Careers: IT Salaries Expand…Slowly

Starting salaries will increase only modestly in 2005, although in-demand specialties should see much bigger increases

What’s in store for IT professionals salary-wise in 2005? IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology says to expect more of the same.

The technology staffing firm projects that starting salaries will increase by 0.5 percent in 2005, although high-demand specialties (including information security and quality assurance) should see much bigger increases. One-half of a percentage point is no great shakes, to be sure, but it’s far better than last year’s showing, when Robert Half projected a 1.6 percent decline in base compensation.

These results are culled from Robert Half’s Technology 2005 Salary Guide, an annual survey based on an analysis of the thousands of job orders submitted to its U.S. offices. Officials are by no means pessimistic about the prospects for compensation recovery, however.

“As the economy gains momentum and businesses pursue new technology initiatives, the need for experienced IT professionals will continue to rise,” said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement. “While average starting salaries should remain relatively stable in 2005, compensation levels within many specialties will increase as demand for these skills becomes more pronounced.”

Which specialties are most in demand? According to Robert Half, system auditors will realize the biggest starting salary increases of any job classification next year. One reason for this is the push for compliance, which has created an insatiable demand for system auditors. The upshot, then, is that base compensation for professionals in this field should rise by 5.1 percent next year, making for an average salary of between $63,250 and $81,750 annually.

“Companies require systems auditors to assess and document the capabilities of existing systems in advance of hardware and software upgrades,” said Lee. “Demand for this specialty is also being driven by businesses’ ongoing efforts to maintain compliance with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.”

Pre- and post-sales consultation is another job specialty that Robert Half researchers believe will fare pretty well next year: Starting salary for these professionals is projected to increase 3.9 percent in 2005, to between $53,500 and $78,250. And let’s not forget the beleaguered programmer/analyst, who could actually see a 3.6 percent uptick in compensation next year, with average salaries ranging between $52,500 and $83,250.

Elsewhere, Robert Half projects that quality assurance and testing managers should pull down average starting salaries of between $64,750 and $86,750, a modest increase of 2.2 percent over 2004. Similarly, network security administrators should realize modest gains as well, to the tune of 2.3 percent, with base compensation in the range of $63,750 to $90,500. Finally, business systems analysts should grow their salaries by 1.9 percent, with average compensation ranging between $56,000 and $80,500 per year.

Professions that aren’t expected to perform as well next year include desktop support analyst, whose salaries should decrease by 3.8 percent next year, with compensation contracting to between $44,500 and $63,250. Similarly, Internet and intranet administrators will experience setbacks as well, with a 1.2 percent decline in salary and a compensation range of between $48,250 and $70,750 annually.

According to Robert Half, the financial services, real estate, and business services industries all forecast extremely strong demand for IT professionals in 2005.

About the Author

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