IT Worker Salaries Slide

However, employers continue to pay more to those with security skills.

Dragged down by the ongoing tech spending slowdown, IT salaries continued to slide in the first quarter of this year, although employers continue to be willing to pay more to employees who have certified security, database, project management, and systems and network operating system skills, according to a recently released survey of 30,000 IT professionals representing state and federal government, educational institutions, and 24 private-sector industries.

Average annual base salaries for all IT positions tracked by Foote Partners LLC, of New Canaan, Conn., fell 5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2002 compared with the first quarter of last year. Job families that experienced the steepest one-year base pay declines were e-commerce (14.6 percent), Web (13.6 percent) and business applications development (11.4 percent). Only three of the 17 IT job families tracked by Foote Partners experienced any increase in average base salaries: network operations (2.1 percent), security (3.1 percent) and SAP (4.3 percent).

Its not hard to see why salaries for business application development, e-commerce- and Web-related jobs slumped, given the burst dot-com bubble and the layoffs that it wrought. "There are so many people out there who are coders. Its not that theres less demand [for the skills], its that you can get the talent cheaper," pointed out David Foote, president and chief research officer at Foote Partners.

Security was the only job family that showed consistent increases in compensation levels in the first quarter. In fact, security was the only job family that experienced an increase in bonus pay, with average bonuses climbing 9.5 percent.

By contrast, bonus pay for job families such as data warehousing (down 26.1 percent), help desk (down 33.2 percent) and architecture (down 44.6 percent) all fell.

The pay increases for security positions continues a two-year trend, according to the Foote Partners research. Over the last two years, for example, professionals holding senior security analyst titles saw total pay (base salary plus bonuses) increase by 14.7 percent on average. Security directors saw total pay increase 24.9 percent on average over the last two years.

The fact that security and network operations salaries are holding strong reflects the fact that in spite of the recession, security budgets havent dipped, Foote said. Indeed, 95 percent of those surveyed said security budgets have stayed the same or increased from last year. "People are securing the corporate networks," he said. "Theyre saying, Look, were doing business over networks. They have to work all the time. They have to be as impervious to downtime as anything. [As a result], theyre spending on [network and security] technology and on the people [who have those associated skills]."

While employers generally showed little willingness to increase compensation for non-security IT professionals, they continue to shell out higher bonuses to workers who obtain formal skills certifications, specifically in database, project management, security, and network and system operating systems.

Bonuses paid to employees holding project management certifications, for example, averaged 15 percent of base salary, the survey showed, up by 15.4 percent over the rate of a year ago. Median bonuses paid for database certifications in the first quarter stood at 11.7 percent, up 13 percent over a year ago. And average bonuses paid to holders of security certifications was 8.5 percent of base salary in the first quarter, up 21.4 percent from a year ago.