IT Salaries Going Nowhere

By Allen Bernard

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Base compensation for information technology (IT) professionals is expected to remain at or near 2004 levels, according to the Robert Half Technology (RHT) 2005 Salary Guide.

Starting salaries overall are projected to increase just an average of 0.5%, with larger increases expected in high-demand specialties such as information security and quality assurance.

This compares to the 1.6% decline in base compensation that was projected this time last year.

"As the economy gains momentum and businesses pursue new technology initiatives, the need for experienced IT professionals will continue to rise," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "While average starting salaries should remain relatively stable in 2005, compensation levels within many specialties will increase as demand for these skills becomes more pronounced."

In Demand Specialties

According to the survey, systems auditors will see the greatest starting salary increases of any single job classification in 2005, with base compensation expected to rise 5.1%, to the range of $63,250 to $81,750 annually.

"Demand for this specialty is also being driven by businesses' ongoing efforts to maintain compliance with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999," said Lee.

The survey also revealed that average starting compensation for pre- and post-sales consultants is projected to increase 3.9% in 2005, to between $53,500 and $78,250.

Starting salaries for programmer/analysts are expected to rise to the range of $52,500 to $83,250, a 3.6% increase.

Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • Quality assurance/testing managers will earn average starting salaries of between $64,750 and $86,750 annually, a gain of 2.2% over 2004.
  • Network security administrators can expect base compensation in the range of $63,750 to $90,500, an increase of 2.3% over 2004 starting salaries.
  • Business systems analysts will see starting salaries increase 1.9% to the range of $56,000 to $80,500 per year.
  • Average starting salaries for Internet/intranet administrators will decline 1.2%, bringing base compensation to the range of $48,250 to $70,750 annually.

    Base compensation for desktop support analysts will decrease 3.8%, with starting salaries in the range of $44,500 to $63,250.

    Industries forecasting particularly strong demand for IT professionals in 2005 include financial services, real estate and business services. However, hiring activity varies significantly by geographic region. All salaries listed are national averages. A regional analysis of hiring trends and compensation variances is included in the Salary Guide.

    Information in the Salary Guide is based on the thousands of job searches, negotiations and placements conducted each year by RHT. Continuing or ongoing salaries are not reported because too many factors -- such as seniority, work ethic, performance and training -- can impact a full-time employee's compensation as his or her work history develops.