Career Watch: Pay was down for CS grads last year, but IT workers find that money isn't everything

New Grads See Pay Slippage . . .

Starting salaries for recent college graduates with computer science degrees slipped a bit in 2013. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports in its January 2014 Salary Survey that the overall average starting salary for new graduates rose 2.6% from 2012. But for those with computer science degrees, the average starting salary went from $59,221 in 2012 to $59,084 in 2013, a drop of 0.2%.

. . . But Money Isn't Everything

One-fourth of all IT professionals plan to change jobs this year, according to a survey, but they aren't necessarily seeking more money. The list below shows the percentages of IT workers who ranked the following factors above pay when asked what was important to them:

• Job stability: 69%

• Location: 64%

• Good work culture: 60%

• Affordable benefit plans: 57%

• Good career advancement opportunities: 40%

• Ability to telecommute: 40%

• Ability to work flexible schedules: 40%

• Learning opportunities: 40%

Source: online survey of 199 full-time IT employees, December 2013

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader:

Richard Maranville

The CIO at Freeman Co. says data is a great focus for an IT career.

As I enter my final year of studying for a computer science degree, what specific technologies should I be concentrating on? Congratulations on getting to your final year! I would recommend focusing on data design, databases, business intelligence, etc. Data management has always been at the heart of software, and its importance is only growing as companies struggle to manage and harvest ever-increasing volumes of data brought about by advances in applications and technologies like social media, mobile computing and sensors. Data management skills are also portable across technologies and companies, especially within vertical industries such as healthcare, retail and energy.

I was recently promoted to desktop support analyst and will be analyzing and managing security, performance, procedures and vendors at the desktop level. I feel pretty confident that this is something I can happily do for years to come, but I'd like some assurance that it could lead to other things should I ever decide to move on. That is great to hear about your promotion! And it is also very good that you are already thinking about what could be next for your career. Technology professionals, faced with many choices of specialties, need to focus on their own development. Security is a skill that is always in demand, and opportunities in this field are growing. The rapid evolution of areas like mobile, cloud and social media mean the threats, and the ways to protect against those threats, are changing rapidly. Your current position could lead to other opportunities, particularly with security and vendor management, since the traditional IT function must manage its many arrangements with third parties, particularly cloud providers. Managing service-level agreements and understanding how to actively engage with a provider are strong skills to build upon.

What is the best way to keep up to date on regulations that affect IT? Another good question about taking charge of your career! IT operations is a great field to focus on, since it provides an overview of the day-to-day activities involved in running an IT enterprise. While much energy and focus are devoted to systems development, if systems don't operate and run effectively, they will ultimately not deliver the value needed. Since IT systems are now very integral to the core operations of many businesses, the need for skilled operators has grown. The best way to stay up to date on regulations that affect IT operations is to meet with co-workers who deal with regulations -- people from legal, human resources, internal auditing and risk management. These folks will be able to help you not only focus on what needs to be understood from an operations standpoint, but also understand how the regulations have been applied and interpreted for your company.

If you have a question for one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to, and watch for this column each month.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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