Salary Survey Extra: IT salaries and the company org chart

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 These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Where you stand on the company org chart impacts your salary.As Michael Scott once said on that one episode of The Office, “I was never in this for the money. But it turns out that money is an absolute necessity for me.” The same is probably true of most offices. Even employees who love their work would stop showing up if they weren’t getting regular paychecks.

It’s also true of most offices that people who work there don’t all see the same dollar amount on those paychecks when they show up. Workers are hired to fill different jobs, with different levels of responsibility. And like Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great responsibility comes more pay.”

It won’t surprise anyone to learn that people at the top of company org chart tend to also be at the top of the salary pyramid. The gap in pay from one tier to the next, on the other hand, isn’t always as large as you might suppose. And even certified IT professionals on the lowest rung of the company ladders can expect to do reasonably well.

All organizations don’t have the same salary structure, of course. We don’t mean to imply that you’re necessarily underpaid if you present salary as a specialist at XYZ Corporation doesn’t precisely line up with the number shown here. There are enough similarities from one business to the next, on the other hand, that maybe there is some actionable truth here.

(If you do go to your boss and say, “Hey, I don’t think I’m earning as much as I should be, because Certification Magazine,” and it gets you a raise, let us know about it. If it gets you fired, or laughed out of the room, well, sure, tell us that, too.)

Before we get to the average salary per standing on the company org chart, however, let’s take a look at the composition of our survey population. The following table lists the percentage of salary survey respondents at each job hierarchy level, both inside the United States, as well as in the aggregate of non-U.S. countries where survey respondents reside:

EMPLOYMENT LEVELPercentage of Respondents Employed at That Level (U.S.)Percentage of Respondents Employed at That Level (All other Countries)
Executive4.7 percent2.3 percent
Director10.4 percent3.2 percent
Senior Manager9.5 percent7.3 percent
Manager12.9 percent11.4 percent
Senior Specialist38.7 percent38.9 percent
Specialist12.2 percent20.3 percent
Employee11.6 percent16.6 percent

2016 Employment Data

Without question, the largest group of survey respondents are employed at the senior specialist level. Which could mean that’s where most certified IT professionals end up. Or maybe it’s the level at which most employers tend to classify IT workers. There’s room to climb the ladder, of course, and plenty of job at lower levels as well.

As we’ve noted before, IT salaries are sometimes hardest to pin down at the top of the pyramid. Our mechanism doesn’t do a particularly good job of accounting for seven-figure salaries and above, and there are plenty of tech millionaires in the world. (Although it’s arguable whether very many of those guys spend their time completing online employment surveys.)

At any rate, here are the numbers:

EMPLOYMENT LEVELAverage Annual Salary (U.S.)Average Annual Salary (All other Countries)
Executive $155,180$96,560
Director $140,560$106,790
Senior Manager $131,420$81,650
Manager $114,480$66,850
Senior Specialist $114,550$68,150
Specialist $71,220$42,248
Employee $56,617$28,320

2016 Salary Data

Generally speaking, it seems that most certified IT pros would be well advised to aim for jobs at the senior specialist level. In the United States, a senior specialist can expect to make roughly 40 percent more than a specialist, and more than twice as much as a mere employee.

Both inside the United States and abroad, meanwhile, senior specialists actually have a higher average salary than low-level managers. Also telling is the fact that, at least in the United States, there’s a bigger gap between senior specialists and specialists than there is between senior specialists and directors or executives.

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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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