Network infrastructure consultant

The average IT manager in Canada makes more than $80,000 a year, and this makes it hard for Marc Ramsay to keep good people. Ramsay, a network infrastructure consultant in Coquitlam, B.C., said he has to offer more money to keep people around.

“Most guys I know are staying where they are,” he said. “We’ve been advertising for people. If you’re good, you’re not around. If you’re a hack, you are.”

While some executives have to deal with tight IT budgets, and others get snubbed by senior executives who don’t consult them on key decisions, tech workers across Canada are rolling in the dough and overall, job satisfaction seems to be high, according to respondents to an IT World Canada poll.

IT World Canada surveyed 3, 615 full-time IT professionals from coast to coast about their salaries and job satisfaction, and found that some are still struggling with the common perceptions associated with the profession, whether it be the nerdy helper drones best kept in the server room or that IT is an easy way to earn a quick buck.

Whether they’re network technicians or even the lowliest support chud, IT staffers are, as always, doing well in the money department. The lowest-paid sector is the education space, where IT staff make an average of $71,000 (including bonuses). And the highest? The average of $104, 921 for IT staffers in the energy and utilities sector.

When one chucks region and industry, the average IT executive salary is $118,002, or a full compensation package of $135,920. Don’t envy them too much. Sandra Lavoy, regional vice-president with recruiting firm Robert Half International, said the C-levels are the ones who suffer salary freezes and decreases during tight times.

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But, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s online mortgage calculator, an IT exec that could come up with a down payment of $40,000 with a 25-year mortgage of around six per cent could afford a $438,020 home. For this price, they could buy a nice-ish apartment in a big city, or a decent house on the outskirts of the city. (The average house price in April 2008 was just under $400,000, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board, while Vancouver has ballooned to an average price of over $550,000.) Those in the farther reaches of the country — especially in the Maritimes, or the less-popular Prairie provinces — could probably buy a beautiful place with that, depending on the market.

IT managers are making an average of $82,281 (or $87,917 for the whole package), while the average IT staffer makes $66,762 (and a full compensation package of $70,453).

IT staffers on their own could probably only afford a pretty small apartment in most of the bigger cities and their outskirts, or a house in the Atlantic provinces for the maximum purchase price of about $204,000. IT pros continue to be in demand — compensation increases are ahead of the cost of living index. But they’re not ahead enough to be considered carrots to lure in and retain the skilled workers, according to the survey. When it comes to average increases, execs reap the most benefit, coming in at 4.6 per cent. IT managers get 3.4 per cent and IT staff get 3.2 per cent increases.

You really have to like IT to put up with a lot of the crapMarc Ramsay>Text

General job satisfaction is high, with 60 per cent of the respondents claiming to be satisfied or very satisfied in their jobs. Levoy said that IT’s role as an integral part in business initiatives means that there are a lot of diverse opportunities for IT staff these days.

“It’s always changing,” said John Meeuwse, CIO for Ontario’s West Nipissing General Hospital. Eighty-seven per cent of the survey respondents, in fact, would still recommend IT as a career choice.

But 61 per cent of respondents are looking for another job, a response that Lavoy attributes to lack of recognition.

“We only get the phone calls when something goes wrong,” Meeuwse said. “It’d be nice to be there at the beginning of projects.There was a recent extension of the server room that was planned for a brick room. It would have been nice to have been asked, ‘What are your ideas?’ If you’re spending the money you might was well trust your IT staff.”

Regardless of what they think of them, the industry is hiring these people. According to the survey, 2007 saw 68 per cent of the respondents hiring new IT staff. 2008 is shaping up to be a good year, too: 59 per cent of respondents expect to hire new IT staff this year. And, said Ramsay, hirer beware.

“A lot of people are getting into IT not because they like it or are good at it but because of the big pay cheque,” he said, adding this has resulted in incompetents cluttering the field; Ramsay himself recently fired a dud who had padded his resume.

“You really have to like IT to put up with a lot of the crap,” said Ramsay.

The most sought-after skills include expertise in networks, SQL Server and.Net. One that appears to be in demand, but that is lacking, is IT security, according to both Levoy and Meeuwse.

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