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IT gets its groove back

Mary Brandel | April 9, 2013
Salaries are rising, and bonuses are back. Though workload worries remain, optimism among IT employees is running high. Here's why.

A year and a half ago, David Collins was trying to move from contracting work to a full-time position in IT. With rampant downsizing and a flood of new graduates, the job market was looking bleak in central Ohio, where he lives. "I knew of candidates with 20 years of experience and master's degrees who were taking entry-level positions just to get back into the industry," he says.

Today, Collins is an IT infrastructure manager at Residential Finance, a national mortgage lender in Columbus, and IT looks to him like a more solid profession.

"We've certainly seen a market shift," he says. "There are more offers, and candidates can be more selective." Collins notes that he has "great" benefits, and since he was hired 18 months ago, his salary has increased and his company's IT staff has tripled in size (from seven to 21 employees) to keep up with business growth.

Optimism is growing among IT workers, according to the results of the 2013 Computerworld Salary Survey. The 4,251 technology professionals who participated in this year's survey seem to be feeling better -- not just about IT as a profession but also about the improving economy and the resulting improvement in job prospects.

As was the case last year, only a minority of survey respondents said a career path in IT and the potential for salary advancement are as promising now as they were five years ago. But optimism is on the rise: 38% of this year's respondents said they felt that way, up from 29% last year.

And while IT workers have wondered whether they would ever recover from the years of salary cuts, the percentage of 2013 respondents who said they gained ground financially in the past two years was slightly higher than it was in 2012 (33%, up from 29% last year), and the percentage of those who said they lost ground dropped (28%, down from 32%).

Another indicator of increased confidence: The percentage of respondents mentioning the economy as a challenge for IT workers continued to tail off, falling to 17% this year from 19% last year and 28% in 2011. "I don't know whether we'll ever see the [salaries] we saw during the dot-com boom, but depending on your skill set, I certainly think salaries are pretty comparable to before the big downturn," Collins says.

Money's up, jobs are back

The optimism may be partly due to a three-year streak of modest pay increases. Respondents to the 2013 survey reported that their salaries rose an average of 2.3%, which is slightly better than last year's average increase of 2.1% and 2011's more modest 1.5% uptick. Meanwhile, average bonuses across all job titles rose only 0.9% this year, but that too is an improvement over 2012, when bonuses decreased by an average of 1.1%.


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