Tech salaries rose in 2020 — despite COVID-19

A survey shows that pay rose 3.6% despite the pandemic, and by more than 10% in some regions. But the higher wages went to just 52% of tech workers.

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Although the US tech and IT sectors saw major layoffs in mid-2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sectors have recovered most of the lost jobs. Even better, salaries actually rose by 3.6% in 2020, according to’s 2021 Tech Salary Report — and will continue to do so in 2021.

But the salary growth accrued to just 52% of tech employees surveyed; 35% saw flat wages, and the rest (13%) saw declines. Those who saw declines cited a change of employer, layoffs, or company-wide salary reductions as the main causes — all of them effects of the pandemic.

Regional salary trends

Salaries both in California’s Silicon Valley and in Boston rose 2.4%, in line with the national average. But they exploded in several tech hubs:

  • Charlotte, N.C., saw a 13.8% rise in salary to $99,691.
  • Orlando saw a 13.4% rise to $88,598.
  • New York City saw a 11.6% rise to $114,274.
  • Austin, Texas, saw a 9.7% rise to $104,344.
  • Philadelphia saw a 9.3% rise to $96,512.

Detroit, Phoenix, Houston, Minneapolis, and metro Baltimore-Washington all saw salary rises of more than 5%.

Portland, Oregon, saw a 4.6% drop in salaries to $98,026, while Seattle saw a 2.6% decline in salaries to $106,723. Tampa saw a 11% decline to $87,809, Columbus, OH, a 0.6% decline to $91,483, and Chicago, a 0.1% decline to $94,581.

Dice notes that the survey sample in Columbus was fewer than 100 respondents, so the data is not statistically valid but included for continuity with past years’ reports.

Looking at the survey results by state, Maryland had the greatest salary growth: up 13.1% to $109,886, followed by Wisconsin at 9.6% to $97,322 and North Carolina at 9.5% to $97,739. New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Connecticut, Texas, Colorado, and Virginia all had average salary rises of 5% or more.

Washington state saw the biggest drop, of 4.4% to $103,995, followed by Missouri of 1.8% to $87,460, Oregon of 0.6% to $97,317, and Illinois of 0.5% to $93,385. No other states had declines. Dice notes that the survey had enough statistically significant data for 25 states.

average tech salaries by tech hub

Average tech salaries by tech hub.

Salary trends by occupation

The Dice survey shows that cybersecurity analysts gained the highest salary raises, up 16.3% to $103,106. Dice noted that these less-experienced positions saw much greater salary rises than highly skilled cybersecurity engineers (up 4.3% to $134,430), suggesting a shortage of cybersecurity candidates was pushing up wages for junior staff.

Tech support engineers came in second, up 8.2% to $68,651, followed by cloud engineers, up 6.3% to $136,479 and business analysts, up 5.3% to $96,633. The survey showed that data scientists and devops engineers both saw salary growth of more than 10%, but neither group had enough respondents to be statistically valid.

Occupations that saw salary declines were traditional IT roles. Database admins saw salaries decrease by 4.9% to $99,038, followed by help desk technicians who were down 4% to $51,553, IT managers who were down 1.7% to $143,416, and product managers who were down 0.6% to $12,584. The survey showed that mainframe programmer salaries were down 11.2%, but there were not enough respondents to be statistically valid.

Salary trends by skills

Of the 25 skills with highest average salaries, those that got the highest salary increases were for the RabbitMQ messaging broker (up 10.1% to $136,151); Vagrant for virtual-environment management (up 8.5% to $123,615); AI (up 7.2% to $131,907); natural language processing (up 4.8% to $131,542); and the OmniGraffle diagramming tool (up 4.6% to $124,074).

Of the 25 skills with highest average salaries, the skills that saw the steepest salary declines were SAP HANA (down 7.1% to $124,918); the Go language (down 6.1% to $128,001); and Apache Kafka for distributed messaging (down 4.3% to $128,971).

For programmers, the top five salaries were for people experienced in TensorFlow, Go language, Scala, KornShell, and Perl, all of which exceeded $122,000. But except for Perl, all those languages — and most others — saw a decrease in salary in 2020. Of the 25 languages surveyed, only 10 showed salary rises. The top languages in terms of salary growth were Tcl (up 7.8%), Matlab (up 6.2%), Fortran (up 5.2%), Perl (3.9%), and Transact-SQL (up 3.4%).

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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