Networking Compensation: A Review

When assessing the compensation trends within something as broad as “networking,” it can be a bit of a slippery slope. Are we talking about jobs that exclusively focus on implementation and administration of corporate networks, or something broader? Should certain kinds of work with systems, security or Web development fall under the networking rubric?

To provide CertMag readers with a rough picture of networking compensation trends, I’d like to go over select findings from the past three years’ worth of Salary Surveys, our annual study of income developments in the IT industry. Tens of thousands of IT professionals around the world, from Bangladesh to Belgium, participate in the survey. Respondents from nearly 200 countries contributed in 2007’s edition. And while the U.S. is by far the largest nation represented, the number of non-U.S. citizens who take part is substantial.

For the purposes of this article (and due to the CertMag community it appears in), I will talk about network design, network engineering, network management, network administration, systems design, system administration and system integration (or some slight variations on any of these).

First, let’s take a look at the lower-level networking positions from our studies. In 2005, system administrators earned an average annual income of $64,240. That’s not bad, but that number increased to more than $70,610 by the very next year. Network administration didn’t fare quite as well, with techies in that area pulling in an average of $53,310 in 2005 and $54,910 in 2006. However, these professionals’ incomes apparently spiked the following year, as our research showed them earning $59,910, an increase of 9 percent from 2006.

At a higher level, network design, engineering and management consistently place in the top tier of specializations in our Salary Survey. Network design professionals reported an average annual income of $85,880 in 2005, which rose to $89,770 the next year. Network engineering pros earned $73,260 in 2005, which rose to $74,080 in 2006, a nominal but respectable increase. And network management went from $66,590 in 2005 to $72,000 the following year. (It actually fell to $71,130 — more on that in a minute.)

In 2007, CertMag introduced a new specialization to the Salary Survey: strategic systems design and implementation. As it turned out, the pay was as good as the title was long. Professionals in this area brought in an average of $90,960 that year and placed third overall. This specialization, which can cover anything from convergence to enterprise resource planning (ERP), supplanted two top-earning specializations from 2006: system design and system integration. That year, those specializations saw an average annual income of $83,790 and $86,840, respectively.

So is there any big picture about networking compensation we can uncover from this, or has this been an exercise in rehashing statistics? If there is an overarching trend, I believe it’s this: As a specialization within IT, networking offers the prospect of stable income growth starting from a favorable baseline. Even in the niche areas of our Salary Survey where earnings fell, the reductions always were minimal and might have had more to do with increased international participation than with any actual decline in income.

It’s true that other specializations, such as storage and security, have risen higher and faster. But these specializations are not quite as predictable as networking, and rapid changes can cut both ways. For example, security actually declined in average salary from $93,500 to $87,890 from 2006 to 2007, which would indicate either a glut of professionals in this discipline, a decline in industry demand or both.

Want to get the latest information on networking compensation trends? Be sure to participate in CertMag’s 2008 Salary Survey, which kicks off next month.

- Brian Summerfield, bsummerfield@certmag.com

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