The problem with IT Salary Surveys

I enjoy reading the salary surveys when they come out but am always left wanting to do further analysis on the numbers. Unfortunately, the survey is a secondary source of data with pre-packaged analysis and often unrepresentative samples.


The InformationWeek 2012 IT Salary Survey reports that IT salaries still are rebounding from the implosion of the IT bubble, the collapse of the banking sector, the housing market collapse, the trouble with tribbles, etc. 

Generally, the numbers reported by the salary survey are disappointing, with salaries increase very little.

When I read about IT help desk folks earning a meager salary of just $55k/year I flinch. And then when they report that ERP techies only earning salaries of $105k/year I just want to throw up.   

Architects, like myself, saw salaries increase from $110k in 2010, to $112k in 2011, to $118k in 2012. A meager increase to be sure. Total compensation figures show bonuses flat from 2011 t0 2012; total compensation in 2010 for architects of  $120k, $123k in 2011, and $129k for 2012.

Not surprisingly, regardless of sector or geography, Cloud Computing as a specialty pays the highest salaries.

The situation is worse when you consider the numbers in that are being reported for CIOs and CTOs, the top of the techie food chain.

First, I have to say that I have  a tough time seeing any CIO that I know or have known entering their data into an online survey. Second, the numbers for the highest IT position are incredibly low (even taking into account that the salary survey is reporting the mean).   

That aside, according to the survey, the CIO saw increases from $140k in 2010, to $142k , $147k in 2012. While the CTO made out worse, with a flat salary from 2010 to 2011 of $120k. And a drop in 2012 to $117k.

We see the same patterns as with the architect for the CIO. His bonus grew in 2010 providing him a total compensation of $157k in 2010, $161k for 2011, and $161k in 2012. While the CTO dropped in 2012 from $130k in 2010, to $140k in 2011, to, wince, $129k in 2012. Not good for the chief technologist.

As we would anticipate the folks working for the larger banks and the growing biotech sectors are earning the highest salaries. Higher company revenues appeared to translate to higher IT wages in the salary survey. And while they did break out salary by age, I would have like to see salary by experience by salary and title.  

I have to hand it to the surveyors, it was great that they thought to ask: “Which of the following business or technical skills are critical to your job?” The number one answer from responders was “Aligning business and technology goals”. It is great to read that IT is aligned with the businesses that they support. This is key to the success of the organization.

With the fewest responding that “Seeking out new business opportunities” were critical to their jobs. Another good answer. It shows that IT folks are focused on their core activities.

When asked, “ Please specify the type(s) of non-cash and indirect cash rewards you expect to receive in the next 12 months” overwhelmingly responders selected health insurance and 401(k) match. Clearly healthcare is on the minds of many going into the elections in November.

When geography is considered, not surprisingly San Francisco, Washington and New York are the places to be if you want to work in IT. Though there are some specialty markets opening up that offer a less expensive lifestyle.

So, for an online survey, it was interesting. But I am a little suspect of the numbers, given the surveyors methodology was one of fielding data online. The issues are (1) that there is no way to ensure that the person online is telling the truth and (2) the survey is, or may be, a representative sample of readers of InformationWeek, rather than all of IT.

Do the numbers look correct to you? Let me know what you think.