Apr 25, 2008 (08:04 PM EDT)
Average Info Tech Pay Drops To $103,000 For Managers, $76,000 For Staff, Our Survey Finds

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The most eye-popping statistic from InformationWeek's annual U.S. IT Salary Survey is the dip in median total pay, down about $2,000 to $76,000 for staff and $103,000 for managers. But digging deeper into the survey of more than 9,600 participants reveals other insights into the state of the IT profession, from how common raises are to how much training companies are providing.

Companies put the brakes on raises in the past year. Last year, 74% of IT staffers and 80% of IT managers reported a salary increase, while only 65% of staffers and 71% of managers are getting raises this year. And the raises are smaller: IT staffers get a median base salary raise of 2.9%, versus 3.3% in 2007, while managers get a median 3.7% hike, compared with 4.2% last year.

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Since mid-2007, employers have gotten conservative with pay and raises, says David Van De Voort, of the human resources consulting firm Mercer. Also, the last remnants of special treatment--programs and perks uniquely tailored to recruit and retain IT people--are gone. "IT is being affected like everyone else now," Van De Voort says.

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Bill O'Reilly has gotten better-than-average raises over the past two years, but he's had to work for it. After six years as IT manager at Seattle Prostate Institute, which treats prostate cancer patients, O'Reilly bagged a 10% raise a year ago, in part because he had an offer from another job at a high-tech company at the same salary he was making, plus stock options and "lots of high-tech toys to play with." This year, his raise will be around 3.5% to 4%, and the job comes with good benefits and quarterly profit sharing that added $3,500 to $4,000 last year.

The median bonus this year is down $1,000, to $3,000 for staff and $7,000 for managers. Bonuses make up about 4% of staff compensation and 7% for managers, which is the average percentage over the past 10 years if you ignore 2001, when the tech bubble ballooned bonuses to 16% of pay. Half of staffers and two-thirds of managers got bonuses. Most--63% of IT staff and 71% of IT managers--are based upon individual performance, followed by profit sharing (42% staff, 47% management), and project milestones (15% and 21%).

Mercer's Van De Voort says information security isn't as hot an area across the board as in recent years, though our results show continued strong salaries. In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, anything security was in high demand, with tons of training classes and certification programs to feed demand for people going into that work. Now supply is meeting demand, and "lower-end security has cooled down considerably," says Van De Voort. High-end skills, though, such as security governance and security policy, remain hot, he says. Our survey shows total compensation for security managers rising to a median of $118,000, from $109,000, while security is the fifth-highest-paying staff function, up to $86,000.