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2005 IW Salary Survey

By Steve Jones,

2005 Salary Trends

I participated in an Information Week Salary Survey at the beginning of 2005 and recently received the results. This is a survey that I'm sure is sold to HR departments around the country for use in setting their ranges and getting a feel for the market, so it's worth your while to participate if you get the chance.

This one was interesting to me in that it compares IT management with staff, something that I don't normally see. I've usually participated in the staff surveys and only gotten the results for those. This survey was just for the US, so overseas I'm not sure what's happening, but it will give you an idea of how at least one large market is doing.

Results and Thoughts

The survey mentions that IT unemployment is 3.7%. Now I'm not sure how they measure that, I guess it's a gross guess of how many people may have answered they were out of work in 2004. I can't remember the questions, so I apologize, but I'm skeptical of that number. The only good thing is that it's down from 5.5% the year before so it appears there are less IT people looking for work. Maybe there are less people in IT, something that I've seen in the Denver area, but maybe there are more jobs. One nice note is that Database Administrators show 1.8% and network/system admins 2.9%, the lowest groups. Programmers are 4.1%, so stick with SQL.

It does mention that salary growth appears to be flat, but over the past 7 years, it's been about 5%. Since that 7 years encompasses a boom time, there's not much news there. I have quite a few contacts in larger companies, including my wife, and most of them have had frozen salaries for a few years. Not even COLA increases.

In terms of staff and management, managers make more, As expected. There is a gender breakdown as well with men making more than women in both categories, but at least female managers make more than male staff. The gap is still 5-10%, which seems large to me, especially with so many women moving into IT, which is a very skills based business. Obviously still some social advances need to be made.

In terms of job security, managers feel more secure than staff. I guess that's right since as a manager, I usually knew more about what was going on in the company than the staff. There are always extra manager meetings where company information is disclosed, like if layoffs are approaching, outsourcing plans, etc. Still it's 10-15% that feel insecure, which is lower than I thought. Maybe it's just been my experiences, but at Peoplesoft, it seemed about 90% of IT was worried constantly.

In line with that, a majority (60%) of people thought that companies were not focused on retaining people. That's a shame and overall I think that hurts them when knowledge leaves. But many executives don't feel that way. I've seen quite a few that were told that moral was down and people were thinking of leaving. They replied that we should make sure the doors don't smack them on their way out. Since the tenure of executives in many US companies isn't that great, I'm not sure I agree with that attitude, but I'm not a C-level guy, so my opinion doesn't count.

About 1/2 the companies said they weren't outsourcing. About 30% either partially or wholly offshoring. I think that's high, but with all the media attention on outsourcing, maybe that's not so bad. The top impacts of outsourcing that were cited were fewer IT jobs and lower morale. I definitely agree with both of these along with the third, rehires at lower salaries.

In terms of salaries, data warehousing/mining was slightly above DBAs (77k to 75k) with managers having a larger spread (97 to 87). That's about what I see in the real world since the data mining guys are in shorter supply and usually more experienced and skilled. Interestingly in terms of increases, the DBAs had a larger increase percentage, though not by much.

One very interesting note was that those with certifications made 7-19% more on average. Not sure if that means the certification helps or those type of people that pursued the certification just tend to make more, but that's an interesting one. It might also affect HR slotting since they may offer more to someone that's certified than someone that's not, all else being equal.

Range by metro area were about what I expected with a surprise. SF, DC, NY at the top, but Denver was above LA. Atlanta and Phoenix and Florida were absent, a few areas that I expected to see. Minneapolis was included at the bottom, which seemed like the best bargain. If you like cold weather.

A few other notes. Most people were satisfied with their compensation, hadn't looked for a job, hadn't been contracted by headhunters, and people say they want more money when looking for a new job. A few things that were surprising were that rookies tended to make about the same as veterans on average. Now that doesn't seem right unless they are counting rookies as people new to the company. Lots of job changes in the last year have some highly paid, highly experienced "rookies" at new companies.


The salary ranges were a bit low to me, but these are averages, so the seniors out there shouldn't be disappointed. I'd still expect a senior level SQL Server DBA to be making 90k. I've been out of so many other areas for a long time that I'm not sure how the other areas match up with current levels.

One area that struck me and I know show how the world has changed was the "what matters most about your job" section. Challenge of job was #1 and stability #2. Then flexible work schedule, base pay, vacation, benefits. Skill development, bonus, location, work mattering to the company, effectiveness of managers, career path and understanding the company's business were all down the list. It's become a more employee centered market still with less loyalty and even caring about the company.

I don't really like that, but I understand and have had that attitude. Corporate America seems to view it's workers like that, so why shouldn't they feel the same way. I wish companies cared more about the employees and made their value apparent in real ways, not just lip service. But the earnings per share far outweighs the value of any individual these days. Even whole departments.

So if you can, my advice, is to work in a smaller company, enjoy your job and your co-workers, and remember that life is short. Enjoy everyday.

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