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The best industries for IT compensation

By Thomas Hoffman
November 16, 2009 06:00 AM ET

Health care: There are many reasons why the health care industry is an appealing destination for IT professionals, beyond the visible impact that technology can have on patients' well-being. For starters, the sector is less affected by economic cycles. Plus, the Obama administration recently set aside $1.2 billion in federal stimulus money for deployments of electronic medical records systems and other health care IT initiatives, notes Terry Erdle, senior vice president of skills certification at the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

"Health care IT shops are among the busiest I deal with -- they just have so much going on," says Mercer's Van De Voort.

At Texas Health Resources, PMO manager Joel Verinder says he likes the fact that senior management maintains an open-door policy, encouraging employees to propose ideas for cutting costs or improving patient care. Verinder recently suggested a new approach for IT workers to collaborate and drive innovation at the Arlington, Texas-based health care provider. The idea was approved by the company's CIO and is being tested, he says.

"I'm very happy to be working here," says Verinder, who joined the health care company in 2008 after spending 12 years working in a range of IT roles in the public sector and the airline, telecommunications and automotive finance industries. At Texas Health Resources, he says, "it seems like you have a chance to do a little bit more to improve the bottom line."

Energy/utilities: Working in the energy industry has been unlike any other IT role that Neal Steik has held during a 33-year career that has included stints at an HMO, at a law firm and in the insurance industry.

The energy/utilities industry is "much less political than other industries I've worked in," says Steik, who is supervisor of workstation support at Puget Sound Energy in Bellevue, Wash. At PSE, there's no dress code, layoffs are unheard of, and there's a family-oriented atmosphere among both blue- and white-collar workers, says Steik.

Although Steik took a $20,000 pay cut when he joined PSE in early 2008, that was offset by health care benefits that are better than those available through his previous employer. For instance, even though the last company Steik worked for covered 100% of his own health care benefits, he had to pay $7,000 out of pocket to cover his wife's insurance. "Now, everything's covered," he says.

Some segments of the energy industry also expose IT professionals to leading-edge technologies. For instance, Aaron Van Cleave, an infrastructure architect at Aera Energy LLC, an oil and gas producer in Bakersfield, Calif., says he was recently asked by the company's architecture board to offer his opinion on some oil well analysis applications the company recently approved. "Questioning is not only accepted here, it's expected," says Van Cleave, who received a 5% raise last year.

For any IT professionals considering a switch to the energy/utilities industry, "if net pay is their primary driver, I'd tell them to look elsewhere," says Steik. But if they're considering the total compensation package, including benefits, "the utilities industry is in the ballpark," he adds.



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