Editor's Desk

Income Conundrum

Sometimes you really have to ponder the meaning behind the numbers.

When it comes to the salary survey, we’ve heard it all.

Recently, I received e-mail from "Mike" to this effect: "Your salary surveys are crap. You do not take into account all the people who have been laid off or just can’t find work." This came from Ray in Atlanta: "If you include the unemployed MCPs, the numbers won’t look so rosy. Many of us have seen our jobs shipped overseas to India or the Phillipines [sic] where IT professionals work for 25 cents per hour, and they don't even need an H1-B visa to do it. When you consider this, the value of an MCP certification is not what it once was, or even what is reported in the press."

I'll put aside the fact that these two people haven't read this year's numbers to know what salaries even look like. All that really matters to them is that they're not earning one.

The truth is, we do take into account the unemployed MCPs among us. Of the 6,021 people who responded to this year's survey, 651 reported being laid off in the last year. Their reduced income pulls all numbers down.

Of that group, 64 percent have found a new position. It took them an average of three months. Interestingly, 42 percent of MCPs are still looking vs. only 15 percent of MCSEs.

If you’re about to say, but MCPs have less experience so it’s probably harder for them to find a new job, think again. Years of experience was pretty much the same between both groups.

But then what’s this number over here about? Among employed people, those respondents who hold the MCSE on NT 4.0 earn more than those who hold the MCSE on Windows 2000. Whoa! Both groups have about the same years of experience in the field.

Stephen Swoyer, a reporter who supplied some of the sidebars accompanying this year’s story, heard this explanation from one of his interview subjects: “NT admins who are keeping their jobs are not getting pay reductions. New hires are getting hired at lower salaries.” That’s a possible explanation. But Win2K MCSEs have held the same job for an average of 3.3 years; for NT MCSEs it was 3.8 years. Is that really a large enough difference to justify the disparity?

No, I prefer the explanation offered by Managing Editor Kristen McCarthy, who did a masterful job of analyzing the data and writing the article. As she explains, there appears to be more expertise on Win2K among NT 4.0 MCSEs than NT 4.0 expertise among Win2K MCSEs. Simply put, as she writes, "Cross-platform expertise is important in migration and upgrade projects." Many of those ventures have gone on in the last year, according to the results. And that's the kind of work that makes you stand out among your IT peers and makes for more effective negotiation during review time. What's your theory? Tell me at [email protected].

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.


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