The Burgeoning High-Tech Employment Landscape

High-tech employment made a strong showing in 2006. Average salaries were on the rise and demand for IT professionals was robust, according to a salary survey released Wednesday by Dice.com, a Web site for high-tech employment opportunities.

“2006 has been our first full year of strong demand,” John Estes, vice president of Robert Half Technology in Tulsa, Okla. told TechNewsWorld.

“We saw it creeping up in 2005, but for all of 2006 we had steadily increasing demand, and not only in positions, but in salaries, and that is continuing into 2007,” he observed.

Perfect Storm

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand out there,” he added. “People were cautious for so long that now they’re willing to open up their budgets a little bit and spend some money.

“Another thing that’s happened is there’s been a lot of new technology that’s emerged in the last few years,” he continued.

“So it’s almost a perfect storm,” he maintained. “You’ve got a combination of increased demand and new technology driving demand for IT people.”

Outpacing National Average

Average salaries for technology professionals in 2006 increased 5.2 percent, according to the Dice survey.

Dice noted in a statement that the overall increase in salaries can be traced to continued improvement in the technology job market. Companies are using higher salaries to attract and retain technology professionals, it said.

It revealed that starting salaries for technology professionals outpaced the national average. They increased 13.1 percent to US$42,414 in 2006, it said.

Professionals with one or two years experience fared even better. Their salaries increased 13.8 percent to $46,935.

Salary Bait

“By offering competitive salary and benefit plans, companies are more likely to attract and retain new employees, which will help fill the growing gap and available talent,” Scot Melland, president and CEO of Dice, said in a statement.

“The survey also found that higher salaries often correlate with higher job satisfaction, which underscores the importance of regularly reviewing compensation,” he added.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting in Chicago pegged average salary increases for technology professionals last year to be 3.5 percent.

Disjointed Market

“The word I use to describe the IT market is disjointed,” Mercer Principal Human Capital Consultant Dave Van De Voort told TechNewsWorld.

“There are jobs for which pay grew not at all or actually decline,” he explained, “and then there are jobs where pay grew at two times or more the average rate.”

“Averages, as averages often do, obscure some extremes that are pretty significant, especially now that everyone senses that IT hiring is picking up,” he continued.

It’s getting harder to recruit candidates, and it’s taking longer to fill vacancies, especially for jobs with high rates of pay, he added.

In its survey, Dice noted that technology professionals earning the highest salaries in 2006 possessed hard-to-find, specialized experience. They included enterprise resource planning, or ERP ($96,161), Sarbanes-Oxley compliance ($91,998) and customer relationship management, or CRM ($90,499).

Other high-paying jobs cited in the Dice survey included professionals with skills in Oracle ($84,692), Java/J2EE ($82,851), Sybase ($85,049) and SOAP, or Simple Object Access Protocol ($89,243).

Gender Gap

The gender gap narrowed in 2006, according to the Dice survey. Women in technology, it said, earned an average of $67,542, or 9.7 percent less than their male counterparts.

Although the gender gap was evident across all industries, the surveyors found, the largest differences were in the medical/pharmaceutical (11.5 percent) and telecommunications (10 percent) industries.

However, in certain job titles, women earned higher salaries than men, Dice discovered. Help desk professionals, for example, earned $40,937, 4.8 percent more than their male counterparts. Technical writers earn $73,816, 2.5 percent more than men. Female IT executives — CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, vice presidents and directors — averaged $109,912, 1.4 percent more than males in those positions.

The gender gap appeared to affect younger women less than older women, Dice reported. Women 18 to 24 years old earned nearly the same salary as men, $41,700 versus $41,722. Women 25 to 29 earned 7.6 percent less than men. That compares to gaps of at least 10 percent in all age groups over 30.

In the coming year, technology professionals can expect to see high demand for their skills to continue, according to Hugo Sellert Research Manager at Monster.com in Maynard, Mass.

“Job markets in the U.S. will continue to be tight,” he told TechNewsWorld. “There will be a high need for experienced, skilled IT workers.”

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