IT salary survey: Hopes for a better 2004

More than four out of 10 U.S. IT workers received no raises during 2003, but 60 per cent expect to receive a raise of at least three per cent in 2004, according to a new survey released by skills assessment firm Brainbench Inc.

Only 12 per cent of IT workers surveyed by Brainbench expect no raise in 2004, while about 14 per cent expect raises of eight per cent or more, according to the e-mail survey of more than 2,100 registered members of Brainbench in the U.S. Those numbers show a more optimistic IT workforce following a year that was even worse than 2002 for IT salaries, said Mike Russiello, president and chief executive officer of Brainbench, based in Chantilly, Va.

“The look toward the future part of the survey was surprisingly optimistic,” Russiello said. “After three years of declining raises, you could take one view … that it’s going to get better.”

IT hiring managers may want to pay attention to those salary expectations in 2004, Russiello said. “As a manager, I look at that, and think, ‘so these guys have expectations that had better be met or we could lose some talent,'” he added. “These folks must be seeing something to make them optimistic.”

IT workers are choosing to think positively about salaries although they’re getting at best a mixed message about demand for IT workers in the U.S., he added. While there are signs of the U.S. economy improving and predictions of increased IT spending in 2004, the media continues to report of a growing trend among IT companies to outsource IT jobs or move them overseas, he noted.

“I hear from the IT guys in our group that the job market has heated up for them,” Russiello added. “If they want to leave and find work elsewhere, it’s there for them. They don’t have to hunker down anymore; that seems to be attitude.”

In 2003, 43 per cent of IT workers received no raises, while another 23 per cent received raises between one and three per cent, according to the survey, released last week. Just nine per cent received raises of more than eight per cent. In 2002, 36 per cent of those responding to the Brainbench survey received no raises, 26 per cent received raises of between one and three per cent, and another 28 per cent received raises between three and eight percent.

Elsewhere in the survey, 27 per cent of respondents indicated they received an IT certification in the past year. Only six percent said the main motivation for the certification was to receive a higher salary, while 49 per cent said their motivation was to increase their skills. Another 21 per cent said their motivation was to move to a new job or a new job focus, and 11 per cent said the certification was necessary because they perceived a lack of their own skills.

Brainbench didn’t ask why its 2002 respondents received certifications, but 65 per cent of those receiving certifications in the 2002 survey received raises of five per cent or more, according to the 2002 survey. About 28 per cent of respondents in 2002 received certifications.

Money appears to be less of a motivating factor for certifications than in the past, with certifications becoming less attractive to hiring managers since the late ’90s, Russiello said. IT hiring managers during the past couple of years have tended to look for experience, instead of only certifications, he said.

A lessened focus on earning certifications as a way to get salary increases may indicate the maturing of the IT workforce, he added.

“It almost makes you think the IT workforce has morphed a little bit, and is no longer full of new entrants who are only there because they heard IT was the place to make a lot of money,” Russiello said. “It’s more people who genuinely enjoy and have dedicated themselves to being a professional in this space.”

Brainbench’s customers are companies looking to improve the skills of their IT staffs, either by testing the skills of current staff or testing the skills of IT job applicants, and Russiello said he’s optimistic about the coming year. “We’re hopeful for ’04,” Russiello said. “I’d definitely say we’ve seen an uptick in (customer) activity in the last three months.”

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