Salary Survey Extra: The experience curve works its salary magic (again)

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

The longer you work in IT, the more you earn.Sometime last year, in the course of expanding our mandate to bring additional Salary Survey data to light, we began tracking something that has since been known around these parts as the “experience curve.” The basic concept is pretty simple. Across most of our surveys, there’s a general trend of modest earnings over the first few years of full-time employment in a given IT discipline.

The longer that you continue to be employed in that IT niche, the more you earn. Yeah, we know, this is not some amazing statistical breakthrough. No one is going to offer us a medal for harvesting data that shows a direct correlation between accumulating work experience and increased earning power. Still, it’s comforting to occasionally have statistical validation that things in the world are working the way that most people expect them to.

As we continue to sift the data from our most recent annual Salary Survey, we looked for this reliable phenomenon again and, like the song says, whoomp — there it is. Here’s what the picture looks like this time:

Years of Professional Experience (U.S.)Percentage of All U.S. Respondents with This TenureAverage Annual SalaryYears of Professional Experience (Non-U.S.)Percentage of All Non-U.S. Respondents with This TenureAverage Annual Salary
0-to-2 years12.7 percent$53,9800-to-2 years23.6 percent$32,290
3-to-4 years7.7 percent$90,7003-to-4 years14.7 percent$40,550
5-to-6 years8.9 percent$95,4205-to-6 years16.5 percent$53,160
7-to-8 years7.9 percent$105,1807-to-8 years9 percent$71,100
9-to-10 years8.1 percent$116,6509-to-10 years7.9 percent$73,350
More than 10 years54.7 percent$125,120More than 10 years28.3 percent$85,620

2016 Salary Data

On the U.S. side, a couple of things jump out. Perhaps most striking of all is the heavy skew among U.S. respondents (more than half of the total pool) toward IT “lifers.” Working in tech for more than a decade hardly guarantees that you’ll never try anything else, of course, but it does indicate that you’re pretty firmly established. And in a career path that, especially by that point, is pretty lucrative.

Also of interest is the huge jump in salary from “I’ve only been doing this for a couple of years” to “I’m now in my third full year of doing this.” We’re guessing that the bottom-most rungs of the experience ladder are carrying the weight of a significant number of partially-employed and non-employed students. And it’s probably also true that you have to prove yourself for a year or two before the money really starts to roll in.

Right about the time that you can start to consider becoming an IT free agent, salary suddenly gets more competitive.

The distribution of non-U.S. survey respondents is heavy at both ends and, for some reason, more sketchy in the middle. There are strong cores of both newcomers and veterans, with a strong skew toward youth in the middle of the population.There are two quite large salary leaps here, going from Year 4 to Year 5, and again going from Year 6 to Year 7.

Among both U.S. and non-U.S. respondents, the trend is clear. Once you’ve entered the workforce, the salary arrow points steadily upward the longer than you remain employed.

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CertMag Staff

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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