Salary Survey 2008

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Financially speaking, 2008 has been quite a year. The ups and downs were drastic, and the downs pretty much took over in September, when the mortgage and credit crises exploded and major banks crumbled. The woes on Wall Street hit the economy hard, and many organizations were forced to pull back spending and undergo layoffs.

Yet, it appears the field of IT is resilient. According to the results of our Salary Survey, which polled more than 35,000 IT professionals worldwide, the average IT salary rose from $49,170 in 2007 to $58,520 this year. In the U.S. alone, the average total salary — including benefits and incentives — rose from $76,920 to $88,640.

[For our list of average 2008 U.S. salaries by certification, please click here.]

And when it came to pay raises, the majority of respondents said they received a raise in the past year, typically between 5 and 10 percent (see Fig. 1).

Globally, respondents averaged a 15.6 percent increase in pay, down from last year’s 17.1 percent but still significantly better than wage increases across industries. The number of people receiving at least a 25 percent increase dropped from 25.8 in 2007 to 21.8 this year, however.

In the U.S., the top five highest-paying certs shuffled around a bit compared with last year. Brocade Certified SAN Designer (BCSD), sometimes referred to as the Brocade Certified Fabric Designer (BCFD), came in on top with a whopping average salary of $120,770. At a close second with $120,330 was Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), which moved up from third place last year.

The next three highest-paying certs all still brought in more than $100,000. ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) placed third with $109,410, followed by EMC Proven Professional Technology Architect (EMCTA) with $109,060. The Open Group’s IT Architect Certification (ITAC) placed fifth with $109,000.

In the U.S., the overall average salary of those holding popular certifications — certs with more than 50 responses each — rose from $75,640 to $84,500 this year.

Meanwhile, the certs with the lowest average salaries in the U.S. were Certified Internet Web Professional (CIW), with $57,780; Java Associate, with $59,490; SAS Certified Base Programmer for SAS 9, with $59,500; Convergence Technologies Professional (CTP), with $63,730; and Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST), with $63,910.

In the U.S. at least, it seems the gap between the highest and lowest earning certs closed a bit, with the lowest-earning cert making 67 percent of the average 2008 salary, up from 41 percent last year.

Further, the lowest average IT salary by certification jumped above $50,000 again to $59,490, after a dip last year.

Perhaps the most significant observation that resulted from our Salary Survey this year, however, was that being certified carries greater value today than yesterday — even if the difference is slight. The average number of certifications rose from 3.3 to 3.4, with more respondents reporting that they hold more than three certs. The percentage of respondents holding more than six certifications jumped 6 percent to a total of 16.9 percent, while the percentage of those holding no certifications at all decreased more than 14 percent to 2.8 percent of all respondents (see Fig. 3).

While the financial turmoil on Wall Street and the government’s resulting bailout package likely will take their toll on the economy in general, it seems the impact on IT is yet to be determined. Want to shed a little more light on it? Head over to our 2008 Salary Survey forum discussion board to tell us your story, offer some advice or give tips on how to better align IT compensation to performance.

– Agatha Gilmore,

Who Are You?

It’s not just a question politicians ask their opponents during the election season. It’s also a valid question to ask when analyzing the 2008 Salary Survey.

According to the results, an overwhelming percentage of you are men — just a hair more than 90 percent. (For a deeper look at the IT gender gap, check out this feature article from the November issue of CertMag.)

Also, according to survey responses, it’s still a young person’s industry. The largest percentage of respondents was the 25-29 age group, with about 24 percent, followed by the 30-34 demographic with just less than 22 percent. The under-25 group stayed consistent with prior surveys, with about 10 percent. There was a slight uptick in the older groups, with nearly 17 percent in the 35-39 range, almost 12 percent from 40-44, 8 percent aged 45-49, and 5 percent from 50-54.

More than half of you have pursued higher education of some sort. About a third of you have a bachelor’s degree and nearly a quarter have a master’s degree. Almost 10 percent of you have received technical training, but no degree, and nearly 12 percent have a high school diploma.

Survey respondents also are overwhelmingly global. Respondents logged on to fill out the survey from more than 150 countries — from Australia and Azerbaijan to Venezuela and Vietnam.

In following previous Salary Survey trends, the majority of respondents this year live outside the United States, but the largest single group remains the U.S., with just more than 39 percent of the responses — or 9,145 respondents out of the 23,188 total who indicated the country where they currently live. The Indian contingent grew this year, with 14.6 percent of responses, compared with last year’s 11.6 percent. The United Kingdom held steady with 4.8 percent of responses, up from 4.4 in 2007, and Canada came in at No. 4 with 4 percent, the same as last year.

Among North American respondents the highest percentage (at 8.1 percent) are in California, followed by Texas with 7.4 percent. The number of respondents from Virginia grew this year, from 4.8 in 2007 to 6.2 in 2008, moving the state up to No. 3. Ontario, Canada, dropped one spot from last year with 5.1 percent of responses, followed by Florida with 4.6 percent and Illinois with 4.1 percent.

About 94 percent of respondents work full time. Only 2 percent work part time, while 2 percent are unemployed and about 2 percent are students. The majority of you, 61 percent, work an average of 40-50 hours per week.

Survey results also indicate that job hopping is fairly common in IT these days. Nearly 60 percent of respondents have been with their current employers for less than four years; 17.6 percent have been with their employer for less than a year; 12.4 percent for one year; 17.7 percent for two years; and 12.1 percent for three years. Less than 11 percent have been with their current employers for more than 10 years. According to the survey, 41.4 percent expect to change jobs in the coming year, while 58.6 plan to stay put.

The size of the companies that respondents work for is evenly spread. While nearly 12 percent of respondents said they work for companies with fewer than 50 employees, the same percentage work for companies with more than 100,000 employees. More than 55 percent of you work for companies with fewer than 5,000 employees, and about 32 percent work for companies with between 5,000 and 100,000 employees.

The majority of respondents have been in the IT industry for less than 10 years, with 24.3 percent having less than five years’ experience and 27.2 percent having five to nine years’ experience. About 12 percent have been in IT for more than 20 years.

According to the survey, almost 95 percent of you are certified in a technical field, with many of you receiving your first certification in the past three years. About 15 percent of you received your first cert in 2008, while 18 percent received your first cert in 2007, and 11 percent in 2006.

The number of respondents who added one new certification in the past year ticked slightly upward this year, to 38 percent from 36.5 percent in 2007. There was a corresponding drop in the number of respondents who did not add a cert to their portfolio this year, from 36.4 percent in 2007 to 34 percent in 2008. There was also a noticeable drop in the number of people who added more than two certifications, from 27.1 percent last year to 11.4 percent this year.

– Mike Prokopeak,

Cash Is King

The current economic situation has done more than throw Wall Street and various banks and credit institutions into a flaming tizzy. It also has put cash — and how and where to earn it — on the minds of IT professionals.

Compensation and benefits topped the list of IT pros’ top three extreme concerns, comprising 31.8 percent of the Salary Survey responses. Job security came in a close second at 30.4 percent, and the state of the IT job market followed close behind at 29.7 percent.

It’s likely the continuing effects of globalization, as well as the weakened economy, are reshaping the way information technology departments and organizations do business, and the IT job market is shifting accordingly. More than a quarter of respondents said they are extremely concerned about the future of IT, and 23.6 percent of survey participants report being extremely worried about employer support for certification.

The issues of the value of certification and how certifications are executed stirred up the least concern from the survey respondent pool. Only 10.1 percent of participants are extremely concerned about decertification. The second-lowest area of concern involved cheating, ethics and test security, which may be due to the increasing number of performance-based certifications on the market.

Like an old, familiar teddy bear, the problems associated with IT outsourcing seem to be losing their stuffing year over year. This could be because IT pros are getting used to the phenomenon. Some 64.9 percent of survey respondents said they have not been affected by outsourcing at all. The second largest respondent pool, with 20.7 percent, said they have benefited greatly, as they now work for an outsourcing company. Only 4.4 percent of respondents report losing a job or being replaced as a result of outsourcing. And roughly the same number of respondents, 4.5 percent, reported being repositioned within the same organization.

IT professionals aren’t known as the chattiest of workers, likely preferring to express themselves with explosive lines of code, but those who did take time to submit comments had a wide range of responses to outsourcing.

Some were bad: “Outsourcing has reduced both the number of and pay for technical positions,” “My salary has been forced down and the quality of the support offered has plummeted to the lowest and cheapest common denominator” and “As a contractor it limits my opportunities.”

And some were good: “Received grant diverted from E4B visa programs, allowed MCSE, CCNA, CCA, Novell, and Linux training,” “Am in the process of outsourcing our server hosting; won’t lose my job due to my senior role and key member of the management team” and “Left my old employer — took a new job with outsourcing company that values certification more and demonstrates it financially.”

And some IT pros’ feelings about outsourcing straddled the fence: “I used to be a Cisco TAC Engineer in an outsourcing company, and this made some conflict between two totally different cultures which made me leave. I consider outsourcing excellent for cutting the cost but disastrous for quality of work and stability.”

Outsourcing concerns seem to revolve around several key areas: the increased workload for those left behind, the language barriers and poor levels of support that can follow afterward, and some respondents worry outsourcing is reducing the IT professional’s value and therefore reducing compensation levels.

One participant wrote that outsourcing offers a “greater competitive environment [and creates a] need for solid educational certification status.” This makes sense since one of the key components in globalization is an increase in market competition, and that dovetails the many survey comments that indicated certification became a differentiator.

Certification helped some IT pros find jobs after their companies or departments, or some piece therein, was outsourced. Others were able to gain certifications in their new positions and thus could expand or improve their knowledge and skills, which impacts how easy it is to find a job or be promoted once you are gainfully employed.

One might conclude that certification still has significant value despite the changing and frequently uncertain nature of the IT industry as a whole. This theory is supported by the 21.6 percent of survey respondents that reported being extremely concerned about recertification and maintaining their skills.

It appears that, like cash, it’s better to have certifications than to have none.

– Kellye Whitney,

The Effect of Demographics

In keeping with our findings over the past few years, demographics — and we primarily take into account gender, age and level of education — continue to play a significant role in determining the average annual salaries of IT professionals.

An interesting find this year is related to the ever-increasing gender gap in the IT industry. While the phenomenon itself isn’t new, the statistics associated with it are newsworthy. The earning gap reported between men and women almost tripled this year to $6,400 from $2,190 in 2007.

The average annual salary reported by men was $59,140, compared with $52,730 for women. On the other hand, the average salary for all respondents — men and women included — amounted to $58,520 because male respondents constituted 90.4 percent of the total respondents, and females only represented a tiny sliver of the pie.

Age is another component to consider when assessing the average annual salaries of IT professionals. Of course, it should be noted that age itself cannot determine or predict one’s financial earnings in the IT industry. It is intricately interwoven with other factors such as education, professional qualifications and location. The average salaries reported by our respondents and the corresponding statistics can be found in tabular form in Fig. 4.

Globally, it appears the two highest-paid age groups are at the upper end of the spectrum. The 60-64 age range comes out on top, with an average salary of $94,640, followed by the 55-59 range, with an average salary of $88,050.

What continues to be noteworthy, however, is that in accordance with the previous years’ reports, the oldest age group of respondents (65 and up) continues to experience a dramatic drop-off in average annual salary: a reported $66,830. This leads us to wonder whether the sudden decrease in figures could be attributed to possible part-time employment for these individuals, who likely are phasing into retirement. On the whole, however, average annual salary rises as you move up the age ladder.

Additionally, this year there was an increase in the gap between the group with the highest average salary and the overall average salary. It went up to approximately $36,000 from about $28,000 in 2007.

Since there’s not much people can do about their age, let’s look at something they do have some control over: education. As one might expect, the average salary is at its peak — at $74,210 — for IT professionals who have earned doctorate degrees. From the survey, it appears the possession of a doctorate generates roughly $15,490 in additional income.

Those with bachelor’s degrees come in second place for highest salaries by level of education, with $65,870. This bumps technical training from second place in 2007 to third place this year, with salary earnings of $65,340.

What’s somewhat surprising and almost ironic, though, is that respondents with master’s degrees reported earning less than those with only bachelor’s degrees or technical training. The average salary of master’s-degree holders is $63,080, coming in fourth. This could be attributed to the fact that many IT professionals hold master’s degrees in fields other than technology, which could be less relevant to their job roles and contribute less to their salary levels.

Next on the list comes those with two-year associate’s degrees, who registered an average salary of $62,720 this year. Those with high school diplomas earned an average salary of $56,460, and those in school reported an average income of $46,490 — trailing behind those with two-year associate’s degrees by more than $16,000.

The survey also measured factors such as the correlation between the amount of time spent at a particular organization and average annual salary. This year’s figures were erratic, unlike last year’s, which peaked and dipped based on 10-year intervals. Within the 2008 respondents, the highest reported salaries based on time in the organization are in the ninth year with $88,890 and fifth year with $87,170.

– Deanna Hartley,

The Cost of Certification: Is It Worth It?

Who’s paying your way when it comes to certifications? Luckily for many of you, it’s your employers. According to the Salary Survey, 48.3 percent of your employers paid for your most recent certification.

About 34.4 percent of you weren’t as lucky and had to dig into your own pockets, but overall, the percentage of respondents picking up the tab has decreased and the percentage of employers paying the bill has increased since 2007.

The next highest percentage of respondents, 9.3 percent, said they were reimbursed by their employers, followed by 6.1 percent who said they shared the cost of the certification with their employers. Nearly 5 percent of respondents had a vendor/voucher; 1.3 percent had a friend or relative pay; 1.1 percent had a government/GI Bill source; 0.6 percent had a scholarship; and 0.4 percent had a grant. Another 1.1 percent cited other sources.

In preparing for certification, 19.1 percent of respondents spent between $100 and $199 on materials. But some respondents either borrowed study materials from others or went it alone, as 17.6 percent spent no money at all. Next, 14 percent spent between $50 and $99, 10.7 percent spent between $200 and $299, and 10.4 percent spent $49 or less (see Fig. 5).

In the United States, 70.7 percent of the respondents spent less than $300, 81.6 percent spent less than $500, and 90.1 percent spent less than $1,000 on materials. On average, U.S. respondents spent $484 on materials.

When it came to seminars and training, the majority of the participants, 41.3 percent, spent nothing. The next highest percentage, 9.5 percent, spent between $1,000 and $1,999. And 9.2 percent spent between $2,000 and $2,999 (see Fig. 6).

But even though almost half of the respondents spent nothing on seminars and training, spending on these endeavors has increased on average in the United States, as the mean dollars spent rose from $1,272 last year to $1,450 this year, a 14 percent increase.

When studying for the exam, respondents found that self-study books (72 percent), practice exams (69.9 percent) and on-the-job training (66.8 percent) were extremely valuable or very valuable, just as respondents did in last year’s survey. The fourth, fifth and sixth most popular resources were instructor-led training at a training center (47.5 percent), computer-based training and simulations (46.7 percent) and product documentation (45.7 percent).

The least-valuable study materials respondents were Internet mailing lists/news groups and brain-dump sites, with 16.3 percent of respondents saying the former was less valuable or not valuable and 13.2 percent saying the same of the latter. This was a change from last year, when community and technical college courses made the list of least-valuable resources.

Surprisingly, all of the study materials had levels of nonuse. The majority of respondents did not use community and technical college courses (53.3 percent), vendor-authorized boot camps (50.3 percent) or online university and e-learning (44.9 percent). From the highest to lowest level of nonuse were brain dumps, Internet mailing lists and news groups, instructor-led training at a training center, computer-based training or simulations, product documentation, on-the-job training, practice exams and self-study books.

It seems that the resources, though, are getting slightly better over time. Almost 69 percent of you said the quality of learning materials was very good or excellent; 62.8 percent said the overall quality of their educational experiences were very good or excellent; and 62.3 percent said the quality of a test or exam was excellent or very good — all increases over last year. Nearly 54 percent of respondents said the comprehensiveness of training programs was excellent or very good, and 46.5 percent of you said the quality of instructors was very good or excellent.

But the question we’re all wondering: Is it worth the money? About 46 percent of the respondents said the value of the price paid for their most recent certification preparation was excellent or very good; 27.6 percent said good; 12.1 percent said fair; and 3.7 percent said poor — so you do the math.

– Lindsay Edmonds Wickman,

How Specialization Impacts Salary

Six figures! For the first time in the history of CertMag’s Salary Survey, the average income of an information technology specialization has topped $100,000 in the U.S., if just by a hair. Additionally, the rest of the top five specializations exceeded $90,000 per year. To truly appreciate the significance of these stats, consider that the top-earning field in the 2004 Salary Survey — system design — posted just $83,510.

Incidentally, that’s what took top honors in this year’s survey, too. Well, technically, it’s “strategic systems design and implementation,” but it’s very close to the specialization that also claimed first place four years ago. IT pros in this area of expertise — which could include anything from enterprise resource planning to convergence — pulled in an average of $100,320 in the U.S. That’s an increase of nearly $10,000 from last year, when it came in third among the specialties, and a rise of about 20 percent in a four-year period (see Fig. 7).

Dropping from the top spot in 2007 to No. 2 this year was storage design and implementation. U.S.-based techies in this field earned $98,400 on average, which, while not enough to put it at the pinnacle of IT specializations, still represents a respectable increase of nearly $2,500 from last year.

Information assurance, which covers the areas of data confidentiality and integrity, was ranked third with an annual income of $97,930. Because of the rising pressures around privacy compliance, secure systems and risk management, this discipline has stayed near the top since it was introduced in last year’s Salary Survey.

Another related field that typically places high on the list, security, came in fourth, at $94,740. This is a large rebound for this specialization, which fell from $93,500 (first place) in 2006 to $87,890 last year. Security also represents the largest segment of CertMag Salary Survey participants this year, with more than 3,000 U.S.-based respondents. The second largest? “Other.”

Finally, the fifth-place finisher was database design and implementation, which reported average annual earnings of $91,030. This field knocked Java development out of the top five on the strength of a $4,000-plus boost in income since 2007.

Other high earners in the U.S. included network design and implementation ($88,810), IT project planning and implementation ($85,580), database administration ($80,270) and IT instruction ($80,060).

In addition to this year’s top specialization, a couple of IT fields posted big gains in salary. Surprisingly, IT instruction went up nearly $10,000 this year from $70,290 in 2007. Furthermore, it was a big year for the networking space: network management came in at a healthy $76,760, up from $71,130 last year; network devices went from $63,130 last year to $68,470 this year; and network administration pros earned an average of $62,320, an increase of 4 percent from last year.

A few declines also were reported. Java development was the biggest: This field fell from more than $86,000 in 2007 to $75,670 this year. Software programming regressed, too, dropping from $70,210 to $67,940. Additionally, although it still places among the top-paying IT specializations, database administration fell approximately $3,000 from 2007.

In the lower tier of IT salaries, the best-performing specialization was IT generalist, which went from $55,370 last year to $62,570 this year. Other fields didn’t fare as well. Web development fell from $56,630 in 2007 to $55,030 this year, and help-desk support more or less stayed put, going from $46,880 last year to $46,560 this year.

Unfortunately, with U.S. economic conditions being what they are, many more IT specializations may be flat or falling during the next year or so. While it’s impossible to say with certainty how things will shake out, we might be looking at the worst year for salaries in the past five years. Here’s hoping that’s not the case.

– Brian Summerfield,

Measuring IT on a Global Scale

As information technology remains ubiquitous across industries and IT continues to foster the development of professionals on a global scale, this year’s Salary Survey once again reflected a truly diverse set of respondents, hailing from more than 100 countries across six of the seven continents.

In fact, due to a rise in the number of respondents this year, we were able to count responses from seven countries that were rendered ineligible in 2007 because they had fewer than 50 respondents.

The data collected from this year’s survey, allows us to compare and contrast the average annual salaries of the highest- and lowest-paid countries as reported by IT professionals worldwide.

For a snapshot of this information and to determine how well your country fared this year, please refer to figure 8, which outlines a list of the average salaries of IT professionals reported by country.

Now to the question that everybody’s curious about: Which countries fared best and worst in terms of IT salaries in 2008?

Last year’s race for top honors was significantly tighter; this year, Norway crushed its competition and clearly emerged as the country with the highest-paid average salary, replacing Denmark, which dropped three places to the No. 4 spot this year.

However, what’s even more surprising than the ease with which Norway swept the other countries on the list is the remarkable increase in salary gains it has made in just a single year. The average salary in Norway rose by more than $35,000 — from $74,480 in 2007 to $109,660 this year.

The country with the second-highest average salary — Switzerland — trailed a safe distance behind despite registering significant improvements. Last year’s average salary for Switzerland was $79,920, compared with this year’s $92,640, a reported $12,720 increase in one year.

In third place was Australia with $87,380, which made its way back into the top five rankings this year, knocking the United Kingdom off the list.

Although the United Kingdom registered gains of more than $7,000 over the past year — from $72,740 to $79,820 — it still wasn’t sufficient to earn a spot on the highest-paid list.

Denmark and the United States rounded out the list, with its IT professionals earning average annual salaries of $87,010 and $81,520, respectively.

While average annual IT salaries appear to have risen across the board when compared to 2007, there was a bit of a shuffle among the five countries with the lowest average salaries reported in this year’s survey.

Jordan and Bulgaria, last year’s lowest and fifth lowest-paid countries, respectively, were forced to drop out of the race altogether this year, having each yielded fewer than 50 responses. Also, Thailand settled into eighth place on the lowest-paid spectrum with average annual earnings of $19,780 — up $6,890 from last year’s $12,890.

Replacing these three countries at the bottom of the list were Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

The country with at least 50 respondents that registered the lowest average annual salary this year is Vietnam, which surprisingly reported a drastic $7,700 decrease to $13,240 from last year’s $20,940. Even the number of professionals who decided to participate this year decreased from 125 in 2007 to just 54 this year.

Close on Vietnam’s heels is Sri Lanka, with an average salary of $13,390. This country also registered a decrease of $1,800 in average IT salaries compared to last year’s $15,190.

Despite its growth in the IT arena, India came in third place — dropping a spot from last year, as the average salary fell only marginally from $14,980 to $14,270 during the past year.

The Philippines ranked the fourth lowest with $14,710, a $4,940 decrease from last year’s average salary of $19,650.

Meanwhile, coming in at the fifth-lowest spot and making a reappearance on the list is India’s neighboring country, Pakistan, which — unlike its counterparts on the list — actually made small strides this year, jumping from $14,200 to $15,030.

- Deanna Hartley,  

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