Software Developers Taking a Starting Salary Hit

A shrinking dollar forces technology workers to accept positions at lower salaries than they did just a month ago.

With news of hiring freezes and budget cutbacks popping up everywhere, the job market is looking increasingly stormy for new graduates.

A new report offers scant encouragement.

Starting salaries for software developers and network and systems administrators have dipped by as much as $10,000 in May, according to JobFox, an employment firm.

Software designers and developers reported that though they'd been requesting a median salary range of $95,000 to $105,000 in April, this range had fallen to $85,000 to $95,000 in May. Networking professionals and systems administrators reported the same $10,000 drop, but with a bigger impact on their now $65,000 asking salary.

These two job categories were among five in which job seekers reported a reduction in the salary range they were requesting, including product managers, now asking a median salary of $85,000, and those in government contracts administration, who were settling for $55,000 instead of $65,000.

To many, these lowered salary expectations are a sign that the economic slowdown once limited in impact to the credit sector has now inched into other areas.

"It is alarming. I don't think it's a two-alarm fire or anything yet, but what we're hearing is that job seekers are maybe not landing the job or the salary they thought they would, so they're lowering their salary brackets," Barry Lawrence, a JobFox spokesperson, told eWEEK.

"We're feeling the squeeze at the pump, and new graduates are feeling it as well."

Other economic indicators have also painted an ominous picture of the job market new graduates are walking into. The Labor Department reported that hourly wages are stagnating, rising just one cent in April, and that average hourly earnings are up 3.4 percent over the last 12-month period, lagging behind inflation. The Consumer Price Index, or "cost of living" measure, has also increased, as has the number of people working part time because their hours have been cut or they could not find full-time jobs.

Despite this, JobFox says that software design and development positions are still the top category in their online job board, in line with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 10-year economic outlook, which found that software developers and engineers are expected to be the fourth fastest-growing occupation between 2006 and 2016.

JobFox advises graduates not to focus too heavily on salaries, which are expected to improve in time.

"While overall median salaries may be slightly lower in a few professions, keep in mind that many new job openings are filled by professionals who are still getting a personal salary increase to go along with greater responsibilities and opportunities to grow," said Rob McGovern, CEO of JobFox.

"I advise job seekers to pick the best jobs over the best salaries. Salary rewards will eventually catch up."

Furthermore, graduates are advised to opt for jobs that will provide them with the best training and foundation for future jobs.

"Go for jobs that will give you exposure to the hottest technologies and higher languages such as AJAX," said Lawrence.