IT salaries expected to rise 1.7 per cent

Starting salaries for information technology professionals in Canada are expected to remain stable in 2006 with a projected increase of 1.7 per cent this year, according to a recent study by a technology consulting firm.

Robert Half Technology Wednesday released the results from this year’s Salary Guide for IT Professionals. The report went on to say that specialized areas like IT auditor, business systems analyst and business continuity analyst will see larger increases in base compensation. The annual salary survey is based on thousands of job searches, negotiations, and project and full-time placements made by Robert Half recruiters.

IT auditors, for example, will see the greatest starting salary increases in 2006 with base compensation projected to increase seven per cent to $61,750 and $87,500 per annum, according to the report. Business systems analysts in data base projection is expected to rise 6.5 per cent in 2006 to $58,250 and $80,250 annually. Rounding out the top three, average starting salaries for business continuity analysts are expected to rise 5.9 per cent to $57,000 and $87,250 per year.

Most IT professionals, however, value quality of life benefits over money, said Sandra Lavoy, a vice-president with Robert Half. Lavoy said companies are better off bringing in contract workers to do day-to-day tasks, leaving more time for workers to focus on special assignments.

“Five or six years ago people were almost sleeping at their work,” said Lavoy. “We’re not seeing that as much because what happens when you have people working long hours or overtime is morale and production are affected.”

Companies could also face lawsuits such as the current suit filed against IBM Corp. this week by computer installers and maintenance workers who allege the company did not pay overtime to tens of thousands of employees. Lack of overtime pay, however, is not uncommon to the IT industry, said Software Human Resource Council president Paul Swinwood.

“One of the traditions of the sector is as a wage-earning employee, you don’t get paid for overtime,” said Swinwood. “When you were developing a new company, everybody put in the time because you would then be compensated through the stock prices, the benefits and the experience.”

IBM was also one of the companies named alongside HP and Dell in a report from the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development that cites poor working conditions in computer production sites in Mexico, China and Thailand.

Because low-level jobs can be outsourced to countries in the developing world, Swinwood isn’t surprised to see that entry-level salaries have remained relatively flat.

“Given the fact that we’re in global competition for the entry level jobs, companies can offshore just as easily as they can do it here,” said Swinwood. “At the entry level we are not seeing huge increases in salaries because we’re playing in the global economy. At the senior level we’re seeing real tightening and real increases.”

The study, however, did not report on mid- to high-level salaries because they are more difficult to track and vary from company to company, said Savoy.

Despite the increasing demand for specialized tech workers, university and college enrollment rates are down, mostly due to the lingering effects of the dot-com bubble burst that’s creating the perception that the jobs aren’t there. Many companies, like Fluke Networks, for example, are looking for workers that not only have the technology background, but business acumen as well.

Brad Masterson, product manager for Fluke Networks in Canada, said as time progresses, business and IT have become more and more linked.

“Even though you’re in the IT area you have to have a good understanding of the business so you can tie business and IT functions together so you can drive the business forward,” said Masterson.

Masterson added there’s also convergence happening in traditional telephones and telephone systems as a result of Voice over IP technology.

“They had one group taking care of and the network, now they’re moving into these Voice over IP phones,” said Masterson. “Who takes care of the VoIP phones — is it the telephone guy? Or is it the network guy?”

Other results from the survey show that lead application developers will earn average starting salaries between $64,250 and $84,250 annually, up 4.9 per cent from 2005 levels. Data security analysts, report writers, technical writers and application architects saw increases of anywhere from four per cent to 4.6 per cent in the last year.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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