IT salaries holding the line

You’re largely satisfied with your job. In general, you feel it’s at least somewhat secure. There’s a good chance your company will be hiring this year.

On the other hand, the economy has stifled your wage growth. And in the unlikely event you’re a woman in IT, you’re getting paid less than the men.

Data from the 2012 ComputerWorld Canada IT Salary Survey shows anemic growth in base salary for most IT professionals — about 1.7 per cent for managers and 1.4 per cent for technical staff.
Our 2012 survey results are based on the largest sample we’ve ever been able to assemble through our online survey tool. We analyzed the results of 4,686 IT employees in Canada for the report across regions, vertical industries, public and private sector organizations and more to draw as accurate a picture as possible of the state of compensation and job satisfaction among IT workers in Canada.
Here’s some of what we’ve found:
Wages are holding the line — barely
Despite the influence of turmoil in the European and American economies, wages, for the most part, didn’t fall. But they didn’t climb handily, either. The average salary for IT managers rose to about $89,500 from $88,000 the previous year. Staff and technical workers’ salaries rose narrowly to about $71,000 from $70,000 the year before. Senior managers and IT executives reported better salary growth, up to about $120,000 compared to $115,000 the previous year, a jump of about four per cent.

Cash bonuses — but not for everyone
Almost half of those surveyed (49 per cent) said they weren’t on any cash bonus package at all. Of those who were, technical workers averaged about $4,000 in bonuses, managers about $9,200, and — in one of the biggest disparities our survey turned up — senior managers and executives reported an average $23,900 in bonuses.

Outstanding fields
Looking for a salary considerably above the $81,600 average for an IT professional in Canada? Agriculture/construction ($126,700), biotechnology/pharmaceuticals ($98,200) and energy/utilities ($95,300) stand out as particularly high-paying verticals. Agriculture displaced defence/aerospace for a spot in the top three this year.
On the other end of the scale, the non-profit ($66,600), hospitality and tourism ($69,900) and automotive ($66,900) sectors continue to post average salaries well below the norm. Not only are they lower than the average, IT wages in the auto and tourism industries actually fell from last year’s survey, by about $5,000 each.

Where’s the money?
Base salaries on average were highest across the board in the Greater Toronto Area ($89,000), compared to the average of $81,600), followed by Alberta ($86,000) and the rest of Ontario, excluding Toronto ($81,300). The Atlantic region (Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) was the lowest-paying region at $67,000. Closer to average were British Columbia ($79,000), Quebec ($77,400) and the Prairies (with the northern territories added in because of the small sample size, ($73,700). No real surprises there; it’s reflective, more or less, of the disparity in the cost of living. A couple of anomalies, though: Alberta boasted the highest average pay for IT managers ($99,000), while IT executives were paid least in the Prairies.

Where are the women?
At only 16 per cent of the IT workforce, women are underrepresented, particularly in the senior management and executive ranks (11 per cent). But those women in executive positions are making more than their male counterparts, averaging $131,000 to the men’s $118,500. But at the management and technical levels, women are paid less than men ($88,000 versus $90,000 and $67,800 versus $72,000, respectively). Age disparity doesn’t account for it, either: 52 per cent of male respondents were 45 or younger, compared to 43 per cent of the women.

Age bubble
Fully two-thirds of survey respondents reported being in the 46 to 55 or 56 to 65 age brackets. Almost half (46 per cent) of senior managers and executives were concentrated in the 56 to 65 age bracket. While there’s a strong correlation between age and compensation, as one would expect, IT managers’ average salaries actually top out in the 46 to 65 age bracket at $98,000, then decline narrowly between 56 and 65 ($97,000).

Educating IT
The overwhelming majority of respondents said they’d reached a bachelor’s degree (46 per cent) or community college or technical degree (33 per cent), numbers that remain relatively consistent across the ages of the respondents. Only in the under-25 age group did college degrees outnumber BAs (45 to 35 per cent). Computer Science degrees dominated with 43 per cent of respondents, while 16 per cent studied in another technical field. Business (13 per cent), Liberal Arts and Humanities (6 per cent) and other (13 per cent) rounded out the areas of study.

Feeling secure
In general, IT professionals surveyed feel secure in their employment, with 89 per cent saying they felt at least somewhat secure (16 per cent described their positions as “very secure, and 33 per cent as “secure”). Those numbers were consistent despite the age, length of time in the industry and position of the respondents. What did affect the numbers was the nature of the position: Contractors and consultants were three times more likely (30 per cent) to describe their positions as “not very secure” or “not at all secure.”

Satisfaction guaranteed?
For the most part, IT pros reported they were satisfied (53 per cent) or very satisfied (16 per cent) in their current position. Numbers were higher for executive and senior positions, at 54 and 25 per cent, respectively. But more were less satisfied (21 per cent) than more satisfied (20 per cent) than they were a year ago.

Who’s hiring — and for what
Forty-five per cent of our survey respondents said their firms were in the market for new talent in the next 12 months, while 36 per cent said their company wasn’t hiring and 19 per cent didn’t know. While applications development is No. 1 on the wish list at 57 per cent, it could be the year of the generalist: general IT functions (28 per cent) and help desk/tech support (39 per cent) are also in demand). Database analysis and development (31 per cent) and business intelligence (29 per cent) round out the top five in-demand tech skills.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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