A close look at the numbers will reveal why your salary may differ slightly.

Law of Averages

A close look at the numbers will reveal why your salary may differ slightly.

Perhaps compensation isn’t the only reason you accepted your current position, nor what motivates you to stay late installing new software, put in that occasional Saturday getting the server back online, or work through lunch to get a user’s computer up and running again. Still, salary is important, and the secrecy factor only adds to that. Since we’re not privy to knowing the pay of anyone but our own and those we directly manage, at least at any company I’ve ever worked for or heard of, we naturally hunger to know how our compensation compares to others.

In IT, salary survey results are easy to predict lately—good, highly experienced IT workers have become as rare as profitable dot-coms, and are thus commanding big bucks. But for those who haven’t been in the industry very long, who don’t hold one or more premium skills, or who just haven’t negotiated well, the picture may be slightly different.

If you have four to six years of experience in IT, hold an MCSE, you’re male, and you live in a major metropolitan area, like our average reader, our survey says that your peers are earning somewhere around $67,800—the magic number on our cover. Some of you make more, some make less. As “Professionally Speaking” columnist Steve Crandall remarks this month, “that’s why it’s called an average.”

But even if you fit the typical profile to some degree, don’t email your manager for a salary review just yet. Let’s examine the average a bit more closely. Your individual circumstances will affect that average hugely. Here are some examples. If you’re just entering IT—and some of you reading this magazine are—you can expect something closer to $48,000. If you’re female, unfortunately, our numbers show that you can subtract as much as 15 percent from almost any average salary. If you’re in a major metropolitan area, add roughly eight to 10 percent, perhaps as much as 20 percent if you’re in a technology hotbed like the Bay Area. Do you supply services internally to other employees, rather than externally in a consultant function? Companies seem to pay a bit less for internal IT professionals, so subtract a few points. And are you a good negotiator? Add another few points. And so forth.

All of this is just to remind you that many variables affect compensation. We try to slice and dice the data from a wide variety of angles to give you as clear a picture as we can of IT compensation in the U.S. among those holding or pursuing a Microsoft certification. But make sure you’re weighing all the factors before you come to a salary conclusion.

Based on your suggestions each year, we tweak our survey questionnaire and our reporting on it. Tell us what you think of the numbers, and what you’d like to see us measure, at [email protected]

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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