Industries on the Upswing

Pick the right industry and watch your salary, and future job prospects, rise.

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Defense/aerospace: One of the unique characteristics of the defense and aerospace industry is that it boasts a highly educated workforce made up of engineers who specialize in a variety of disciplines. That's certainly true at The Aerospace Corp., an El Segundo, Calif.-based organization that provides technical and scientific research and development services to the U.S. Air Force and NASA.

Three quarters of the company's 4,000 employees have master's degrees, and a quarter of them are Ph.Ds, says John Martillo, director of enterprise systems and storage at the nonprofit company.

That kind of brainpower feeds into the corporate culture. "The low turnover rate says it all -- it's not because they're being paid more for their level of education and industry experience," says Martillo, who was involved in guidance navigation and rocket performance initiatives at the company prior to becoming an IT director eight years ago. "It's really the working environment. Some of the people here are the world's renowned experts in their fields. It has a collegial feel that people find very attractive."

Last year, members of the company's technical staff received 3.5% to 4% salary increases. "From an IT standpoint," says Martillo, "people here are slightly better paid than they would be in some other industries."

Education: Since she rejoined the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 as director of health sciences IT, Gwen Pechan hasn't been putting in 70-hour workweeks like she did at the start-up medical device manufacturer she left. But she has been logging 50- to 60-hour weeks lately, thanks to a special project that's aimed at tracking federal stimulus monies received by the university.

Generally speaking, the pace at the university "isn't nearly as aggressive as other places I've worked," says Pechan, who received a 9% pay increase when she rejoined the school.

Since the university employs a lot of big thinkers, says Pechan, there are always fresh ideas about new systems to build. But unlike IT organizations at publicly held companies whose executives are pushed to meet quarterly earnings targets, she adds, "our deadlines tend to be a little more flexible."

Hoffman is a freelance writer in New York. You can contact him at

Next: The best jobs for IT compensation

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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