IT jobs pay well for those in the right place

Junior roles in the Australian IT sector vary little between our capital cities. For those at the top of their game, though, a move to Sydney is on the cards.

There does seem to be a slight optimism in the air when it comes to IT recruitment. According to recruiter Peoplebank, we saw demand lifting in the last few months, and it is expected to continue, pushing us above where we were this time last year.

Its view is contrary to Dun and Bradstreet's latest Business Expectations Survey, which shows that hiring expectations of businesses has declined for six consecutive quarters, and is now at its lowest level in four years. Yet, recruitment firm Hays said employers are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. In other words, nobody really knows.

However, we can assume that as mining moves from development to operations, jobs in that sector will dwindle. If the economy does take a hit, we can hope that our sector doesn't feel the full force — as we reported last month, job ads might be down, but the IT sector has increased its share over the last year.

Around the world, IT salaries are on the rise, but no more than the general market, and, for most people, not more than 3 percent in the last year. The Hays survey shows that growth is slowing a lot in the year ahead: 8 percent of employees are planning to keep salaries where they are for now, and a further 57 percent will add less than 3 percent to the wages bill.

Image: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet

The Peoplebank salary survey shows that Sydney is still the place to work — not only does it account for 40 percent of all roles, but the pay is also better. A senior applications development manager working on large projects could earn AU$200,000 in the harbour city, compared to an average of AU$127,000 in Brisbane. In theory, a CIO in Brissie could double his or her salary by heading south.

Image: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet

Whilst the difference is substantial for those on the big bucks, it's a little less pronounced further down the corporate ladder. An experienced change manager, for example, is likely to earn roughly the same in Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth (AU$140,000 to AU$150,000). A Brisbane-based web developer on AU$90,000 per year might see a 10 percent salary hike by moving to Sydney or Melbourne.

For many people, even a slight wage differential is worth the move. Sydney's cost of living used to be the big issue, but now the differential is less pronounced. The cost of living index on has Sydney at 111.6 (100 is New York), Melbourne at 108.9, Brisbane at 106.5, and Adelaide at 105.4. Perth, at 121.1, is the surprise outsider. Over there, salaries are lower than the country's two biggest cities, but living is more expensive.

It's all a little academic, of course. Forty percent of IT jobs are in Sydney. Job hunters need to be prepared to move. And don't assume it's a job seeker's market; a few years ago, recruiters claimed a shortage of skilled labour — the latest Hays survey shows only 3 percent of companies found it hard to source senior management roles in IT.

So the tide has turned. Time to get on yer bike and move to where the jobs are. But unless you're moving there to lead a department, don't expect to get paid much more for the privilege.