IT Salary Survey, 2014: How IT pros really feel about their pay, stress, and career prospects

Computerworld's survey of more than 3,500 IT pros shows that those with the right mix of technical skills and business savvy are in demand. Here's a look at trends in workers' job and pay satisfaction, along with their job security and stress levels.

Computerworld Salary Survey 2014 - 28th Annual Report

IT worker reality check

How do tech workers feel about their pay, stress levels and long-term career prospects? Which skills are most in demand among managers hiring for IT positions in 2014? Computerworld's 28th annual salary survey found those answers and more.

We polled 3,673 IT professionals, 99% of whom report being employed full time. Thirty-seven percent say they work in management, while 63% report holding IT staff positions.

Fifty-five percent say they have some kind of IT certification, 24% have a master's degree and 2% report having a Ph.D. The average age of all respondents is 47.

Read on for 2014 salary data and respondents' thoughts on the state of the IT industry.

Modest Pay Gains

Compensation inches up

IT salaries continue to nose forward, averaging a modest 2.1% increase in pay in 2014, compared with 2.3% in 2013. Average bonuses are up only 0.7%, slightly slower than the 0.9% increase seen in 2013.

On the bright side, companies are spreading pay increases among more IT workers. Some 60% of respondents report a raise versus only 8% reporting a pay cut, compared with 57% reporting a raise and 9% reporting a pay cut in 2013. In 2012, less than half reported a raise.

(Read the full report: Computerworld IT Salary Survey 2014)

Hot Skills list

Skills in demand

While IT compensation may be stuck in low gear overall, the hiring market for workers with the right skills is becoming highly competitive. Application development remains the most in-demand skill, selected as a growth area by 49% of managers who plan to hire IT staff in the next 12 months.

Other hot skills include help desk/IT support, business intelligence, and database analysis and development, all of which rose by 5 or more percentage points from 2013 as key hiring areas for IT managers. Some 63% of open IT jobs are highly skilled specialist positions, while 33% are staff or entry-level positions.

Positions Hard to Fill

Open positions cause concern

With demand outpacing supply for many positions, 54% of survey takers say a headhunter has contacted them in the past year. Perhaps not coincidentally, IT managers are struggling to fill open positions; half of the managers surveyed by Computerworld report that it has taken at least three months to fill open IT positions in the last two years.

While positions remain unfilled, projects pile up for current IT employees. Some 26% of respondents said that in the past year their working conditions were significantly affected by unfilled open positions, compared to 20% in 2013. A third of survey-takers said they were affected by new understaffed projects.

Satisfaction Meter: Money

Pay grade

When it comes to salaries and bonuses, slightly more than half of survey respondents (53%) report they are satisfied or very satisfied with their total compensation, while 23% say they are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Only 18% are less satisfied with their compensation this year than they were at this time last year.

However, when asked if they think they are paid fairly, 52% say they are underpaid based on their role and responsibility, and only 23% feel that their salary is keeping pace with business growth and demands.

In terms of overall financial picture, 39% of respondents feel that they have stayed flat over the past two years of their career, 31% believe they have gained ground, and 30% feel they have lost ground.

Satisfaction Meter: Current Job

Job satisfaction

A solid majority -- 63% -- of respondents report being very satisfied or satisfied with their current job, with 19% saying they are more satisfied now than they were 12 months ago.

When asked where they expect to be in their career five years from now, 41% think they'll still have their current job or a similar job at another company, 37% predict they'll be in a higher-level position, 18% expect to be retired or self-employed, and 4% say they'll have left the IT profession altogether.

Satisfaction Meter: Job Security

Peace of mind

As the economy has improved, the percentage of respondents who feel secure or very secure in their jobs has also inched up, from 57% in 2012 to 59% in 2013 and up to 61% this year. However, 20% of respondents report that they felt more secure in their jobs 12 months ago.

Overall, respondents view a career path in IT as slightly more secure than other career paths: 48% feel it is more secure than most career paths, while 41% feel it is as secure as most other career paths. Only 11% feel it is less secure than most other career paths.

Satisfaction Meter: Stress

Workload tension

Overall, the percentage of respondents who feel their job is stressful or very stressful has shown a slight decline over the past few years, from 50% in 2011 down to 46% in the current study.

However, workloads remain a concern: A whopping 84% of survey takers say they've felt pressure to increase productivity, take on new tasks, or both -- and only 11% say their salary has been adjusted to compensate for the added workload. What's more, 68% of respondents say they expect their workload and responsibilities to increase over the next 12 months.

Checking In

Tied to work

Part and parcel with workload worries is the pressure many IT pros feel to communicate with the office during non-work hours, including during vacations. Some 55% of our survey respondents report that they check in frequently or very frequently on weekends, evenings and other nontraditional work hours. (See "The 'always-on' IT culture: Get used to it" for ways to cope.)

What Workers Want

Changing priorities

Each year we ask survey respondents to choose the five most important factors about their jobs. While base pay remains the highest-ranked factor, its 49% response rate is down sharply from 68% in 2013 and 73% in 2012. Other traditional workplace rewards such as benefits and bonus opportunities saw similar drops.

In the same time period, job atmosphere and community, being valued for one's opinion and knowledge, and other "soft" factors are up 7 or more percentage points, suggesting that IT staffers are placing more importance on intangibles such as corporate culture, challenging work and recognition -- a trend that employers ignore at their peril.

(See "What do IT workers want?" for insight into why workers' values are changing and how employers can keep up.)

Career Outlook

Happy in the long run

As the economic recovery continues, workers are feeling more optimistic about IT as a career: While only 29% believed that a career path in IT and the potential for salary advancement was as promising in 2012 as it was five years prior, that percentage increased to 38% in 2013 and to 42% this year.

In the end, most IT pros are happy with their career choice: 84% say they're satisfied or very satisfied with their decision to pursue a career in IT.

Next: Why 2014 is the year to become an independent IT contractor

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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