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Study: IT salaries to creep up in '05

A new study shows starting salaries for IT pros will be a little better next year. But the more special you are, the more money you could make.

When it comes to salaries for IT professionals, 2005 will look a lot like 2004.

A set of fresh data from Robert Half Technology shows that base pay next year will hover near 2004 figures with starting salaries edging up 0.5% on average. But IT pros specializing in certain IT areas can expect a little more in their paychecks.

The salary reports are part of Robert Half's 2005 Salary Guide. It's based on analysis of thousands of public and private sector job searches, negotiations and placements managed by the firm's U.S. offices. Many of the businesses included in the study are SMBs.

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Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based IT staffing consultancy, said that as the economy strengthens and businesses kick off more tech initiatives, demand for specialists will increase and the salaries will follow.

Systems auditors will see the biggest increases in their starting salaries, according to the guide. They can expect a 5.1% increase in 2005, with a salaries ranging from $63, 250 to $81,750 annually. Compliance with SOX is helping drive the demand for auditors, who assess and document existing systems prior to hardware or software upgrades, Lee said in a statement.

Other specialists predicted to make more base money in 2005 than 2004: programmer/analysts (3.6% more), network security administrators (2.3% more), quality assurance and testing managers (2.2% more), and business systems analysts (1.9% more).

Robert Half believes financial services, real estate and business services will be the industries most actively seeking IT pros in 2005.

"I'm dying for the budget to go after [security specialists]," said Rob Manson, IT director at Hingham, Mass.-based MIS Corp., a financial services firm that's part of ADP Financial Information Services Inc. He's got headcount in his budget but is still trying to figure out the best way to use the people. And while security specialists would be nice to have, he's more interested in developers right now.

"I'll probably outsource security and just bring my internal people up to speed," he said. "Once you're secure, you just have to stay current. You've got to make sure a security plan warrants a full-time headcount or a skilled vendor that has more resources."

The CIO of one large tech company, who asked not to be identified, is most interested in business and process people right now. And salaries at his shop will creep up for some workers.

"A portion of our IT staff, say 25% of the population, will see an increase in their compensation in 2005," he said. "The increase is going to be nominal though."

Randy Rudolph, IT director at the San Mateo County Transit District in California, said starting salaries will increase by low single digits.

"It's better than 2004," he said. Part of the reason for a better 2005 is a recent boost of government funding, which is helping thaw a salary freeze in his department.

"We've structured the ability to increase better starting salaries and reward folks internally who've been in freeze," he said. Rudolph sees a strong demand for application integrators.

Some starting salaries, according to the Robert Half study, will go down, including those for desktop support analysts (down 3.8%) and Internet/intranet administrators (down 1.2%).

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