2000 Salary Survey: Smart Money!

Not surprisingly in today's job market, salaries are up, up, up for just about everyone. You can move ever higher in the compensation pile with these tickets: job experience, developer talent, or Windows 2000 skills.

2000 Salary Survey In MCP Magazine's U.S. Salary Survey, everyone's a winner this year—except perhaps the hiring managers who must deal with a rising tide of IT salaries. Despite a doubling in the number of MCSEs in the past year and a huge increase in the numbers of MCPs overall, our fifth annual salary survey shows compensation holding strong for all Microsoft Certified Professionals. In line with general increases in the IT industry driven by strong demand, salaries for MCSEs, for example, are up four percent, from a base salary last year of $65,100, to this year’s $67,800. (Chart 1 shows base salaries by title; Chart 2 shows additional compensation such as bonuses.)

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Chary 1
Chart 1. Base Salary by Certification.
We asked respondents to describe their base personal income before taxes in 2000 (“average base salary”). Excluded is all non-direct compensation, which is shown in Chart 2. As in previous years, reported incomes below $20,000 and above $250,000 have been eliminated; incomes of the self-employed have also been eliminated.
Chart 1a
Chart 1a. Effect of Certification on Salary.
Almost half of respondents reported no change in income because of certification, but a fifth reported significant jumps. For example, nearly a third of MCTs reported increases of over 25 percent as a result of certification. The MCSE+Internet title also paid off—25 percent of recipients of that certification reported a pay jump of over 25 percent.
Chart 2
Chart 2. Total Non-Direct Compensation.
We asked respondents to estimate the amount they expect to receive this year in non-direct compensation, defined as bonuses, profit-sharing, retirement plans, stock options, and training or education allowances. Note that the questionnaire was completed in April 2000, so the amounts shown are respondents’ estimates of the total they will receive during 2000.

The compensation picture is considerably different, though, for someone just entering the IT field. Those with a year or less of experience, as 23 percent of our respondents reported, and who have passed a single Microsoft exam and thus hold the entry-level Microsoft Certified Professional title, reported an average base salary of $45,800. Experience, as always, is the key differentiator in salary, followed by area of the country and job function. Charts 3-3d show how rapidly salary rises with experience, and charts. Other factors, including age and gender, also play into the salary equation. (Charts for age and gender are shown later in this survey.)

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Chart 3
Chart 3.
Salary by Experience.
Numbers represent 2000 average base salaries. Not surprisingly, and regardless of title, salaries climb steadily as respondents gain experience. We asked, “How many years have you held a job that specifically involves computer networking/programming?” Note that answers aren’t specific to experience with Microsoft products.
Chart 3 Chart 3
Chart 3a.
Salary by Experience for MCSEs/MCSE+Is
Chart 3b.
Salary by Experience for MCSDs
Chart 3a Chart 3b
Chart 3c.
Salary by Experience for MCPs/MCP+Is
Chart 3d.
Salary by Experience for MCTs

As Chart 1 shows, certification appears to boost salary approximately four percent from a non-certified IT worker to one holding the entry-level Microsoft title of MCP. (For comparison purposes, we included in the survey a group of non-certified technical professionals working toward their first Microsoft certification.)

The Windows 2000 Price Tag

Our hot spot for salaries this year is Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers working with Windows 2000. When we collected our survey results in April, Win2K had only recently shipped. We asked MCSEs to indicate whether they had started working with the new OS or not, and whether they planned to get certified on it this year. (All MCSEs must re-certify on Windows 2000 by the end of 2001. We wanted to measure the early adopters.) Those already focusing on Win2K and planning to certify early are earning somewhat more than MCSEs working with NT 4.0. But it’s too soon to conclude that Win2K work pays more than expertise with NT 4.0. In another year, given the same pattern, we might be able to conclude that; but for now, the reason is probably this: More experienced (and thus higher paid) MCSEs are assigned the choicest and most difficult projects. High on the list is working with any new OS or software, hence the salary difference.

The Value of Experience

As always, our survey emphasizes the tight relationship between pay and time on the job. It also highlights how quickly the certification program has grown. Respondents, who represent a statistical sampling of all MCPs in the U.S., have an average of 5.5 years of experience—down from 6.6 years in 1999. In particular, average experience among those holding the MCSE title has dropped almost a full year, from 6.8 to 5.9. Last year, notably, we saw a surprising rise in average experience among MCSEs and speculated that the program might be attracting more experienced IT workers expanding on Novell and Unix-centered skill sets. This year it appears that the huge influx of newcomers into the certification program is pulling down the average. For example, MCSEs have grown from around 140,000 worldwide when we conducted our survey last spring, to over 260,000 today. Microsoft’s program overall includes at least 800,000 certified individuals worldwide, up from about 500,000 a year ago.

Footing the Bill

We observed a drop again this year in the number of companies paying for certification (Chart 5). In 1998, 58 percent of respondents said their companies paid for certification entirely; in 1999, that had dropped to 50 percent; this year, just 39 percent of companies pick up the certification bill completely.

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Chart 4 Chart 5
Chart 4.
Additional Compensation Offerings.

When we asked what sorts of benefits companies offer, paid medical and dental coverage topped the list—offered to a surprisingly low 63 percent—followed by 401(k) retirement plans with company-matching funds of some sort, then paid training and bonuses
Chart 5.
Who Pays for Certification?

The percentage of companies paying for certification training has dropped steadily, from 58 percent in 1998, to 50 percent in 1999, to 39 percent in 2000. The drop may reflect management fears of losing trained employees in a competitive market. Among respondents receiving paid training as a benefit (35 percent say they receive no paid training at all), the average amount of paid training days allocated for the year was just 5.3.

Given the increasing prevalence of certification in IT, we find this surprising. Apparently, in a red-hot job market, employers are reluctant to pay for skills that they think may increase an employee’s worth or attractiveness elsewhere. Interestingly, salaries for those whose companies paid for certification were much higher (averaging $71,400) than those who paid for certification themselves ($58,500). Perhaps the more valued and highly compensated the employee, the more negotiating power that individual has in convincing an employer to pick up the tab.

Developers Top the Charts

If you’re wondering what skills will move you up the pay scale quickly, consider this: Microsoft Certified Solution Developers tend to top the charts in many of our comparisons (There are not enough Microsoft Certified Database Administrators yet for us to calculate accurate salaries). Taking a lead or management position makes a big difference in salary here, perhaps because of a gap in talent and responsibility between those who write programming code vs. more experienced programmers, who analyze systems and design programs.

Chart 6 shows IT workers with titles like Programmer/Analyst averaging $68,700, but jumping to $103,300 when the title “project lead” is added. Corresponding developer certifications like the MCSD and MCP+Site Building also tend to top the charts.

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Chart 6
Chart 6. Salary by Job Title.

Job titles, along with the more-difficult-to-determine factor of job responsibilities, affect salaries as well. We asked respondents to choose one of seven job descriptions. Project Leads are non-supervisory; Management is supervisory. Numbers shown are 2000 average base salary.
Chart 6 Chart 6
Chart 6a.
Salary by Job Title for MCPs
Chart 6b.
Salary by Job Title for MCP+Is
Chart 6b
Chart 6c. Salary by Job Title for MCSEs Chart 6d.
Salary by Job Title for MCSE+Is
Chart 6c Chart 6d
Chart 6e.
Salary by Job Title for MCSDs
Chart 6f.
Salary by Job Title for MCTs

Internal vs. External

We consistently found a big difference in salary between those who work in corporate IT/IS supplying internal services to other employees and those who primarily supply external services (working for solution providers, value-added retailers, and systems integration companies). IT professionals supplying external services averaged $73,000 in base salary, 20 percent above the $60,600 of those who supply services primarily to corporate IT departments. Part of the reason may be that companies tend to use more experienced people for outside assignments. Also, working with outside clients may demand more skills and expertise than working with internal employees.

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Chart 7x Chart 7
Chart 7. Salary by Internal vs. External Services. Chart 8. Expected Bonuses in 2000. Of the 57 percent of respondents who reported eligibility for bonuses, we asked what dollar amount they expected to receive in 2000. We also asked how bonuses are calculated and paid.
Chart 8a Chart 8b
Chart 8a. How are Bonuses Calculated? Chart 8b. When are Bonuses Paid?

Also, our survey showed that companies supplying external services tend to have a higher percentage of IT workers with expensive talents, including security, Unix, and programming skills.

Bonuses were also higher for those at external service firms, averaging $5,700 a year vs. $4,500 for those supplying internal services.

Outside Income and Hours Worked

Despite high salaries, performing outside work for extra income remains lucrative to many in IT. Among our respondents, two-thirds reported receiving some income from “other job-related sources.” The amount earned was relatively low for those with little experience, peaking among those with 5-6 years of experience at $6,400 this year. Outside income then dropped as experience increased, perhaps as respondents with more responsibility—and higher salaries—felt less inclination to moonlight. In an industry with a reputation for long hours and sudden weekend emergencies, number of hours worked was surprisingly reasonable.

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Chart 9 Chart 10
Chart 9. Salary and the Average Work Week Chart 10. Salary and Company Size
Chart 11 Chart 11. Salary by Skills for MCPs and MCSEs. We asked respondents which of 16 products or technologies they’d worked with on a project for at least six months. We then sorted by salary. Note that the large difference shown between MCP and MCSE earnings is probably due to more than the Microsoft title; MCSEs average more years of experience, among other things. Numbers shown are 2000 average base salary.
Chart 11a Chart 11b
Chart 11a. Salary by Skills for MCP+Is Chart 11b. Salary by Skills for MCSE+Is
Chart 11c Chart 11d
Chart 11c. Salary by Skills for MCSDs Chart 11d. Salary by Skills for MCTs

Respondents said they average 45 hours a week. Number of hours worked remained remarkably consistent across years of experience, job functions, and specific skills.

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Chart 12 Chart 12a
Chart 12. Salary by Responsibility Chart 12a. Salary by Responsibility for MCPs
Chart 12b Chart 12c
Chart 12b. Salary by Responsibility for MCP+Is Chart 12c. Salary by Responsibility for MCSEs
Chart 12d Chart 12e
Chart 12d. Salary by Responsibility for MCSE+Is Chart 12e. Salary by Responsibility for MCSDs
Chart f
Chart 12f. Salary by Responsibility for MCTs

Hot Certifications

The most commonly held certification outside of Microsoft’s is no longer a Novell title. This year, CompTIA’s A+ certification, a non-vendor-specific designation generally considered to be entry-level, was held by 20 percent of respondents. Novell certifications followed in popularity, tied with CompTIA’s Network+ title, both of which were held by 13 percent. Almost 12 percent have earned some certification from Cisco, mostly the CCNA, Cisco’s most basic “network associate” certification.

Chart 13. Salary by Other Certifications. (Note: This chart has been removed due to errors in the statistics obtained.--Ed.) Chart 13a. Salary by Cisco Certifications. (Note: This chart has been removed due to errors in the statistics obtained.--Ed.)


We asked the 10 percent of respondents who are self-employed to complete information on hourly rates and how work is contracted. Half of those responding contract directly with clients (receive IRS form 1099s and are responsible for their own taxes). We defined self-employed as “You assume risk of profit or loss and are responsible for all business overhead.” Another 14 percent work through brokers, placement firms, or IT staffing companies. The remaining third combine contract and direct assignments. The average hourly rate reported by those who contract directly with clients is $67. This breaks down to averages of $57 an hour for an MCP, $71 an hour for an MCSE, $84 an hour for an MCSE+I, and $87 an hour for an MCSD. Those holding premium titles probably have more experience and a broader skill set than the average respondent, and hence command more per hour for that reason, not solely because of a certification title.

Gender Bias

As it does each year, our survey shows that women in information technology make significantly less than men across all titles and job descriptions. Women are also poorly represented in the industry as MCPs. Just 11 percent of all Microsoft Certified Professionals in the U.S. are women; the MCSD title reflects the lowest percent of females (9 percent), while the entry-level MCP title has the highest, at 14 percent. On average across all titles and years of experience, women reported earning just under $10,000 less than men. Note, however, that that’s partly because they tend to have less experience, are less likely to be IT managers, and because fewer of them hold premier titles. In every certification, job title, or years-of-experience comparison we ran, though, women fell short of men. Male MCSEs with an NT 4.0 focus, for example, average $67,800 in base pay; females, $57,700. Men with two to three years of experience average $60,600; women, $51,500. This follows the pattern of past years and, in fact, shows a slightly greater salary gap than in 1999.

(Click image 14 to view larger version; images 15-15e are full size.)
Chart 14 Chart 15
Chart 14. Salary by Certification and Gender Chart 15. MCPs by Gender
Chart 15a Chart 15b
Chart 15a. MCP+Is by Gender Chart 15b. MCSEs by Gender
Chart 15c Chart 15d
Chart 15c. MCSE+Is by Gender Chart 15d. MCSDs by Gender
Chart 15e
Chart 15e. MCTs by Gender

Does Education Pay Off?

Education affects compensation, but as is typical in IT, it isn’t the most important factor. For example, our survey found that high school graduates reported earning slightly more, on average, than those who had attended some college or graduated from a two-year college program. Perhaps high school graduates have dived into an IT profession and are moving up quickly, while those attending some college or holding a two-year degree either tend to be career-changers or are spending part of their time and efforts on school rather than work. Most common among respondents (31 percent) was a four-year college degree; the average salary for a college graduate was $67,800. Earning a master’s degree added $5,300; adding a doctorate, assuming all else remains equal, added just another $1,400 on top of that.

Chart 16 Chart 17
Chart 16. Company Support for Certification Chart 17. Certification and Promotion
Chart 18 Chart 19
Chart 18. Education and Salary Chart 19. Expected Pay Raises into 2001

Add Up the Numbers

Hot salaries abound, but remember that if yours doesn’t match one of the averages we show, there are many factors determining compensation. As you compare your pay to our figures, consider: How much actual, hands-on experience do you have? That’s the single biggest influencer on salary, and there’s really no way to move quickly from having less than a year’s experience to having three or four years in IT.

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Chart 20. Salary by Certification and Age Chart 20a. Salary by Years of Experience and Age.

Also weigh in where you live and work. If you’re in a major metropolitan area, where the cost of living is higher and where many high-tech firms tend to compete for workers, expect more dollars. If you’ve chosen a more rural lifestyle, compensation will correspond.

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Chart 21. Salary by Region - West Chart 21a. Salary by Region - West/Midwest
Chart 21b. Salary by Region - South/Midwest Chart 21c. Salary by Region - Southeast
Chart 21d. Salary by Region - Northeast Chart 21e. Salary in Alaska and Hawaii

Finally, managers and team leads, because of their greater responsibility, also earn more, so you may want to consider that as you plot your career. We can’t discount certifications and job skills. The two go hand-in-hand. MCSEs consistently make more than MCPs, but they also typically have more experience and a bigger set of skills. Part of that comes from the certification process; part certainly comes from time on the job developing a broader and deeper skill set.

Finally, our survey shows that those working with Windows 2000 now, and planning to certify this year, are making more than those who aren’t. For now, we conclude that it’s because the most experienced people are getting assigned to Win2K rollouts. But some analysts have predicted that Win2K skills will be in huge demand if companies deploy the new OS at the predicted rates. Add to that Microsoft’s attempts to raise the MCSE bar for Win2K and you can be assured that Windows 2000 skills will be a valuable rarity, at least for a while.

Since salaries are affected by many variables, we encourage you to check out other surveys and compare their numbers with ours. Although MCP Magazine conducts the only survey that focuses on the effect of Microsoft certification on pay, you can find a growing number of high-tech salary surveys available these days. When viewing other surveys, check the number of respondents polled (some are too small to be worthwhile) and consider the method by which respondents are selected. Many surveys simply invite any IT professional to visit a Web site and enter salary numbers. In those cases, remember that it’s unlikely that the numbers represent a statistical sampling of the IT workforce.

Like many industry publications, Computerworld keeps a constant eye on IT salaries. To view numbers and articles on pay ranging from CTOs to help desk support, go to www.computerworld.com and click on “IT Resources,” then under the Surveys & Reports header, click on “Annual Salary Survey.”

SANS is a research and educational institute focusing on systems and security at www.sans.org. You can sign up to receive an almost-instant email of its 1999 survey, with data for 7,151 respondents with titles like network administrator, security admin, or system admin.

www.computerjobs.com is a technical-job-focused site sponsors a nationwide survey, in which you can participate. While it’s not a statistically accurate way to conduct a salary survey, you may find the results interesting. The site also includes a handy list of other IT salary surveys.

The survey at www.asponline.com covers titles like Support Technician or Analyst/Project Manager. If you’re a member of the Association of Support Professionals, the latest survey is free. Otherwise, you have to pay—or access 1999 data for free.

If you’re a federal government employee, pay rates for any classification and scale, not just in IT, are available at www.seemyad.com/gov/salary.htm.

www.Realrates.com solicits salary information from the computer consultants who visit its site. For $25 you can download a copy of its salary database, which provides such details as skills, location by city and state, length of contract, rate paid by client, and the like.

If you’re interested in pursuing one of the technical certifications offered by Lotus, check out that company’s own salary survey of Certified Lotus Professionals at www.lotus.com/home.nsf/welcome/clpsurvey.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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