Education

10 reasons you deserve a raise

If your experience, dedication, and skills make you an excellent IT pro, but your salary doesn't reflect your hard work or the value you deliver, it could be time to ask for a raise. Jack Wallen explains why you may be worth more than you think.

Recently, I've written about reasons for quitting IT and alternative careers to consider if you do decide to change fields. But plenty of IT workers want to stay on their chosen career path. To those people, I say "Bravo," but I do so with an asterisk: *You need a raise. Being a consultant or working in an IT department is hard, intense work. And although the economy is still a bit shaky, that's no reason for you to be paid less than you're worth.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Being on call

The second people mention that they have to spend the weekend (or weeknights) on call, I know their soul dies a little. There is nothing worse than staring at a phone during the weekend knowing the minute you start to do something fun, that blasted thing is going to ring. Anyone who has ever worked on call knows how this affects their time off. You live your life stressed and waiting for Monday to roll around. If this is you, and you agree to go on call, you should certainly be compensated for that added stress.

2: Your skill set

I have a special skill set that not a lot of IT workers in my area have: Linux. Because of that, I can demand a bit of a higher wage. Many skill sets allow this. (Cisco, UNIX, and DB admin come to mind.) You have to think of this with respect to a company's ability to replace you. Are your skills pressed out of a mold so that anyone in your company could do your job? Or do you have skills that no one else in your department/company could cover? If that's the case, you deserve a raise!

3: The stress

The stress levels experienced in IT are high, and they never seem to back off. This stress can lead to health issues, relationship issues, and other problems. If your business thinks you should deal with that stress at a less than acceptable pay level, it has another think coming. I have worked in IT shops that paid just over what I could easily make in retail and with far less stress. If your employer values your work, then it should respect the stress you deal with day in and day out.

4: Dealing with clients

This goes along with stress. You have to deal with clients on a daily basis, and you have to do so professionally. In fact, it is this engineer-to-client interface that helps make it easier for your company to collect on bills. Because you have this face-to-face interaction with the clients, your employer must trust you with its income. The better you are at dealing with clients, the happier those clients will be. The happier your clients are, the faster they will be at paying their bills. Need I say more?

5: Upgrading skills

If you've gone through the process of upgrading your skills, and those skills are paying off, you deserve a raise in pay. Not only did you take the time to gain those skills, you may well have done so on your own dime. If your employer footed the bill (and you did your classes, studying during work hours), you could still have the firepower needed to claim a raise. This is valid unless your employer did this to get you up to speed on a skill you should have already had.

6: Experience

There was a time when MCSE actually meant something. Today? Not so much. Real-world experience far outweighs certifications now, and that experience translates to a better understanding of how technology actually works when deployed. The translation doesn't end at understanding. Real-world experience should directly translate to higher pay.

7: Maturity

Along the same lines as experience, maturity plays a huge part in how much money you should be able to demand. I have seen engineers with nearly identical skills but with vastly different maturity levels have very different experiences. Those with more maturity can deal with stress a bit better ,as well as improvise when needed. But more important, those with maturity can deal with people far better. Professionalism goes a long, long way in this industry, and without maturity, professionalism is a hard commodity to come by.

8: Creativity

There are times when the documented solution simply does not work. When this happens, a level of creativity will help you resolve an issue. Not only that, but creativity can help you come up with solutions that are cheaper and often more reliable. But creativity generally can't be taught. You either have it or you don't. Most in the IT field don't have it, so if you are one of the lucky ones, take advantage of that and use it to your benefit when discussing your pay raise.

9: Strong client relationships

As I mentioned earlier, the engineer-client interface is one of the most critical ones in this industry because it's where the money changes hands -- at least, figuratively. If you have solid relationships with clients or users, you are far more valuable to your company than is an employee of equal skill and poorer client relationships. This is especially true if you have solid relationships with all the clients/users you interact with. And the more important the client or user, the more valuable you become.

10: Familiarity with systems and process

Are you the administrator who developed your backup system? Did you spend weeks documenting your entire network? Do you know your systems (or your clients' systems) better than any other engineer in your department? If this is so, you can easily make a good case for a higher salary. Always think of it with this in mind: If you left the company, what would you be taking with you? The answer to that question can be radically altered if you're more familiar with your systems than any other administrator.

Find the right way

Before I sign off on this list, I want to make sure you know this is not a green light for you to bust into your boss's office, slam down a printed copy of this article, and demand a raise. As we all know, asking for a raise is a tricky river to navigate. You go about it the wrong way and you very well could get tipped over. If you feel confident that you should have a raise in pay, make sure you go about it smartly and with caution. Do not make ultimatums (unless you're okay with getting fired or downsized). But rest assured, if you work as hard and well as the average IT pro, that raise should be within your reach.

Additional reading

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

36 comments
lverdinr
lverdinr

OK... All you said about this ten points, has a part of true, but there's a lot of IT pros, with degrees and certifications who pays a lot for that knowledge, and a lot of costumers who need that skills from IT pros in low cost or for free, if that is possible. At least in my country (Mexico), Nobody wants to consideer a raise in IT pros services, because a lot of costumers here, wants to consideer all that services should be "warranty extensions" of the products or services they buy from us. Of course I dissagree with that because at last, it's a matter of time, effort and money. The effort and the time will not return, but the money MUST return.

pbelke
pbelke

I work for a very large IT company. We perform a rotating oncall 24/7 schedule with NO compensation, not even overtime. We are told to cut our time back so as not to exceed 40 hrs. My blood pressure rises until I am offcall. The number of times I had to say to family and friends " I can't, I'm oncall" are too numerous to count.

IT/HR Guy
IT/HR Guy

All these points mentioned above have merit, and make perfect sense, there's one very important factor to consider, however, that was implied but never mentioned. These accomplishments have to be seen by both you and your boss. If you feel that you deserve a raise because of these feats , but your boss thinks that what you did is nothing special, its a safe bet that not only will your boos laugh you out of his/her office, but also he/she may put you on the watch list for people to fire when things get rough. Also it helps to see if the there is your coworkers think that you deserve a raise due to these accomplishments, and to check the general attitude of your organization towards such requests. If the attitude is negative, and the market is in demand for your skill set, i think its better to leave, than stick around and be unappreciated .

dh1530
dh1530

Companies I've consulted at and the actual location I work at are still being hit rather hard with our economy. I came up in IT in the late 90's hayday, lots to go around for everyone. I agree wholeheartedly that experience far outweighs certifications as well. But, as for being paid what you're worth, that's in the eye of the beholder. I've had salary cuts and benefits cut for the past 4 years, I don't see where its changing anytime soon either...

pitairis
pitairis

yes good points but what if u r told we can't afford it or wait until next year or some other excuse. that's y since the beginning of our country people have formed unions so they can collectively bargain and not beg

Badreddine
Badreddine

Specified requirements should be adequate to the position in term of skills and talent, It is obvious that administer a server is not the same thing to develop a new solution or to align one with the company business porcesses. What counts is to know doing things with the right way in the right context

TechnologyCerts
TechnologyCerts

but I feel a couple contradict themselves. Upgrade your skills, but certifications don't matter? If you are looking to get a raise or promotion, both are very important and investing in your future with certifications is one of the best ways to prove you are in it for the long haul and worth every penny! Alex www.TechnologyCerts.com

rodolfo_ramirez_rojas
rodolfo_ramirez_rojas

Make sense if these were not in your contract when originally hired... these reasons are valid for a raise after you demonstrate that you are experiencing a work overload that you can manage, but the effort requires motivation. Extra mile should be from both sides, from you as an IT employee and employer recognizing your effort and new tasks ownership.

mactrekr
mactrekr

In my company, I'm the only IT person for 8 seperate locations in 2 states encompassing 200+ pc's, 30 network printers, a massive WiFi network, and too many "smart" switchs to count, I average 50-55 hrs a week. I've completely rebuilt the companies infrastructure in the last year, migrated the company from POTS to Voip, and saved them thousands of dollars per month. But I don't dare ask for a raise. Not yet anyway. Around here, it's very clearly a "taboo" subject. But, at the end of this year, I will start looking around for a more lucrative alternative. If I find one, I'll give my current company an opportunity to "match" the offer.

ericblissmer
ericblissmer

I've changed jobs 3 times and doubled my salary since leaving the military 4 years ago. Its the only way to get a decent raise. Now, found a great job with fair pay.

LENNY
LENNY

Very much every IT person deserve those 10 reasons...

BDower
BDower

I've got over 16 years hands on experience and haven't gotten a raise in 4 years, the reason I'm told, "You're lucky to have a job now get back to work" there's no raises to be had out there

Justin James
Justin James

None of these are reasons I deserve a raise. All of these were known before I was hired, and were factored into my salary. Sure, you might have on-call sprung on you after you get hired, in which case you should get a raise unless your company does on-call pay (every place I've worked at does). And yes, over time your skill set grows and you mature and get better with the job... there are these things called "annual reviews" which take this into account. For the most part in IT, for every skill I add, another one I have becomes obsolete. That's why salaries tread water so badly in this industry, and you see 10 year vets making the same as 40 year methuselahs... there is zero justification to giving someone more money for skills they don't use. All in all, these are good points to bring up at an annual review, but I certainly wouldn't go charging into my boss' office with this list in hand... J.Ja

maclovin
maclovin

It's like I was reading about myself. I can't preach enough to the younger people I know (I'm 26, but I mean ones entering college) that they need the experience. You see these ridiculous job requirements that these HR reps put up for a job, and I just end up saying to myself..."I'm glad I don't work there!". Job requirement postings from employers are getting more and more ridiculous. Pretty soon they'll want 10 year olds with "a Degree", 9 years experience managing MS Server 20xx, Linux, HP-UX, etc. (I mean ALL of them....at the same time!!), and also essential understanding of the intricate physics behind the LHC. I've never understood the requirement for a degree, and then stating it doesn't have to be in IT..... Seriously? I like the "or related field" line too....so, if it's not in IT(?)....I know sparkies, but they can't manage their way out of a wet paper bag on a Linux server.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Nobody deserves a raise, whether you get one is a perception of value by your current employer. If you think you can earn more, go somewhere where you can. If you think you should earn more, work harder and go somewhere where they will... Deserve...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Unions were set up so employers couldn't just kill the stroppy one, to cow the rest... Collective bargaining in salary terms is for people with low value skiills in low value jobs, or perhaps with more validity those where withdrawal of labour is unethical or even illegal. You want a pay rise earn it yourself, I did....

info
info

It all depends on what you're actually making for supporting that many systems/clients. My network isn't quite as large, but I'll bet I'm only making 3/4 of your salary.;) Has the network grown a lot since you last had a raise? That's usually a good leverage point. The company WANTS you to think of raises as 'taboo' because that's money in their pocket and not yours. What I would do is invite your manager/boss/etc. out to lunch sometime, or just schedule a meeting with them. Outline how your duties have grown over the past x years and that, although you love your job, the lack of a monetary increase has been causing you to love it a little less. They'll try to steer the conversation towards something else (probably how the company is struggling to stay afloat) but note how your salary compares to the average, and how the duties you perform are more than worth it. Stick to your guns. If they don't offer you something by the end of the meeting, mention casually that you still enjoy working there, but you'll be on the lookout for other opportunities that might arise. That's about all you can do without threatening to leave out-right. But remember, our pay is considered small potatoes against the total revenue and operating budget of the company. I've overheard execs talking on the golf course about how cheaply they're getting away with their IT support because 'their guy is happy with ONLY making that much.'

info
info

Some will be like that. It's the old 'hardliner' approach to employees that was taken back in the assembly-line days, "You're lucky to have a job! Get back to work before I fire you!" It took advantage of the employee usually not having the information of what jobs were out there, what the average salary should be, etc... and backing down. With the company laughing all the way to the bank. I'm guilty of doing this as well. I've told TONS of people to threaten to leave, even if they had no job to jump to. EVERY time, when they went so far as to start walking out the door, they've ended up with a sizable increase in pay...and probably STILL are being 'underpaid' as far as the company was concerned. (This is in Canada, mind you. Slightly different situation than in the US.) Just can't do it myself... Must be the 'IT Low Self-Esteem Syndrome' thing... *Shrug*

rachael.curtis
rachael.curtis

...to find a new job. It's time to market yourself to a more appreciative employer who will bring you in at a higher cap. Not to say in time you won't run into the same issue at your new company, but at least try to find a company whose culture doesn't use such negative tactics when communicating to employees.

RNR1995
RNR1995

If you have not at least received a cost of living increase, your employer is letting you know, they are either broke or they do not value your efforts. Seek employment elsewhere

tbatty
tbatty

I agree with J.Ja. If you can do the job that I need done, and if I can afford to pay you x for it (and not much more than x...this is BUSINESS, not entitlement), then whether you "deserve" more or not, that's what you'll get. Or that's what your replacement will get. The only reason you really should get paid more is that what you do (or what you CAN do) is worth more to the one who is paying for it. Period. --tgb

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

The part that always had me in stitches laughing was people afraid that the LHC would create a black hole that would swallow the Earth. The same theory that postulates that the LHC can crate quantum black holes also stipulates that said quantum black holes would evaporate before swallowing anything.

info
info

What it says to an HR department unfamiliar with the position is that if you have a degree you're either rich enough (and therefore, cultured) to have gotten one, or that you have the cognitive abilities to do so and therefore have enough of them to handle the job posted. And no, I don't have one either. ;)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

can be very good at IT. As for the degree, thats to help HR avoid reading 500 resumes.... Apparently....

inouyde
inouyde

"ability to fly"... you forgot to mention ability to fly... very big in IT postings nowadays...

rachael.curtis
rachael.curtis

Asking for a cost of living raise isn't the same as demanding an undeserved raise. As of 2009 the minimum wage is $7.25/hr. Two years before that, minimum wage was $5.15/hr. By a simple ratio comparison, people working minimum wage got a 28.9% pay increase to compensate for the cost of living. At a corporate level, most companies rarely give a 5% cost of living increase. If someone has been working the same job since 2007 until now with no pay increase, what does that tell you about where they fall in relation to the minimum wage line? In the 'real world' with no cost of living raises, it will creep up on you and suddenly those 60+ hours worked/week with on-call balances out to no better than minimum wage.

trsnell
trsnell

The shortest, but most accurate answer. I've had two DBAs and a Sr. Technical Analyst leave my department in the past 1.5 years. All three people got a five figure raise...elsewhere. I have a network engineer who is "at risk" too. I have to make do with what we have and what we can offer.

BDower
BDower

All good points with one caveat, where I'm contracted to I completely love working at. Love where I work, hate my contractor company. Catch 22, do I maintain job satisfation and maintain being underpaid or look for a job where I might not be as happy? Obvioulsy the vote is still out as I've been here 6 years

gavin142
gavin142

proves nothing more than the fact that you are capable of learning at some level. As with any type of education, it matters less where you got it (and what it was in) than how much effort you put into it. "2.0 and go" attitudes will still get you a degree, but don't you think the Summa, Magna, or just plain Cum_Laude's got more out of it? (can't believe I had to edit this stupid thing to get it to display a degree endorsement)

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

If you're not getting COLA raises equal to inflation, you've just taken a demotion.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Cost of living has gone up. Does your employer care that their cost of employing you hasn't. Yes, they are skipping round the office, happy as larks. If you think they should be dripping with remorse after depriving you of your deserved extra income, you are from another planet. One with fluffy white clouds, giant butterflies, and really nice people.... You deserve what you can get. If you can't get it, you don't deserve it. That's the cold hard bottom line of real world business. Deserve is a position of weakness, play their game, take....

ndveitch
ndveitch

I am in the same boat. I am in South Africa and in the last 2 years I have been the sole IT support for an agency as my employer outsourced me to one of our clients who has a branch elsewhere in the country where my boss does not have an office. Since taking over the network calls to senior support has almost become non-existent and the general user issues in the office have dropped considerably. My boss informed me that due to the contract staying the same I would not be getting an increase, but what he forgot to say was, the reason the contract was staying the same was due to the reduced contract obligations the company would receive. Also even if I upgrade my skill set, it doesn't really matter as my boss usually says that either they do not use that certain qualification or that I should have had the qualification already. The sad thing is that I really love working where I am working right now, despite the working arrangement. My main fear is that where I am now technically, is where I will be in 5 years time, and that is one of my main reasons for keeping my eyes open for any opportunity that might be out there.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

In Using Obscenities you of course have to edit your post. :^0 Yep some of the Blacklisted words confuse me too, but I do get to laugh at most of what is blocked and what I can type in to pass without realizing it. :0 Col