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Salary Survey: Nearing the Boiling Point

IT workers simmer over third year of lackluster raises, but they're not ready to blow -- yet.

By Stacy Collett
October 25, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - After working at a large Midwestern manufacturing company for 22 years, a senior IT design analyst understood that times were tough for her firm, so she didn't complain about the 2% raise she got in 2003. But this year her empathy turned to irritation when her performance improved but her salary didn't.

"When you consider that I get an above-average review and get just a 3% raise [this year] -- it doesn't make up for the crappy year before that," she says. "They are assuming that I'm going to keep working hard anyway. But there's no carrot. The carrot's gone."

She's not alone. For the third year in a row, IT workers across the board received only modest raises -- their pay increased by an average of just 3% in 2004, according to Computerworld's 18th Annual Salary Survey, which studied the compensation and bonuses of 9,854 IT workers.

Although the average IT pay raise is slightly higher than last year's figure of 2.8%, it's still lower than the national average of 4% that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports for all U.S. workers. While the majority of respondents (65%) said their 2004 base salary increased from one year ago, 35% experienced either no change in salary or had their pay cut. Meanwhile bonuses are back -- but up only 1% on average. Most IT workers (70%) said they expect no change in their 2004 bonus compensation from one year ago.

What's more, on-the-job stress is at an all-time high, according to the survey. Some 88% of respondents reported feeling stress because of budget cuts and increased workloads, up from 82% last year. One quarter of IT workers surveyed said they're dissatisfied with their pay when considering all their job responsibilities, while another 24% reported that they're neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their pay.

Have IT employees reached the boiling point when it comes to pay? Not yet, survey takers said, but they're getting close.

An IT security strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has survived outsourcing, reorganization and a tough economy in his 15 years at a financial services company. For him, a meager raise beats the alternatives. "I feel lucky to have survived that rapid loss of business and that slow recovery of it. I'm happy to still be working," he says.

"I think that people are happy to have a job because the economic situation still supports such behavioral thinking," says Linda Pittenger, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "I also believe that over time, IT professionals ... are going to get to that

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