In-Depth

Redmond's 12th Annual IT Salary Survey: Break out the Bubbly

Did your IT earnings get kicked up a notch this year? Redmond magazine's 2007 IT Salary Survey reveals that salaries, raises and bonuses went up for the third year in a row.

Why is Jeffrey Hansen happy? "My hobby is my career. I'm always having fun," he says. "It's midnight and I am recovering data from a hard drive with bad sectors on one machine and processing evidence from a divorce case on another."
More Salary Survey
The PDF format of this article boasts over 30 charts, including average salary by state, Get the complete 2007 Salary Survey from the Tech Library as a PDF certification, job title and for over 40 metropolitan areas. Free registration is required to get the PDF. Get it here.

A computer forensics specialist and owner of San Diego, Calif.-based SDediscovery.com, Hansen's salary hovers near the six-figure zone. That's not important, though. What's important to him is that he's building a business. He makes it clear, "I'm not working for a paycheck, I'm working to create something ... My goal right now is to pay the bills and reinvest everything back into the company."

Hansen's attitude rings true for the typical IT professional. Whether on their own or punching the corporate clock, the IT forces are problem solvers, work long hours and are well compensated for their efforts.

Jobs are competitive, but plentiful, even in this sector of the job market where getting paid well has been normal for three years running. Salaries are likely to still go up as employers have to keep up with their companies' demands for skilled workers.

2007 Compensation
2007 Compensation --  click on chart for a larger view
[Click chart for larger view.]
Chart 1. Salaries, raises and bonuses went up slightly as of last year's report. The surprise is that bonuses made the biggest gain from 2007, with respondents reporting payouts by 46 percent. Changes were negligible in years of experience of respondents (12.7 in 2007), as well as sex (11:2 in '06).

Numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor corroborate the evidence. Of the 797,000 jobs available from 2004 through the year 2014, Labor foresees computer support specialist and systems administrator jobs growing 18 percent to 26 percent (source: "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2007-07 Edition"). An employee shortage in a specialist segment means those entering the job market have a decisive advantage with their first salary negotiation.

The employee shortage is just one among several factors that can affect salary. As data from this year's Salary Survey of IT compensation shows, tenure, skills, education, regional economies and-for some-certification all play a role in salaries.

2007 Salary of All Respondents, by Range
2007 Salary of All Respondents, by Range --  click on chart for a larger view
[Click chart for larger view.]
Chart 2. We asked respondents to select a range for their base salary, sans bonuses and other compensation. Most salaries for 2007 fell between $55,000 and $89,999. Interestingly, the number of those claiming six-figure incomes has risen from last year. The mean salary was $71,988.

The Numbers Game from Above
The 30,000-foot view shows that salaries, raises and bonuses went up slightly. See Chart 1 for a comparison with the results reported last year. The overall 2007 base salary, which excludes raises, bonuses and other compensation, came up to $71,988. That figure represents a percentage decrease from the 2005/2007 results, which came in at 3.3 percent. Still, the 2007 result represents an increase of 2.7 percent from 2007 base compensation.

There's even better news this year. Salaries have kept in line with inflation. In year's past, we've pointed to the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a gauge of the real world. This year's salary increase matches the CPI's 2.7 percent rate as of June 2007. (For the latest CPI and labor data, click here.)

Though small, this year's salary increase means it's a positive trend and 79 percent of respondents believe the trend will continue into 2008. "As long as inflation keeps going up, salaries will always rise," believes Chris Brandt, a senior network consultant for an IT consulting firm in Chicago.

Tim Wilson, a network specialist in Tennessee, believes future demand will play a factor "because of all the [open] positions available in [most companies]." Only 2 percent are writing off the next 12 months as a salary rebuilding year, while 19.4 percent expect no change at all.

The age of the average IT worker surveyed has changed negligibly, at 41.6, which is just slightly younger than last year's 41.7 years. As the IT populace continues to age, it follows that years of experience might add up. Those surveyed said they've been at it for an average of 12.8 years, which makes for a sizable uptick of about five more months from 2007 (12.1 years).

An interesting statistic from Chart 1 shows that fewer women, at least among those we surveyed, were working alongside men. This year's ratio is 6-to-1. Women fared better only in 2007 at 11-to-2, but this year's figure beats out 2005, where women were outnumbered 8-to-1.

Reeling in the Years
As workers pile on tenure and get better salaries, the natural career progression often means employees continue to climb the career ladder. This year's survey was a mixed bag, with half of the titles coming up winners. Trainers reported the best result at $68,396-an increase of better than 14 percent over 2007. The other networking titles-networking project lead, systems administrator, help desk support-as well as the Webmaster/developer/producer title saw increases ranging between $2,000 and $5,000.

Base Salary, Job Title
Base Salary, Job Title --  click on chart for a larger view
[Click chart for larger view.]
Chart 3. Job title plays a major factor in salaries. Respondent salaries show that, unlike last year's anomaly (in 2007, programmers took the top spot), management salaries come back out on top.

Management held the top spot as it has in most years past at $87,103. Even though management swept back to the top, respondents who held this title were making less than last year's managers, who claimed $89,603.

The programming project lead title experienced a salary nosedive of 7 percent, from $90,000 in 2007 to $84,004 this year, as did database administrator/developer, which shrank by 8 percent, or $6,559, from the 2007 average of $73,377. We expected as much, because the survey this year included many readers of Redmond Developer News, who may have slightly skewed the numbers downward.

An Unexpected Bonus
Bonus amounts were one big surprise this year. Respondents said they made significant gains from the 2007 result of $3,223, with an average bonus of $5,985. That represents a bonus payout that's bigger by almost 86 percent.

For 2008, 59 percent of respondents think they'll be up for bonuses again. Of those, nearly 36 percent believe they'll see a modest bonus in the range of $1,000 to $5,000, while almost a quarter expect more than $5,000. Robert K., a network analyst in northern California, was one of the lucky ones. He got close to the upper range: "With a stronger economy in the last year, it's only natural that companies have more money to give back to employees," he says.

Base Salary,
Microsoft Certification
Base Salary, Microsoft Certification --  click on chart for a larger view
[Click chart for larger view.]
Chart 4. It pays to work with data warehouses, as this year's results show: Those who claim the MCITP: SQL BI certification made $132,000. MCPs with BizTalk and Windows Mobile titles also did well. Those with an MCDST and MCSA on Windows 2000 brought up the rear.

Skills Pay Bills
Becoming an expert in implementing technology is a critical component to a better salary.

"It took quite a while, but I believe I'm now compensated commensurate with my responsibilities," explains Mark W. He says his responsibilities have grown in the last year to where he's now helping architect his company's hosting services.

Although Mark can't reveal his salary (or his name, due to corporate policy), as someone with strategic planning expertise he says he comes close to the average salary of $82,149. That segment was also one of the big movers this year, jumping up by more than 9 percent from last year. Strategic planners came in second only to data warehousing experts.

While those with data warehousing expertise topped the list at $82,201, salaries for the top spot dropped 3 percent from 2007. (Side note: outsourcing topped the list last year. In 2007, it nudged lower to $78,963.)

Those with Oracle, software design, e-commerce and extranets expertise also come out above the $80,000 mark this year. At the bottom rungs you'll find dime-a-dozen skills like help desk support, at $66,062, and backup and storage management, at $70,855.

Becoming a Microsoft technology specialist also has its benefits. Those who claim expertise in Identity Integration Server, for example, can walk away with a relative king's ransom at $104,333. That figure, the top of the list this year, is just a bit better than last year's $103,125.

Those with Commerce Server expertise, which held last year's top spot at $108,125, came back down to earth to $86,983. BizTalk rounds out the top three as it did last year at $92,412, compared to $99,583 in 2007.

Years of Experience, Job Title
Years of Experience, Job Title --  click on chart for a larger view
[Click chart for larger view.]
Chart 5.We asked respondents how many years they've been working in the IT profession. It appears that the more years you've toiled, the more you earn. Where that theory fails is for trainers, where the salary curve looks like an inverted bell.

Salary by Microsoft Product Expertise
Salary by Microsoft Product Expertise --  click on chart for a larger view
[Click chart for larger view.]
Chart 6. Respondents were asked which Microsoft technologies they worked with on a regular basis. Specializing in Microsoft's more esoteric software, such as Identity Integration Server or BizTalk Server, can easily push your salary into the realm of six figures.
Salary by Technology
Expertise
Salary by Microsoft Product Expertise --  click on chart for a larger view
[Click chart for larger view.]
Chart 7. We asked respondents to tell us the type of technology they specialized in. The more specialized the skill, such as strategic planning or research and development (which, in 2006, topped the list), the better the compensation.

What a Difference a Piece of Paper Makes
The shine of certification has needed rebuffing in the last few years. Most respondents have indicated that obtaining the title carries no weight with employers beyond hiring: "It's helped me get better jobs," Tim Wilson adds, "but did not improve my salary where I worked."

Andy E., a LAN technician in Missouri, agrees. He explains another benefit to certification: "It pushes me to learn new technologies."

On the other side, Eric K., a LAN administrator in Grosse Pointe, Mich., claims that his salary increased "almost two-fold since I started in the industry." He attributes that to certification, and he hasn't been sitting idly by. He's in the midst of completing his bachelor's degree in IT security.

Mark W., who's a senior systems administrator near Phoenix, understands the value of a career backup plan. "I keep my certifications current for peace of mind [in case] I ever get laid off."

Mark has work to do if he wants to stay on top of new technologies, as well as his certifications. Since last year, Microsoft has updated its program with a number of new certifications tied to its latest line of software: SQL Server 2007, BizTalk Server 2007, Visual Studio 2007, Office 2007, Windows Vista and even the upcoming Windows 2008 (with exams currently in development). Employers are starting to come around, but it's still too early to tell if those certifications will impact salaries for a few more years.

The results this year have finally trickled in and so, for the first time, we can offer initial insights into the importance of those new certifications (see Chart 4). Topping the list is the MCTS: SQL Server BI, at $132,000. That's one of four to break through the six-figure barrier. Our survey this year didn't capture enough data on those holding the related MCITP: BI Developer, but MCITP: Database Administrator came in strong, at $105,188. Other specialist titles, like the MCTS titles for BizTalk and Windows Mobile 5.0 made the cut, at $108,300 (a major jump from $47,500 in 2007) and $118,400 respectively. In the coming years, we will fully report on the many new Microsoft certifications.

Comparatively, salaries for the traditional "old-generation" titles, like the MCP NT 4.0, MCSA and MCSE, their associated specialist titles, and all the programmer titles, experienced a jump up in salaries. The anomaly, MCDST, took a profound drop from $71,466 last year to $57,595 this year. We chalk this up to more MCDST titleholders this year that truly fit the job role of that certification.

Survey Methodology

This year marks the second year we've conducted this survey internally at the Redmond Media Group. Special thanks goes out to Rita Zurcher, who compiled and crunched the results yet again.

This year's survey contained about 120 questions, which were sent out to newsletter subscribers for Redmond, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and MCPmag.com. A general call for survey respondents was also linked from several editions of the MCPmag.com newsletter. The survey period was from June 24 to July 13, during which we received 1,720 responses. Of those, we removed all non-U.S. answers and ended up with a total of 1,453 valid responses (slightly higher than last year), with a margin of error better than 3 percent.

The survey itself focuses on several topics:

  • Salaries and Benefits
  • Certification
  • Position and Experience
  • Work Environment
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Economic Environment
Over the next several months, we'll revisit the data to glean other interesting facts about respondents and report back to you.
-- M.D.

The IT Magnet
So where does that leave us? IT professionals continue to draw exceptional pay, as proven by numbers from the BLS, our own survey and even surveys you'll find elsewhere online. With a strong U.S. economy to boot, they can't help but feel upbeat about their job prospects and the money they'll be making in the coming year.

"It's hard to think of anything that presents as many challenges and opportunities as IT," says Hansen.

More Information

More Salary Survey
Get the complete 2007 Salary Survey from the Tech Library as a PDFThe 2007 Redmond IT Salary Survey doesn't end here. You can find more salary insights, negotiation advice and regional data and certificationrelated results in the downloadable PDF-formatted version of the story.
You'll learn:
  • How to Ask for a Raise and Not Bat an Eyelash
  • Microsoft's New-Generation Certifications: Impact on Salaries
  • What Microsoft's Key Executives Made
  • More MCP Profiles
  • More regional, certification and
  • job-related salary data
Get it today from the Tech Library!
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