Survey shows the top IT paying jobs

A recent survey examines the trends in IT pay and benefits packages. But some experts contend business skills are becoming even more important than being technically adept. This week's Tech Watch considers whether the survey results tell the whole story.

Curious about which IT jobs are paying the biggest bucks?

Management consulting firm Hewitt Associates’ recent salary survey reports IT pros with the hottest skills are averaging base pay increases of more than 10 percent a year, compared to national average annual increases of approximately 4 percent for non-IT salaried employees.

Beyond pay, IT pros are getting additional compensation through a variety of bonus structures and stock options.

Bonuses remain unchanged from last year, with 66 percent of employees receiving them. But the number of stock options being granted increased 13 percent from last year’s 10 percent.

While the paychecks for workers with hot skills are getting fatter, the Hewitt study found they’re doing so at a slower rate than in past years.

In all, Hewitt surveyed 216 large companies, compiling data from 38,465 IT employees.

Mirror, mirror…who’s the highest paid of all?
The highest-paid specialties, according to Hewitt, are network engineering and data visualization.

Network engineers are responsible for client/server and Internet/intranet network development; data visualization professionals apply techniques such as virtual reality to scientific and engineering projects.

Other high-paying specialties include:
  • Web infrastructure.
  • Data warehousing.
  • Numerical and non-numerical research.
  • Supply chain management.
  • Voice systems engineering.
  • Web security.

Tomorrow’s hot skills, Hewitt reports, are Web content development and Web design and development.

IT professionals need more than just technical skills
How accurate is the survey? That’s questionable, according to Norman Rankis, vice president and chief technology officer (CTO) at Centennary College in Hackettstown, NJ.

Rankis said Hewitt’s findings are too general and somewhat misleading.

“It doesn’t give an accurate picture of the field,” Rankis said. “The first problem is not describing the types of companies and their size. Describing a company as ‘large’ is meaningless. Large should be defined in terms of revenues, sales, or employees.”

Location is also important.

“Certain jobs may be hot and high-paying in one location but not in another,” Rankis said. “An MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) in Allentown, PA, for example, may be paid $35K, while an MCSE in New York City may earn $100K-plus.”

The technology areas mentioned in the survey are important, but others are also in demand and pay well. “E-commerce companies are practically begging for a host of skills, especially candidates who can understand both technology and business,” Rankis said.

Going further, the hot high-paying IT jobs no longer require just IT skills, but the combination of IT and business skills, observed Dennis Scheil, CTO of Parsippany, NJ-based IT consulting company Delta Corporate Services.

“IT skills will always be in demand, but the classic geek stuck away in a cubicle writing software all day long is not as much in demand as the techie who understands how technology makes an organization tick,” Scheil explained. “Companies want more bang for their buck. It’s a whole new technology game.”

Other considerations
Marc Lewis, managing director of IT at New York City executive search firm Christian & Timbers, agreed with Scheil, pointing up another serious flaw in Hewitt’s conclusions. The problem is all of the survey’s hot skills fall into the mid-level salary category.

“What about the high-end executive IT jobs that are the hardest to fill?” Lewis asked. “The hottest jobs in terms of salary and demand are jobs like CIO [chief information officer], CTO, and more recently, the still-undefined CKO [chief knowledge officer].”
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That’s for starters. There’s an abundance of high-ranking e-commerce jobs, Lewis added. No wonder headhunters are scouring the planet to find candidates.

E-commerce companies, for example, would practically kill to get their hands on seasoned marketing talent who understand technology.

“There is no shortage of great technicians…yet only a handful are also great leaders,” Lewis explained. “Candidates who can create the strategies that measure a company’s success will always top the compensation charts.”

Also not to be ignored are the jobs in the still-emerging wireless and speech technology industries. The innovators in both sectors can practically name their prices.

The message is: Don’t take surveys as gospel. Few, if any, are definitive. When you read between the lines, you’ll find problems either with the sample, the companies surveyed, or the evaluation methods.

That’s not to say the information isn’t valuable. But regard it as only one piece of a large, complex, and sprawling information crossword puzzle.
What are the in-demand skills and jobs at your company or in your region? Let us know by e-mail, or post your comments below.

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