Are You Making What You're Worth? A Guide To IT Compensation

Raises, Bonuses Driving Compensation Growth

Income potential for IT professionals hinges on multiple factors, including level of responsibility, job area, seniority, skills possessed, industry, company size and geography.

All of these factors were examined in a survey of 9,611 North American IT professionals and 1,413 business professionals conducted by Cary, N.C.-based business training and certification company Global Knowledge in the fall of 2014.

Though IT salaries are relatively flat since last year, the situation is relatively consistent with the broader employment market. On a more positive front, the number of IT workers receiving raises and bonuses is up significantly over the past year. Here are 10 key findings from the survey.

1. Salaries Are Increasing, But Only Slowly

The 11,000 North American respondents to the Global Knowledge survey indicated that their base salaries had risen 1.1 percent in 2015, to $89,891. This slow growth is consistent with the employment market at large, according to Global Knowledge.

Business professional salaries fared the best over the past year, climbing 7 percent, to $101,790. But IT professionals saw their salaries rise only 1 percent, to $88,335, with one-fourth of IT respondents making less than $70,000 annually.

The median salary for technical respondents actually fell 0.6 percent, to $85,000. Salary fluctuations stem from economic factors, changes in overall workforce structure and the composition of the respondent base, Global Knowledge said.

2. Raises Aplenty In 2015

Three-fourths of respondents reported receiving a raise in 2015, up from 70 percent in 2014. This is the strongest figure since 2011, when 80 percent said they received a raise.

Those who received a raise attributed it to their job performance, standard company increases, internal promotions, taking on new responsibilities or developing new skills.

The average raise size for those who responded affirmatively was 5 percent, which is consistent with responses from 2012 to 2014.

Five percent of respondents actually reported a decline in salary, which is consistent with data from 2013 and 2014. The primary reason for salary declines were a change in employers, with the new position having a lower base salary.

3. Bonuses Reach All-Time High

Some 63 percent of people responding to the Global Knowledge survey reported receiving a bonus, which is the highest figure ever recorded. Only 53 percent of respondents said they received a bonus in 2014.

The average bonus size jumped nearly 15 percent, to $6,414, making it the second consecutive year the amount went up.

The typical amount for a bonus is 1 percent to 5 percent of salary, Global Knowledge found, with 61 percent of staff and 46 percent of IT decision makers falling in that category. IT decision makers are significantly more likely than staff to receive a bonus of greater than 5 percent.

4. Executives Make Twice As Much As Entry-Level Workers

Entry-level respondents earn on average just 48 cents for every dollar earned by an executive and 76 cents for every dollar earned by a midlevel employee. Senior-level employees can expect a 33 percent salary bump over their midlevel associates.

Entry-level IT staff earn $61,724 and typically work as senior help desk specialists, network technicians and business systems analysts. Midlevel IT professionals make $81,141 on average and have titles such as information security manager or network operations manager.

Senior-level employees make just over $108,000 and work as director of systems engineering or vice president of enterprise infrastructure. And executives -- which include presidents, partners and the C-suite -- reported an annual salary of $129,943.

5. Security Is Where The Money's At

Salaries vary greatly among the most common job areas within IT.

The lowest-compensated area is help desk, which employs 945 respondents at an annual salary of just $58,420. Next up the totem pole is system operations, which employs 933 respondents making an average of $76,711.

Network and systems engineers enjoy midlevel salaries, with the 801 folks on the networking side enjoying an average salary of $87,093 and the 920 folks on the systems side earning an average salary of $91,026.

The highest-paying common area, by far, though, is IT security, which employs 975 respondents at an average salary of $101,539.

6. Senior-Level Positions Have Their Perks

Increased compensation comes to those who attain additional responsibilities, diverse skills and advanced certifications, Global Knowledge found.

This is illustrated most clearly in IT security, where security administrators make $70,437, while a vice president of information security brings in $134,085 annually.

Business application development and project management also showed a significant gap, with corporate applications vice presidents making $61,000 more than applications developers, and vice presidents of project management earning $48,000 more than project analysts.

The gap is far less pronounced in system operations, where a systems administrator makes $66,698 annually and a director of client and LAN systems earns $94,919.

7. Different Skills Valued At Different Points On The Career Arc

Certain skill areas are better compensated among entry-level workers while others are more valued among more tenured IT professionals.

For instance, 42 percent of early-career IT professionals said network operations skills impact their salary, while only 32 percent of those with at least 20 years' experience said these skills were relevant.

Conversely, business skills, leadership skills and IT architecture knowledge are valued more in seasoned professionals than in newbies, with 54 percent of those with at least two decades of tenure saying business skills affected their compensation.

Demand for IT security remains fairly constant, but notched its highest mark among people with 11 to 15 years of industry experience.

8. Systems Integration, IT Consulting Pay The Best

System integrators pay their technical employees the highest average salaries, at just over $104,000, ranging from $84,285 for technical staff to $112,053 for IT decision makers.

Close behind that is IT consulting, which has an average annual salary of $98,380, ranging from $78,000 for technical staff to $116,777 for IT decision makers.

Outside of IT, the average salary for technical staff ranges from $65,718 in educational services to $93,853 for those employed in mining and related natural resources.

Decision makers tasked with overseeing IT operations earn an average of $108,620, while their staff counterparts make 29 percent less, or just $76,746.

9. Bigger Companies Pay Better

The number of employees working for a firm -- both at a specific location and companywide -- is a key factor in determining compensation.

Companies with more than 1,000 employees pay their technical staff an average of $15,548 more than firms with fewer than 100 employees, Global Knowledge found. Firms with between 100 and 999 employees fall in the middle, paying their technical staff $70,903.

For IT decision makers, the salary bump for working at a large firm is $7,222 over the average for the smallest firms. Decision makers at firms with 100 to 999 employees make an average of $105,972, or just $800 more than those at businesses with fewer than 100 workers.

10. IT Pros Living On The Coasts Earn More

A region's cost of living is one of the strongest drivers behind salary.

In the United States, the average salary ranges from more than $90,000 in the mid-Atlantic, West Coast and Coastal Southeast regions to less than $85,000 in the Great Plains and Deep South. Specifically, the average IT salary in Washington, D.C., and Virginia is more than $100,000, while the average in Montana and South Dakota is less than $75,000.

Metro areas in high-cost areas also pay better, with security professionals in mid-Atlantic cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Newark, N.J., making $103,732 on average. But those cities in what the study called East South Central states -- such as Birmingham, Ala., Louisville, Ky., and Knoxville, Tenn. -- make just $86,049.