The results of our 2011 salary survey

Canadian IT professionals have gotten through the most recent recession feeling secure in their roles, generally satisfied and not actively looking to jump ship, based on the data compiled in ComputerWorld Canada’s 2011 IT Salary and Skills Survey.

Conducted via an e-mail questionnaire that was completed by more than 3,000 full-time technology workers in organizations across Canada earlier this year, the survey indicated very slight increases in overall total compensation. This includes $123,800 for senior executives such as CIOs, compared to $117,985 last year; $88,000 for IT managers compared to $85,000 last year; and $70,000 for staff and technical positions compared to $67,000 in 2010. 

Bonuses were also up very slightly, with senior IT executives getting an average of $20,000 and IT managers about $7,000. Perhaps more important than the numbers on compensation, however, was the overall positive attitude reflected by those who took the survey. It was in sharp contrast to the results of our sister publication in the U.S., where 48 per cent said their base salary had either stayed the same or decreased, and 22 per cent said they were less satisfied in their jobs than in 2010.

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These two studies don’t really allow for an apples-to-apples comparison — we have slightly different questions, and the overall size of industries and economy is obviously not the same — but the underlying message was an underpaid, overworked group of IT departments. This just isn’t true in the Canadian environment. 

What follows are some of the highlights from this year’s survey, along with our take on what the numbers could mean. A few notes about our survey sample: The professionals who took part in the research were largely highly-experienced people, with approximately 68 per cent in the 36 to 55-year-old range. Although 30 per cent have been with their current employer less than five years, 26 have been in the profession for more than 10 years, and 20 per cent have been working in IT for 25 years or more. Their educational backgrounds, meanwhile, are quite diverse. Seventy-one per cent have either a university or college degree, but less than half, 43 per cent, have an actual degree in computer science, which reflects the changing requirements to succeed as a technology leader.

And of course, all this data feeds into our ever-popular Salary Calculator, which allows IT professionals to benchmark themselves more specifically against their job title, industry and geography. Try it out at

The question: Which are the highest (and lowest) paying provinces for IT workers in Canada?

The stats: The Yukon and North West Territories scored tops with an average salary of $90,000, followed by Alberta, Manitoba and B.C., which all had averages in the mid-$80,000s.

The analysis: Ontario-based IT professionals might have expected to score better than an average salary of $83,000, but this is where the sample needs to be studied in more detail. For obvious reasons, we got many more responses from Ontario than other provinces, and the fewest from the Yukon, which certainly skews some results. But there’s no question that Western Canada is a serious competitor for IT talent. On the other side of the country, even Newfoundland did well with an average salary of $84,000. There isn’t necessarily a fallout for IT managers or staff who don’t want to live in the so-called Centre of the Universe that is Toronto.

The question: What are the best (and worst) paying industries for IT professionals?

The stats: Defence/aerospace average salaries were $120,775, followed by biotech firms at $100,098. At the opposite end of the spectrum was hospitality/travel/tourism, at about $75,000 and automotive, where average salaries were $71,580.

The analysis: Can car companies really pay so low for IT staff? This could say something about the hit major automakers took during the most recent recession, but possibly such companies are investing more in the technology staff who work on the R&D side rather than those who are running their office IT. A better story is the fact that there was reasonable consistency across most industries, such as government, health, transportation and banking, which all had average salaries in the $80,000-$86,000 range. Energy/utilities, finance/accounting and computer-related manufacturing were somewhat higher, in the $90,000-$100,000 range. If IT managers or staff were thinking about crossing over into the channel, they might want to think again: IT staff working for resellers were making, on average, $73,000.

The question: How satisfied are you in your job?

The stats: Some 68 per cent said they were either very satisfied or satisfied, compared with about 14 per cent who said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Nearly 20 per cent were ambivalent.

The analysis: Although the overall satisfaction rate is quite high, that 17.98 per cent who said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied should be a concern. It’s possible that these IT professionals are feeling the most fluctuation in their degree of fulfillment on a day-to-day basis. It’s also possible that, amid a world of outsourcing, cloud computing, bring your own device and other factors that disintermediate the IT department, some are finding it difficult to really identify what “job satisfaction” really means any more.

The question: Do you expect your company will be hiring new IT staff in the next 12 months?

The stats: Nearly half of all respondents expect to see new faces on their team by mid-2012. And there’s a sizable group, probably more junior staff, who aren’t able to answer because it won’t be their decision, so the overall hiring trend is likely higher than reported in this survey.

The analysis: Even as organizations virtualize their infrastructure or move to off-premise data centres, there’s a growing need for the right kind of talent.

The question: For what skills do you expect your company to hire in the next 12 months?

The stats: Apart from the top five listed in the chart, 25 per cent said network administration, 23 per cent mentioned security, 21 per cent cited other networking skills, and even Web design crept in at 20 per cent.

The analysis: So much for the idea that cloud computing and on-demand IT will eliminate the need for traditional tech support, or that the only areas of career growth will be in specialized niches. In fact, cloud computing skills were cited by only 18 per cent of respondents, and SaaS was even weaker at 7.95 per cent. It could be that the related skills in this area aren’t fully understood yet, of course, and it’s early enough in the potential transition to the cloud for most organization to be prioritizing their hiring in that way. More disappointing was the lacklustre interest around skills in mobility (just over 11 per cent) and unified communications (7.53 per cent), which suggests Canadian IT shops may not be as quick to adopt such technologies as some vendors and analysts have always assumed.  The fact that application development ranked No. 1 is no surprise here, but the big scores for help desk and general IT skills indicates that enterprise CIOs and IT managers are not about to ignore the fundamentals of corporate IT anytime soon.

The question: How would you describe your job search status?

The stats: Although 46 per cent would consider a move if the right opportunity came along, a significant number (40 per cent) don’t consider themselves on the market at all.

The analysis: This area ties in a lot with the chart on job security. Whether they are paid what they deserve, IT professionals must feel some level of appreciation by their employers and co-workers. Either that, or they don’t necessarily see the grass being any greener at many other firms. There was next to no one (2.67 per cent) searching for a job outside of IT, and a whopping 85 per cent were either satisfied or very satisfied with their decision to pursue a career in this profession. Even during the summer, it doesn’t get much sunnier than that.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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