Report: IT salaries stable in '02, higher for government, defense jobs

Salaries for technology workers remained stable last year, while IT workers in government and defense jobs saw the largest gains, with average increases of 7%, according to a study of more than 21,000 tech professionals released today by Dice Inc.

IT workers pulled in an average of $67,900 last year, down slightly from the $68,400 average in 2001, according to the Dice 2002 Annual Salary Survey. The Dice statistics are a compilation of self-reported salary forms completed on the Dice.com Web site by more than 21,000 technology professionals throughout the year, said Scot Melland, president and CEO of the New York-based provider of online recruiting services for tech professionals.

The highest average salaries in government and defense were in the Washington area, where workers reported earning an average of $72,000 per year. IT salaries in the medical/pharmaceutical industries grew 5% year-over-year to $68,900, as technology jobs shifted to areas of specialization.

The rise in pay for government IT workers has been driven by several factors, including an increased demand among federal agencies for IT workers with high-level security clearances, said Melland. In addition, the U.S. government has an aging IT workforce. Federal employees can retire at age 55, and 29% of all government IT workers are now over 50, said Fred Thompson, an assistant director in the CIO's office at the U.S. Department of the Treasury (see story).

Moreover, Melland cited several e-government initiatives being driven by the Office of Management and Budget that are aimed at making the federal government operate more efficiently. Such efforts, said Melland, "will lead to more and better-paying [IT] jobs."

While there has been a surge in the number of companies sending IT work offshore, where, for example, labor rates in India can run 40% to 50% below rates in the U.S., the Dice statistics don't factor in the impact of the offshore labor market on salaries for U.S. IT workers, said Melland. The growth in offshore outsourcing is "affecting demand for workers, but it hasn't really hit the salaries," he said.

According to a December 2002 statement from the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) in Arlington, Va., the turnover of IT workers in the U.S. slowed considerably in the third quarter of 2002. According to ITAA, 1,183,500 IT workers were hired past year. At the same time, there were fewer dismissals, with 844,000 tech workers dismissed from October 2001 to October 2002. That compared to 2,619,000 dismissals between January 2001 and January 2002.

Despite layoffs in IT, workers in the over-40 range managed to keep their salaries steady in 2002, while the under-30 crowd actually saw their net take decline 5%, according to the Dice survey. Melland attributed that to older workers who have desirable technical skills, including Oracle database administrators, Java and C++ programmers and IT professionals who have extensive project management skills.

Other notable findings in the Dice salary survey:

  • Salaries for IT management remained consistent in 2002, with IT managers drawing $102,900 while project managers followed at $89,200.
  • Atlanta, San Diego, Detroit and Denver are the cities with the highest salary growth among IT workers.
  • IT positions in the Northeast offer the highest salaries in finance and pharmaceuticals, while the Mid-Atlantic and California are the place to be for government IT jobs.
  • The gender gap in IT continues to expand, with women now making 14.4% less than their male counterparts. The gender gap is particularly wide in the Midwest, where women in tech positions earn 21% less than men. Women fared slightly better in the Mountain region, where they earn only 5% less than their male counterparts.

For more salary information, be sure to read Computerworld's own detailed Salary Survey results.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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