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2015 IT salary survey highlights differences in pay by IT role

Our 2015 IT salaries survey reveals the average pay for IT pros in the U.S., broken down by role and region of the country, job aspirations, optimism levels, and key tech projects.

Senior IT executives -- CIOs, CTOs, executive vice presidents and directors of IT, MIS or IS -- continued to top...

the IT professional salary charts in TechTarget's 2015 Annual IT Salary and Careers Survey, pulling in almost twice as much on average as network managers and IT staff.

The average base salary for all U.S. respondents to the 2015 IT salary survey, no matter the role, was $100,333, and the average total compensation -- base pay plus bonuses -- was $110,724.

Senior IT execs made 41% and 50% more than those averages, respectively, pulling in $141,371 in base salary on average and $165,798 in total compensation. IT staff, meanwhile, made 25% less in base salary and 28% less in total compensation than the average survey respondent (see chart for full list of average salaries and total compensation by role).

These figures are lower than what was reported in the 2014 IT Salary and Careers Survey, when the average salary was $109,255 across all roles, and the average total compensation was $126,548. While we wouldn't have expected a drop between 2014 and 2015, the change could be explained by a difference in survey-respondent demographics between the two years. The respondent base for the 2015 IT salary survey had a higher mix of lower level positions -- 28% were senior IT execs last year, compared with 14% this year, while 14% of respondents were IT staff members this year, compared with only 11% last year -- as well as more junior staff; last year, 73% of respondents reported having from 11 to 30 years of experience versus only 66% of respondents who reported the same this year.

Regional differences were reflected in the survey's results. Those in the Northeast region reported an average salary of $106,319 and an average total compensation of $117,130, while those in the Midwest reported the lowest average salary ($93,421) and the lowest average total compensation ($102,515). Those in the Western region came in close behind the Northeast, with $104,428 in average base salary and $116,278 in average total compensation. Southern U.S. respondents reported an average of $99,460 in base salary and $109,656 in total compensation.

Survey respondents reported raises in line with last year -- 5.3% of base salary this year versus 5% last year -- and 35% expect a bonus next year, compared with only 20% who said the same last year. As for respondents' career ambitions, 41% reported that they most aspire to move up within their departments and/or companies over the next three to five years, while 14% want to move to a larger company and only 5% want to leave IT entirely -- other response options were "stay in my current role," "move to a smaller company," and "none of the above."

Senior IT execs made 41% and 50% more than the average IT professional, respectively, pulling in $141,371 in base salary on average and $165,798 in total compensation.

The mood among IT professionals appears to be more optimistic this year than last. Thirty-eight percent describe their mood as optimistic, while 39% chose "neither optimistic nor pessimistic." In last year's survey, only 21% described their mood as optimistic, while 41% said they were neither optimistic nor pessimistic. And respondents see brighter days ahead: 41% said that the mood will be more optimistic next year than this year.

Among those who said they were pessimistic, almost half (48%) said that one of the top-two reasons was that management was ineffective, followed closely by limited career advancement (46%). Of much lesser concern to respondents were the economy -- cited as a top-two concern by only 12% of respondents -- and the lack of innovation opportunity (14%). In terms of measures of success, the most cited factors among respondents as a whole were "helping achieve a business goal or outcome," cited by 52% of respondents as a top-three measure of success; "ensuring reliability of IT services," cited by 50%; and "completing projects on time," cited by 43%. Coming in under budget, achieving ROI on projects and purchases, and creating new business opportunities were at the bottom of the list of nine measures of success -- cited as a top-three measure of success by 10%, 11% and 12% of respondents, respectively. 

As you might expect, respondents' projects of interest varied considerably by role, with senior IT execs being most concerned with IT management -- 50% chose this as one of the top-three areas that occupy most of their time -- application development and design (24%), and security. This compares with project managers, for instance, who were more likely to be focused on business process management (31%), application development and design (29%), and IT management (28%). Directors of business applications, meanwhile, were more likely to be focused on application management (46%), business process management (42%), and app development and design (33%).

2015 TechTarget IT salary survey

Among the various roles held by respondents, compliance and privacy professionals were more likely to be concerned about the same technology areas as other compliance and privacy professionals: security, risk management and compliance, which were cited as top-three areas of concern by about 75% of those respondents. Technology consultants, meanwhile, were the least likely to be occupied by the same technology areas. Application development and design, business process management and security were cited as top-three concerns by only 22% of those respondents. Project managers also seem to have little in common with one another in terms of technology focus, with business process management, app development and design, and IT management cited as top-three areas of concern by 29% of respondents. Senior IT execs, IT managers and IT staff also ranked low on the scale of technology areas held in common with their peers, while security professionals, database administrators and data analysts ranked relatively high.

About the survey

TechTarget's 2015 IT Salary and Careers Survey was fielded from June to September and had 1,783 U.S. respondents. Sample sizes varied by question, depending on respondents' answers to previous questions, or exclusion of errors or outlier data. The respondent mix by role was as follows: senior IT executives (14%), IT staff (14%), IT manager (13%), systems administrator (9%), programmer/developer (8%), technology consultant (8%), project manager (6%), network manager/administrator (6%), sales and marketing (4%), database administrator (4%), security manager (3%), data analyst (3%), non-IT corporate or business staff (2%), systems integrator (2%), director of business applications (1%), compliance/privacy officer (1%) and data center manager (1%).

Next Steps

More 2015 IT salary survey coverage:

Executive pay for senior IT leaders stable in 2015

Senior IT leaders saw a rise in IT budgets in 2015

An upswing in IT job satisfaction and leader aspirations reported in 2015

Security ranks among IT executives’ top IT projects for 2016

Infographic: A visual overview of the survey results

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What is the top measure of success in your IT role?
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Good question. And difficult to answer. Like most companies, we do have bi-annual performance reviews. They are just a formality though, usually just regarded as more busy work, with little meaning behind them. 

I guess I personally look at success as my ability to provide a service that's at least worth my salary to the company, which I do. Also, I believe people who are successful in their role are those who have gained the trust and respect of their colleagues. 
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A phrase that I feel is more and more apropos all the time was shared with me by my late director; its the best career advice I've ever received.

This is the measure of my success:


“All you have to do is be useful. Make things happen. There is always plenty of work moving from theory to practice.” 
-- Ken Pier
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Creating business value and helping the business achieve results.
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Responding in a fast service to problems Product benefits price comparison 
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I'd suggest to look from 3 perspectives.

Personal: how do I feel about myself. This is a very important criteria, but it doesn't consider other people. Perhaps, Jack the Ripper felt great about himself.

Other People: how do they feel about me. Yet another critical measure, though failing to consider myself I might end up as a all-pleasing slave. And we're not considering the context: apparently, the crew who dropped nuclear bomb on Hiroshima felt great about themselves and each other.

Context: how do I look from the context perspective. A very rich company with lucrative salaries and great staff pollutes the nearby river. On the inside they feel great about themselves and each other. What about the planet? Same goes for tobacco manufacturers and sellers.

I guess I went a bit too far from the original question - couldn't help but comment on the risks of having linear binary criteria when approaching complex systems. And IT is frigging complex, you know :)
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The results of the survey seem somewhat confusing, or maybe it just the way the results are reported. Seems like They should have broken the stats down by role a bite more, in order to be meaninful. IMO if you want to have some kind idea of trends within IT, there is no point in grouping senior execs together with staff level employees. The roles and their salaries are not even in the same ballpark.
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Hi abuell, thanks for your note. This story is one of many that will be coming out based on our salary survey. This particular story is intended to simply report salaries and total compensation across the spectrum of IT. But here are a few of the stories we've already published: http://bit.ly/1Iaqbgv
http://bit.ly/1Sk2faX http://bit.ly/1Yib4G0
Check back on SearchCIO.com in the coming week for more stories. If you're interested in salaries in a particular tech area, let me know and I'll find out if we have a story specifically on that.
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Wish I had stopped reading.. now I'm depressed. I am amazed at those figures. Not even taking bonuses into consideration I think they are high.
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This is interesting, and it definitely shows that pay for the execs is generally higher, but it's not dramatically so (not counting the C suite execs). I have noticed over the past few years that the pay in my area (Silicon Valley) has outpaced these figures considerably, but then again, I think it has to if the people they want to have work here will actually be able to live anywhere in the vicinity. It would be interesting to see how the average wages and compensation rate in each region as compared to the cost of living for those regions.
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Michael, good idea about comparing salaries with the cost of living in each region. I actually thought about doing that but couldn't find good data that was broken down by region. There are lots of cost-of-living calculators that compare cities but I couldn't find one for regions of the country.
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