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Salary Squeeze

Economic pressures have put a pinch on IT compensation again this year. While workloads are heavier and hours longer, our survey of nearly 15,000 IT professionals shows that most are seeing only modest pay raises and flat or declining bonuses.

October 27, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - It's deja vu all over again.

For the second year in a row, most of the IT professionals who responded to Computerworld's annual salary survey received only modest pay raises, as well as flat or smaller bonus amounts compared with previous years. The average raise of this year's nearly 15,000 respondents was about 6.7%. On the bonus front, 71% of workers reported no change in compensation from a year ago. Meanwhile, the 15% of workers who reported decreases in bonuses said they fell by an average of 45%.

This is also the second consecutive year that some IT workers saw their paychecks shrink as a result of company-mandated salary reductions, which outpaced average pay raises this year by more than 2 to 1. While fewer workers reported pay cuts this year -- 8.6% compared with 9.5% last year -- this year's group was forced to forfeit the same amount as last year's -- an average of 13% of their base salaries.

But most IT workers aren't as unhappy as you might expect, given this year's pay figures. Compared with the 4% average increase in pay for U.S. workers reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT workers are holding their own in a tough economy.

In fact, only 22% of workers said they are dissatisfied with their overall compensation, even though many are working longer hours and shouldering heavier workloads because of permanent staff layoffs at their companies. Nearly 70% of IT professionals report regularly putting in more than 40 hours a week on the job, with one out of every four IT professionals working between 46 and 50 hours a week.

More than half of all IT workers -- 54% -- are satisfied with their overall compensation, and nearly all of the 40-plus IT workers, managers and CIOs interviewed for this story said they consider themselves lucky just to have a job in IT.

More Than Money
Consider the case of Diane Foote. A Unix systems administrator at Accelrys Inc., a pharmaceutical software and services company in San Diego, Foote is earning the same amount of money she was earning more than two years ago. "In those two years, I was laid off, rehired as a consultant, and then my contract ended. I found [this] job fairly quickly but took a cut in pay to get it," she says.

Is she satisfied? "Money isn't the most important thing about a job to me," Foote says. "The benefits at my new place are good -- three weeks of vacation to start and an on-site health club. So, I'm happy ... to have found a job so quickly in this economy."

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