IT Starting Salaries to Remain Flat in 2002

By David Aponovich

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After several years of healthy pay gains, average base salaries for most IT jobs in the U.S. are expected to barely budge or even drop in 2002, according to a salary survey released this month by RHI Consulting.

Overall, starting salaries for IT pros are projected to rise an average of 0.1% next year, a sharp drop from the 8.4% overall average salary increase predicted one year ago for 2001, although there are some job categories that will see significant jumps, according to the RHI Consulting Salary Guide. RHI, based in Menlo Park, Calif., provides project and full-time IT professionals to corporations. Its study was based on an analysis of thousands of job orders managed by RHI's U.S. offices.

Among top-level IT administrators, RHI forecasts the following:

IT professionals face a vastly different world as 2002 begins than in years past. For several years running, record low unemployment caused by the dot-com boom, the growth in e-business and the strong economy had pushed IT salaries consistently higher. "With the demise of many dot-coms and an overall weakening of the economy, most pay structures have stabilized," says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of RHI Consulting.

She adds that IT professionals who possess "a combination of technical expertise, interpersonal skills, business acumen and industry experience remain in strong demand and can expect continued growth in starting salaries," Lee adds.

Not all job categories will see pay remain flat. RHI reports that for the second straight year, network security professionals will see healthy gains, as base compensation is expected to rise by 3.4%. "Safeguarding corporate data continues to be a priority for businesses; this concern is amplifying demand for IT experts who can establish and monitor security standards," Lee says.

Jobs in the category of applications architect are expected to see the largest anticipated rise in average starting salary in 2002, 6.7%, while starting salaries for consulting and systems integration directors are expected to rise an average of 6.1%, according to the research.

Other specialty job categories that are expected to see notable increases in 2002 based on strong demand for workers include:

Several industries are expected to continue to have strong demand for IT professionals in 2002, including health care, financial services and real estate.

Editor's note: RHI offers a download of its salary report at its Web site.