Geography plays a major role in IT salaries. Here's where to go to find the highest salaries, and where to avoid.
Location, location, location. While company, job function, certifications, and tenure all have significant effects on salary, geography plays a huge role. A recent Global Knowledge study determined the average IT salaries in the US, Canada, and Europe, uncovering the highest-paying and lowest-paying locations.
SEE: The driving force behind IT salaries in Global Knowledge's report (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
IT professionals in the US are experiencing their highest ever average salary at $113,639. But that number isn't as impressive when looking at the highest paying state, California, which pays out an average of $134,531 to IT pros.
The very lowest salaries can be found in Wyoming, with an average of $66,500. The most impressive increase is in Alaska, which was in last place for the 2018 survey, but climbed to 31st for this survey with a salary average of $99,993.
Salaries by US state
Other than California, the states leading the pack in salary were Massachusetts ($131,773), New Jersey ($131,640), Virginia ($129,143), and the District of Columbia ($127,302), according to the report.
At the lower end of the spectrum were North Dakota ($80,808), Montana ($84,570) and Wyoming ($66,500).
While many factors can contribute to these wage fluctuations, the biggest component is cost of living, which this report does not account for in its data, said Zane Schweer, lead researcher for Global Knowledge's IT Skills and Salary report.
"California, for example, the cost of living is extremely high there. So naturally, salaries are going to be higher," Schweer said. "Same thing for DC, New York and Massachusetts."
The data would probably look much different if accounted for cost of living. For example, "[California] goes from having the highest wage, but on a cost of living adjusted basis, it falls down the rankings quite a bit," said Tim Herbert, executive vice president of research and market intelligence at CompTIA.
Many elements make up a cost of living, with the biggest being housing. Related to housing, high transportation costs can follow, whether it's paying for parking or taking public transportation, Herbert said.
Aside from cost of living, dominant industries also vary by state, which affect wages, Herbert added.
New York, for example, "is a pretty large employer of technology talent, especially in software development, in data position, cybersecurity. While [places like] Wyoming probably has a combination of a low base of technology workers and very few large businesses," Herbert said.
While cost of living and industries play major roles in salaries, especially the higher pays from big coastal cities, those locations also understand how lucrative tech talent is, Schweer said.
"In Silicon Valley, you have Google, Cisco and AWS. They understand the value of people that have the right knowledge, skills and abilities, and they are going to pay a higher salary to attract them and keep them, because they don't want to lose those people," Schweer said.
"When you lose people and you lose that institutional knowledge, you'd have to bring in somebody new that doesn't have that; it takes a lot longer to onboard them," Schweer added. "It can take years to get an employee to the same level as somebody that already knew your business and had that right knowledge."
The results of this data do fluctuate by year, Schweer said, as types of respondents change. Some years, people earlier in their careers might take the survey, shifting the scale of wages for certain averages.
Overall, however, this data lines up pretty well with the Bureau of Labor statistics data, Herbert said, which also placed coastal cities at the higher end of the pay spectrum.
SEE: 60 bad habits IT pros need to break (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The average annual salary in Canada is $74,048, significantly lower that that of the US, according to the report.
The report also identified the salaries by Canadian province.
- Quebec ($77,897)
- Alberta ($76,429)
- Ontario ($76,304)
- British Columbia ($70,949)
- Saskatchewan ($69,963)
- Nova Scotia ($69,454)
- Manitoba ($62,551)
- New Brunswick ($49,040)
Dominating the list of highest-paying European countries was Switzerland, the report found. Here is the full list.
- Switzerland ($136,301)
- Norway ($97,525)
- Germany ($95,456)
- United Kingdom ($88,575)
- Ireland ($86,663)
- France ($85,475)
- Belgium ($81,290)
- Sweden ($77,477)
- Netherlands ($75,919)
- Finland ($75,146)
- Italy ($58,024)
- Spain ($53,611)
- Czechia ($45,434)
- Poland ($43,493)
- Hungary ($39,115)
- Greece ($38,397)
- Romania ($34,006)
For more, check out 11 popular IT certifications that make the most money on TechRepublic.
This story was updated on January 30, 2020 with additional information.
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