The Highest-Paying IT Jobs (And The Lowest) In 2021
Joseph F. Kovar
Staff consulting and recruiting organization Robert Half Technology just released its Technology Salary Guide 2021 with a look at IT industry salaries as a way to help businesses trying to grow in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic while dealing with a shortage of engineers, analysts, administrators and managers.
IT Salaries And Hiring Trends In 2021
For many businesses, labor remains the largest expense, making it imperative that employers and employees be armed with as much information as possible to help make the best salary decisions.
Robert Half Technology, the staff consulting and recruiting business of Menlo Park, Calif.-based business consulting and recruiting company Robert Half International, has for over 60 years been reporting on staffing and compensation trends and provides an annual IT salary guide that breaks down the IT industry into several key areas.
For businesses looking for key IT personnel in areas ranging from security to operations, finding the right people is difficult given a shortage of some of the key people needed to make IT work. One place to start the hiring decision is to look at potential salary ranges. Robert Half Technology has done so in its Technology Salary Guide 2021, which provides information on the highest-paying IT jobs in the market. The guide breaks the IT salaries into several large categories, each with a number of key positions with their own salary ranges at the 25th, 50th, 75th and 95th percentiles. The company also took into account differences between major metropolitan areas and included a separate section looking at IT salary ranges across Canada.
A note on the numbers: The following pages contain references to certain percentiles. Robert Half Technology defines candidates in the 25th percentile as those with little or no prior experience and who are still developing relevant skills, the 50th percentile as those with average experience and the majority of necessary skills, the 75th percentile as those with above-average experience and possibly with specialized certifications, and the 95th percentile as those with exceptionally strong skills and specialized certifications.
This includes executives at the director level and above, including the CIO, CTO, the chief security officer (CSO), the vice president of information technology and the director of technology.
IT executive leadership salaries for 2021 are generally a bit higher than in 2020, although results were mixed for vice presidents of IT and directors of technology.
These executives are bringing in these salaries on average:
* CIOs: $175,500 to $300,250 per year (versus last year’s $174,750 to $298,750)
* CTOs: $153,000 to $267,250 per year (versus last year’s $152,250 to $266,000)
* CSOs: $156,750 to $280,750 per year (versus last year’s $155,250 to $278,000)
* Vice presidents of IT: $146,250 to $239,000 per year (versus last year’s $143,750 to $239,250)
* Directors of technology: $122,000 to $206,000 per year (versus last year’s $123,750 to $205,500)
Software And Application Development
This category includes 20 positions including managers, Scrum masters, engineers and developers, analysts and technical writers. It is the largest category by number of positions in the study.
This category is also one of only a handful where the managers are not at the top of the salary scale. Instead, mobile application developers and application architects tend to command higher salaries.
At the 50th percentile, salaries in 2021 range from $71,500 for technical writers to $144,500 for application architects.
Personnel in the top five positions in the software and application development category are making on average:
* Application architects: $119,750 to $210,250 per year (versus last year’s $117,500 to $197,250)
* Mobile application developers: $112,750 to $189,750 per year (versus last year’s $121,750 to $206,500)
* Managers: $110,500 to $188,000 per year (versus last year’s $110,500 to $188,750)
* Lead application developers: $108,500 to $186,000 per year (versus last year’s $107,000 to $183,250)
* Product managers: $104,250 to $177,500 per year (replaces software engineer as the fifth-highest-paying software and application development position)
This category includes five positions related to the development and administration of a company‘s web presence, including e-commerce analysis.
Salaries for the 50th percentile for employees in web development range from $85,000 for web administrators to $124,750 for senior web developers.
Employees in the web development part of a business are making on average:
* Senior web developers: $104,250 to $172,000 per year (versus last year’s $102,750 to $174,000)
* Web developers: $87,250 to $145,000 per year (about the same as last year’s $86,000 to $146,250)
* E-commerce analysts: $86,000 to $142,250 per year (about the same as last year’s $85,250 to $142,250)
* Front-end web developers: $72,000 to $136,000 per year (versus last year’s $67,000 to $132,000)
* Web administrators: $70,250 to $119,000 per year (about the same as last year’s $70,000 to $119,500)
Three of the five positions in the web development category—senior web developers, web developers and web administrators—actually saw year-over-year salary decreases at the 95th percentile, the high end of the salary curve, while only front-end web developers saw significant salary increases at the high end of the spectrum.
Consulting And Systems Integration
With only four positions ranging from director to staff consultant, consulting and systems integration is the smallest category measured by the Technology Salary Guide 2021.
At the 50th percentile, annual salaries range from $72,250 for staff consultants to $147,250 for directors.
This is one of the few categories where IT salaries rose across the board over 2020.
Employees in consulting and systems integration are making on average:
* Directors: $122,750 to $209,000 per year (versus last year’s $121,000 to $206,000)
* Managers: $112,250 to $191,500 (versus last year’s $97,250 to $164,500)
* Senior consultants: $86,500 to $126,750 per year (versus last year’s $85,250 to $125,000)
* Staff consultants: $61,000 to $93,500 per year (versus last year’s $60,000 to $92,000)
Data And Database Administration
This category includes 12 professions in a wide range of some of the hottest technologies around, including positions related to big data; data science, architecting and modeling; AI; and business intelligence.
Outside executive leadership, data and database administration personnel on average commanded the highest salaries in the survey, with big data engineers at the top.
Salaries for employees in the 50th percentile for data and database administration range from $79,000 for data reporting analysts to $166,500 for big data engineers.
For the top five positions in data and data base administration salarywise, employees can expect to make on average:
* Big data engineers: $132,500 to $226,500 per year (versus last year’s $130,000 to $222,000)
* Data architects: $123,250 to $199,250 per year (versus last year’s $119,750 to $193,500)
* AI architects: $123,750 to $194,750 per year (versus last year’s $120,250 to $189,000)
* Database managers: $114,500 to $192,000 per year (versus last year’s $111,250 to $186,500)
* Data scientists: $109,000 to $185,750 per year (replaced database developers for the No. 5 spot)
Note that while data scientists pretty much enjoyed the fifth-highest average salaries in the data and database administration category across nearly all percentiles, database managers had higher average salaries at the 95th percentile at $192,000 per year, followed by business intelligence analysts at $189,250 per year.
Quality Assurance And Testing
This category has only four positions, making it the smallest in terms of number of possible careers. It is also among the lowest in terms of annual salaries.
Professionals who focus on quality assurance and testing can expect salaries at the 50th percentile ranging from $76,500 for manual quality assurance engineers to $103,750 for quality assurance testing managers.
Overall, employees who focus on quality assurance and testing can expect to make on average:
* QA and testing managers: $89,250 to $144,000 per year (versus last year’s $88,750 to $143,250)
* QA engineers, automated: $74,500 to $124,500 (versus last year’s $74,250 to $124,000)
* QA associates or analysts: $64,250 to $109,500 per year (versus last year’s $64,000 to $109,000)
* QA engineers, manual: $64,000 to $103,250 per year (mixed change from last year’s $63,750 to $109,000)
At the highest percentile, manual QA engineers appear to have seen the highest drop in salary of the survey.
Networking And Telecommunications
This category actually goes beyond network and telecom to embrace a wide range of cloud-focused networking professions including cloud architects, managers, engineers and administrators.
Annual salaries at the 50th percentile for employees focusing on networking and telecommunications range from $65,250 for NOC (network operations center) technicians to $146,000 for network cloud architects.
Salaries for personnel in the top five positions in network and telecommunications based on total pay are on average:
* Network/cloud architects: $121,000 to $202,250 per year (versus last year’s $117,500 to $196,250)
* Wireless network engineers: $108,250 $184,000 (versus last year’s $105,000 to $178,750, when they were classified as wireless network/cloud engineers)
* Network/cloud managers: $100,500 to $174,750 (versus last year’s $97,500 to $169,750)
* Network/cloud engineers: $97,500 to $163,000 (versus last year’s $94,750 to $159,000)
* Telecommunications managers: $84,500 to $141,500 (versus last year’s $83,750 to $140,000)
While the upper echelons of the IT salary scene is dominated by big data engineers, security in general where professionals with the right skills across six possible positions ranging from administrators to engineers to information system managers commanded the highest average salaries in all of IT in 2021. This is also the category that saw the highest average pay increases over last year.
At the 50th percentile, annual salaries range from $118,000 for network security administrators to $149,000 for information systems security managers.
Overall, employees who move into security can expect to make on average:
* Information systems security managers: $124,250 to $213,000 per year (versus last year’s $119,500 to $205,750)
* Security architects: $121,000 to $188,750 per year (versus last year’s $116,250 to $181,500)
* Data security analysts: $112,500 to $190,000 (versus last year’s $108,250 to $183,500)
* Network security engineers: $105,500 to $174,500 (versus last year’s $101,500 to $168,500)
* Systems security administrators: $100,000 to $168,500 (versus last year’s $96,500 to $162,750)
* Network security administrators: $98,500 to $166,250 (versus last year’s $94,750 to $160,500)
Technical Services And Operations
This category includes such positions as managers, engineers, analysts, technicians, help desk support and operators all focused on ensuring a company’s IT systems are providing the services a business and its customers require.
Salaries for the 50th percentile of employees in technical services and operations range from $41,500 for PC technicians to $137,000 for managers.
Personnel in the top five positions in the technical services and operations category are making on average:
* Managers: $111,500 to $190,750 (versus last year’s $107,500 to $185,250)
* Site reliability engineers: $100,750 to $199,000 (versus last year’s $99,750 to $197,000)
* IT auditors: $96,250 to $164,250 (versus last year’s $95,250 to $162,500)
* Business continuity analysts: $90,750 to $154,250 (versus last year’s $89,750 to $152,750)
* Systems engineers: $90,000 to $149,500 (versus last year’s $88,750 to $148,000)
The salary ranges determined by Robert Half Technology surveys represent an average across the U.S. However, not every city is created equal, leading to variances in salary based on where employees live.
The six U.S. cities where IT salaries are the highest above average:
* San Francisco: +41%
* New York: +40.5
* San Jose, Calif.: +40%
* Boston and Oakland, Calif.: +34%
* Washington, D.C.:+33%
The six U.S. cities where IT salaries are most below the average:
* El Paso, Texas: (-28%)
* Youngstown, Ohio: (-24%)
* Duluth, Minn.: (-20.4%)
* Kalamazoo, Mich.: (-20%)
* Macon, Ga., and Canton, Ohio: (-18%)
Note that these 2021 rankings and percentage differences are unchanged from 2020.