Decreasing IT payment packets persist: study

Canadian IT salaries are still sliding downwards, according to the recently released annual Robert Half Technology 2004 Salary Guide, but, on the bright side, the rate of decline has levelled off.

Overall, IT salaries in 2004 are expected to decline just under 2 per cent, which is about the same as in 2003, noted Stephen Mill, Toronto-based regional manager for Robert Half.

“Two years ago the decline was a lot steeper,” he said. “Not in all positions, but in more positions than we would like to have seen.”

Despite the overall downward salary trend, some high-demand IT occupations are seeing increases.

Leading the way are network engineers, who can expect a rise of 2.6 per cent in starting salary to a range of $58,000 to $81,250.

Some other occupations that should see overall increases include: data security analysts, whose starting salaries should rise 1.8 per cent to the range of $65,500 to $88,250; disaster recovery specialists, who can expect their base pay to rise 1.2 per cent to between $59,000 and $89,000 annually; and quality assurance/testing managers, whose starting pay should go up 1.8 per cent to between $51,750 to $62,750.

Some of the occupations that will see the largest declines included: information systems managers, whose starting salaries will drop an average of 7.7 per cent to a range of $85,500 to $115,000; and applications development managers, whose pay will plummet 5.8 per cent to between $71,500 and $107,500.

Most high-level IT positions, such as CIOs and CTOs, will see steep salary slides in 2004, Mill noted, to the tune of around six per cent. While base salary may still be going down, companies are throwing other perks into their pay packets.

“Performance bonuses, benefits, time off, holidays and tuition reimbursement are all more in fashion in terms of compensation,” Mill said. “It’s not just about the base salary like it was three to four years ago.”

Another job factor that’s changed from the boom times of the late 1990s is that companies expect IT employees to bring more than one skillset to the table.

“If I need to hire for a specific role, I’m probably going to ask for three or four additional things for that person to bring with them,” Mill explained. “Whereas if you go back three or four years, employers were probably not getting everything they wanted even in the area of the specific role. If you’d done it a little bit, they’d take you. Now if you haven’t done the role and you don’t have incremental add-on skills, the chances are employers won’t want to talk to you.”

The slide in Canadian IT salaries mirrors what’s happening south of the border. For the second consecutive year, some respondents to an annual salary survey conducted by Computerworld (U.S.) reported that their pay shrank in company-mandated salary reductions. The average amount of the pay cuts was 13 per cent.

Respondents to the survey who received raises last year, instead of cuts, reported an average increase of 6.7 per cent.

When looking at IT salaries, people need to keep in mind that there will always be wide variations.

“Salaries vary so much by region and industry that you really need to compare apples to apples,” said Laurie Levenson, president of DirectAccess Technology Staffing Inc. in Carlsbad, Calif.

– with files from IDG News Service

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