Careers: IT Recovery Won't Bring Large Salary Increases

Even if technology spending does recover next year, as many industry watchers have predicted, a recovery in IT professionals’ salary and overall compensation may still be a long time coming.

That’s the conclusion of a recent survey from IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology, which projects that the starting salaries of technology workers in the United States will actually fall by an average of 1.6 percent in 2004.

The forecast isn’t entirely bleak, however: Robert Half estimates that IT professionals in hot sectors—such as information security and systems auditing—will see meager up-ticks in salary and compensation.

The salary survey is based on an analysis of the thousands of job searches, negotiations and placements conducted each year by Robert Half’s recruiting specialists.

Even as starting salaries in some job classifications—such as desktop support and local area network (LAN) administration—have plunged precipitously, other job segments are seeing increases in compensation. For example, Robert Half says the salaries of information security analysts will rise by 2.1 percent in 2004, with average overall compensation ranging from $67,000 to $90,750 annually. Not surprisingly, this marks the largest single jump among all job classifications.

The staffing firm notes that average starting compensation for applications architects will also increase—by 1.9 percent—next year, with base compensation ranging from $73,250 to $104,250. Starting salaries for Internet and intranet developers should increase next year (by 1.9 percent) over a range from $67,250 to $96,000. Finally, starting salaries for disaster recovery specialists are expected to increase by 1.2 percent in 2004, with base compensation in the range of $59,000 to $89,000.

Other job classifications that should see increases in average starting salary and base compensation are quality assurance and testing managers (1.2 percent increase) and system auditors (1.8 percent increase).

On the other hand, Robert Half projects that traditional desktop support workers could be most affected by a plunge in average starting compensation, with a decrease of 5.3 percent and starting salaries ranging from $47,000 to $65,000. Average starting salaries for LAN administrators will also decrease in 2004 by as much as 4.5 percent, with overall compensation in the neighborhood of $43,750 to $62,500 annually.

According to Katherine Spencer Lee, Robert Half’s executive director, starting salaries for the vast majority of job classifications will change only slightly in 2004. Because desktop support and LAN administration were two of the fastest growing job segments during the late 90’s, however, starting salaries for these positions continue to trail those of other job classifications.

"While average starting salaries for most positions will remain little changed in 2004, those occupations that experienced extensive growth in the late '90s continue to see a slight decline in compensation," she said in a statement.

On a related note, Robert Half forecasts that several verticals—including business services, health care, and financial services—will produce particularly strong demand for IT professionals in 2004. Researchers note, however, that hiring activity within these verticals tends to vary significantly by geographic region. In an earlier survey of chief information officers (CIO) for example, Robert Half found that 15 percent of CIOs in the East South Central U.S.—which includes Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee—anticipated expanding their IT departments, while only three percent forecast reductions. The mid-Atlantic region fared pretty well, too: 12 percent of CIOs forecast expansion, and only 2 percent anticipated cuts.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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