The survey shows IT salary data by geographic region.

It used to be that IT was the recession-proof career. No matter how bad things got, the conventional wisdom went, companies would always be willing to compete for high-level systems experts to manage their information technology. The alternative would be to risk lost data, network crashes and email disconnects, and who would want to risk that?

But nothing in this current recession has been typical, and now it looks like it’s IT’s turn to take a hit. The resource site TechRepublic and the IT training company Global Knowledge released their newest joint survey of the industry this month, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

Two stats in particular jump right off the page. First, gains in IT salary averages have skidded to a halt after years of rapid growth; second, most IT professionals suddenly aren’t getting raises, and over 10 percent are taking cuts. As the report sums up:

The recession has held salaries in check for the IT profession. The average salary for respondents was $82,115, up less than one percent over what was reported in the 2009 IT Skills and Salary Report. This is significantly less than the 10% gain seen between 2008 and 2009; however, it is consistent with broader salary trends in the United States. Less than half of this year’s respondents (43%) reported receiving a salary increase, down from 70% in the prior year. Two-thirds of those that reported receiving a raise indicated the primary reason was performance in their current position (65%). Over 46% indicated their salaries were capped without a raise. One in nine respondents (11%) indicated their salaries had been reduced.”

In terms of percentages, this is significant shrinkage. Compared to 2008, the numbers look even worse, with a 37 percent drop in employees receiving raises, and a 10 percent drop in employees receiving bonuses.

There is a little hope, in that salary growth, while small, is still on the plus side. Also, IT professionals have been able to hold onto the gains they’ve made over the last few years: the average bonus was up from $3,937 in 2008 to $8,654 in 2010, and the average raise was up from 4 percent in 2008, and 6 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2010.

Other trends reflected how IT jobs are now a lot more like every other job, in that they reflected the same somewhat contradictory attitudes that studies of other industries have revealed in this recession. Despite the setbacks, most IT workers—70 percent, in fact—reported they were satisfied with their job, with over 40 percent saying they were “very” or “extremely” satisfied. This seems to reflect the “just happy to be here” view that we’ve seen throughout the U.S. workforce on a larger scale. But about a third of the 19,500 workers surveyed said they were exploring other opportunities.

Ralph Haas at MyPath found another message in the report:that ongoing education is more important than ever. “Training / continuing education matters,” he writes. “All other things equal, annual salaries are $3 – $9K higher among those respondents who took IT training last year. Top certification draws include PMP, CCNA, MCP, MCSE, and ITIL v3. Average salary for those with PMP certification was over $100K, placing folks with this credential in the top 20% of salaries in the industry.”

The survey, though it claims the results are fairly consistent with past years, has a pointed warning to IT professionals tucked away in its conclusion: More than ever, performance is being closely scrutinized. The industry, perhaps, no longer enjoys the same protections it once did:

In reviewing the 2010 survey data, one of the most interesting discoveries was the consistency with previous years’ surveys, particularly in the relationship between job performance and salary. Respondents and their managers agree that training that leads to certification improves job performance. This increase in employee effectiveness is critical to note as budgets begin to return to previous levels but still remain under scrutiny. The key, then, to job security and increasing one’s salary, as born out in the data, is improving personal job performance.

Blog Topics