US rates highly in IT pay stakes

Surveys confirm the US as the leader in the global IT pay stakes, aided by its mighty dollar.

Surveys confirm the US as the leader in the global IT pay stakes, aided by its mighty dollar.

A super-strong currency means the cost of living is greater than it is here, for example, but the fact that US jobs often pay one US dollar for each kiwi dollar in salary should easily offset this.

The expense of staff in America was highlighted recently by one Swedish website which calculated that for one US techie you could have 1.6 Canadians or Swedes, 4.8 Estonians, 5 Mexicans and almost seven Indians.

Searching the net reveals a variety of US surveys, but among the most extensive was published by the US version of Computerworld in September, offering regional as well as job breakdowns.

Despite disasters, unemployment is practically non-existent, labour shortages are forcing the government to allow more skilled immigrants and wages are rising. For example, newly hired workers at Applied Signal Technology in California received 15%-25% rises in salary, while existing staff enjoyed 18% increases. The company's IT manager says they have to fork out as people know they can find a job in their lunch breaks, and job candidates often have two to three offers before they turn up for interviews.

US informations systems provider Tellabs says people are making outrageous demands, with junior Unix administrators asking for $US80-$US90,000 ($200,000) when $US65-$US70,000 ($175,000) is more realistic. Its Unix and SAP adminstrators recently gained 50% pay increases, with other IT staff at Tellabs getting 5%-15%.

San Francisco-based web marketplace for students says bonuses of up to 20% are expected on top of salaries. At Embark, the hottest positions are senior developers, senior project managers and database architects, whose salaries are rising by 30%-40%. Security managers and administrators, network engineers and all architecture jobs are enjoying healthy increases.

Even entry-level people are enjoying good times. Network administrators average $US41,036, systems programmers are on $US41,332, e-commerce network administrators average $US42,571, information security specialists $US44,439, systems analysts/administrators $US44,507, senior systems programmers $US48,445 and senior systems analysts $US49,488. Remember, these are in US dollars, worth $2.50 New Zealand.

Wide regional variations occur, with wages tending to be lowest in New England and highest in Pacific states like California. Mountain states such as Montana, Utah, Colorado and Arizona pay well, as does the eastern seaboard, while the central states tend to pay the least.

Surveys suggest:

  • help desk operators earn $US31,972-$US44,061;
  • programmer/analysts earn $US45,525-$US63,402;
  • systems programmers earn $US53,000-$US62,609;
  • network administrators $US50,000-$US63,642;
  • senior systems administrators $US59,133-$US74,763;
  • technology support managers $US59,750-$US76,968;
  • project managers $US65,563-$US94,779;
  • directors of networks $US74,500-$US120,481;
  • directors of IS $US81,750-$US130,684; and
  • CIOs $US124,100-$US178,810.

MCP Magazine produced its own survey this year which suggested Microsoft certified professionals were holding strong. Base salaries increased 4% over the past year from $US65,100 last year to $US67,800. Entry-level MCP titles pay $US45,800. Developers tended to top the Microsoft charts, as did taking a lead or management position. MCP says titles like programmer/analyst tending to earn $US68,700, but the title "project lead" makes this jump to $US103,300.

Like Computerword US, MCP speaks of huge regional variation, with booming city areas paying far more than rural states, an issue also noted by Earthweb's Salary tracker. Nationally, SAP professionals earn an average $US81,500, ranging from $US73,000 in Denver and chicago to $US92,500 in Silicon Valley. However, the highest contract wage was in Philadelphia, at $US89 per hour, compared to $US85 per hour in Silicon Valley and $US63 per hour in Dallas.

For full details see Computerworld US and , which also has links to other salary surveys.

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