors will get the smallest raises, 1.3 percent at the median. But part of the reason for the smaller increase is that incentive pay typically makes up a larger portion of the total compensation package for executives and directors. Managers, at 1.7 percent, fall just a hair short of the media raise Computer Economics is forecasting, and the group predicts that as the economy improves, executives and managers will see compensation rise faster than the other groups.

Computer Economics has been publishing IT salary data for more than 20 years, including its annual IT Salary Report that projects total compensation for 70 specific IT job titles in 73 metropolitan areas.

Silicon Valley, still recovering

Separately, a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics had some less rosy news on salaries for IT workers in Silicon Valley. The report (available here in PDF format), said that IT wages peaked at $120,000 in 2000 during the dotcom bubble and have never recovered. After the bust, wages sank to $87,300 in 2002, but had recovered to $105,000 by mid-2009.

Viewed over the longer term, the bureau said there has been slow, steady pay growth since the 1990s. The average salary has grown 27 percent since 1998, from $83,100 to $105,500.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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