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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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