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IT Salary Survey 2014: Who's hot, who's not

A shortage of workers with both technical and business skills has employers scrambling and (some) IT pros smiling.

April 7, 2014 06:30 AM ET

Computerworld - It's poaching season at Truven Health Analytics. The Santa Barbara, Calif., company has been up to its eyeballs in new projects since the federal government's Medicaid business systems group enlisted Truven's help to improve its Web-enabled reporting systems.

With business booming, Randy Lum, director of Truven's software and database design group, needed two highly skilled developers -- fast. But the rules of supply and demand were not in his favor. Nearly half of all managers who are in the hiring mood are looking for developers, according to Computerworld's 2014 Salary Survey. So Lum took a tried-and-true course of action.

"I steal people," he says, "people that I've worked with in the past that I know are good. I'm not shy about that. If I can offer them something they're after, I won't hesitate."

In fact, five out of seven of his direct reports -- all senior-level computer scientists -- are former colleagues. Most of them are looking for job security, Lum says, but a competitive salary doesn't hurt either. Right now his staffers earn between $128,000 and $143,000 per year. Their unique skill sets make them well worth the price, he adds.

"It is difficult to find developers with the right mix of technology skills for what we do," he explains. "We're not a large group, and my development staff is expected to have a wide range of skills -- so they can work on any part of any project, ranging from database to the Web interface and everything in between."

IT employees who participated in Computerworld's annual salary survey share that view of the market. They say a shortage of IT workers with the right skills, an uptick in new projects and a shift in the way IT works with business units have given them renewed optimism about IT careers -- though salaries and bonuses are advancing slowly.

Read the full report: Computerworld IT Salary Survey 2014

Compensation and job security inch up

IT salaries continue to chug along, with pay increases averaging a modest 2.1%, according to the survey of 3,673 IT workers. Bonuses are up by an average of only 0.7%, slightly lower than the 0.9% increase seen in 2013.

On the bright side, companies are spreading pay increases among more IT workers. Some 60% of the respondents reported a raise, while only 8% reported a pay cut. That's slightly better than last year, when 57% reported raises and 9% reported pay cuts, but well above 2012, when less than half reported a raise.

As the economy has improved, the percentage of respondents who feel secure in their jobs has also inched up, from 57% in 2012 to 59% in 2013 and 61% this year. Workers are also more optimistic about IT as a career: In 2012, only 29% said they believed that a career path in IT and the potential for salary advancement was as promising as it was five years prior, but that percentage increased to 38% in 2013 and to 42% this year.

The rising optimism among IT pros coincides with an increase in the number of open positions and a shortage of workers with the skills to fill those jobs. But while some people are in high demand, others find themselves sitting on the sidelines.

Hot, hot, hot

For the third year in a row, application development was the most sought-after skill: 49% of all managers who expect to hire this year said it was on their wish list.

Help desk and IT support skills ranked second, with 44% of managers expecting to fill jobs in those areas this year. That's up from 37% in 2013 -- the biggest year-over-year increase in our survey.

Not surprisingly, some organizations are having a tough time meeting salary demands.

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IT Salaries 2014
2014 Salary Survey

Our 28th annual survey results show which IT skills are in high demand and which are cooling off. Also, see how your salary stacks up to peers' with our Smart Salary Tool.