Survey: Raises for security pros decline

Salary increases for security professionals have dropped over the past 18 months, despite the renewed focus on security since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a survey released yesterday by the SANS Institute Inc.

Even though they remain among the highest-paid IT workers, security and systems administrators are still affected by the dot-com bust and the overall gloomy economic climate, according to the survey of 1,214 security and systems administration professionals.

According to the survey, conducted during April and May, salary increases for security professionals have declined since December 2000 from 11.6 per cent to 7 per cent. But, according to SANS, a research and education organization, security professionals still get better raises than their colleagues who work in networking and application development.

The average annual salary paid to security and systems staff surveyed was US$69,340. Bonuses paid to security pros last year averaged 14.5 per cent of base salaries, SANS said.

Alan Paller, director of research at the Bethesda, Md.-based SANS Institute, said there has been a fundamental shift for a once highly mobile community.

According to Paller, companies suffering from budget cuts aren’t hiring new security personnel and instead are training their current employees in security functions. Therefore, there’s no increase in demand to drive up salaries.

Another recent survey, by Foote Partners LLC, a management consultancy and IT workforce research firm in New Canaan, Conn., found that salaries for corporate security positions increased from the first quarter of 2001 to the first quarter of 2002 by an average of 3.1 per cent, while bonuses increased by an average of 9.5 per cent. (David Foote, president of Foote Partners, is a Computerworld columnist.)

But security pros fared better than other high-tech workers, whose salaries dropped 5.5 per cent on average during that same time period, according to Foote, which interviewed 30,000 IT workers, including 1,245 security pros.

New England, New York and New Jersey reported salaries that were 9 per cent more than the U.S. average, while the West Coast and Mid-Atlantic states reported salary increases of 4 per cent and 3 per cent above the national average, respectively, according to the SANS survey.

Companies that had more than 10,000 employees paid their security and systems administration staff nearly 10 per cent more on average than smaller employers, SANS said. And security and systems administrators overseeing Unix systems reported salaries 25 per cent higher than those who worked mostly with Windows systems.