Tech Salaries Rise to Highest Levels in a Decade

U.S. technology salaries rose last year more than they have in a decade, with the average tech professional earning a 5 percent increase, from $81,327 to $85,619, according to an annual salary survey by Dice.

The increase comes at a time when more than two thirds of tech professionals — 64 percent — are confident that they can find a better job. Supporting their notion is the fact that employers are stepping up their efforts to retain staff, using more interesting or challenging assignments, increased compensation and telecommuting options. (Some 19 percent of the survey’s respondents changed jobs during 2012.)

Overall U.S. Tech Salaries Annual Change 2012

Indeed, the technology job market remains tight. The sector’s unemployment rate now stands at 3.8 percent, well below the overall economy’s 7.8 percent.

Tech professionals with two years or less experience earned their first year-on-year increase in three years: 8 percent, to $46,315. For those with at least 15 years of experience, there was particularly good news: Their average salaries topped six figures for the first time, growing 4 percent in a year to $103,012.

Schizophrenic Bonuses

Though the year-to-year comparisons for bonuses were slight, they told opposite stories. On the one hand, the average award slipped to $8,636 from $8,769. On the other, slightly more professionals — 33 percent last year compared to 32 percent in 2011 — received a payout.

‘Mad Skills, More Money’

Professionals working with Big Data did particularly well. Salaries for those regularly using Hadoop, NoSQL and Mongo DB are all over $100,000. Those whose work is closely associated with the cloud and virtualization are earning, on average, just under $90,000. Average mobile salaries are closer to $80,000.

The survey was conducted online with 15,049 employed technology professionals responding between Sept. 24 and Nov. 16, 2012. Cookies were among the methods used to duplicate responses.

Download Dice’s 2022 Salary Survey Report Now!

29 Responses to “Tech Salaries Rise to Highest Levels in a Decade”

  1. The question is:

    Are tech salaries going up ? Really ?

    After a decade of declining salaries, it’s impossible for them to leap way up to make up for the lost decade.

    In light of CEO having their base salary cut in half (e.g., J. Dimon@JMPChase), what does one expect a tech’s salary to stay at the current level ???

    My bet is that tech salaries will drop again, and drop big, there’s nothing in the US economy to sustain increase.


    • Glen Smith

      There are several possible stories here that fit the data. Remember, this does not include the unemployed IT guys or those who were driven out of IT altogether. First, the supply group that is most desired (employed in a job that almost exactly fits the new job and not actively looking) shrinks during downturns. During economic upswings, demand goes up for this supply group meaning salaries by definition have to go up. Even if there is no upswing in demand, the falling supply will cause salaries to rise for that supply group because it is likely that supply group is shrinking faster than demand. Another possibility is that more senior IT guys are having to take entry level jobs that should go to guys trying to break into the field. Senior guys took a severe pay cut to get those jobs but at a rate slightly higher than the guys who should have taken those jobs. Combined with the first story, this would also severely limit the supply management is aware of and wants to hire from. Finally, a more positive scenario, some senior IT managers and CEOs are finally waking up to the bill of goods they bought. Thing I really would want to know is the true unemployment/under employment rate in IT and the actual distribution of salaries in IT given the true unemployment/under employment rate.

  2. Trust me both rates for consultants have been steadily dropping since 2003, as well as salaries for FTEs.

    Going forward, both the US economy as well as global economies will continue to decline in an attempt to cut costs and reign in deficits.
    Almost forgot to mention that to close the gap, taxes will rise, etc. etc. etc.

  3. My pay went down by $13,000.00 in the past 10 years. You can always get an old Cobol job if your goal is just to eat. They pay around 40k-65k. You can get Java contracts easily enough, but contracting work is hit or miss. Sometimes you have some green and in-between, things get lean. I have had to increase my knowledge of languages and have recently added Python. Well, I am always hopeful that things will get better. My neighbor used to be in IT as well, but now he is working in a nursing home.

  4. I think the survey is flawed, it appears when you click on the map that only a handful, or even 1 person only answered the survey, severely distorting the “averages” per state, which in hand distort the whole picture.

    I agree with Glen above that senior guys having to take low-paying replacement jobs is not only a missing variable, but a near-plague on the whole salary graph.. I personally made near 100k 10 years ago, company got bought out, IT got replaced, & I had to start back at 50 at next company, then company got bought out, IT replaced, found a new “entry level” (they are ALL entry level OR temp jobs now)…and now am down even further to $46k.. with 15 years sysadmin experience.

    I kepp hearing these fantasies on how great the economy and job markets are, in our field and others, yet my wallet and my eyes paint a much different and less-rosy picture.

  5. sarahjaneb

    Ha! I’m staying at a state job (which have historically been 15-20% below private sector salaries) because everything else I’ve found is a consulting gig with no job security or longevity, and/or less money. I actually got an offer from a major consulting firm that was just barely more than what I make now, and with fewer benefits. I’ve been getting emails from recruiters that I’m just shaking my head at and deleting because the listed rates are so ridiculously low. Less than $30/hr with no benefits, and they think they’ll get someone with 10+ years of programming experience for that?

  6. adamchenwei

    If we consider salary as most important part as of been a tech for a living, then we shall as well drown ourselves into Wall Street for the gold they have. But still, informative.

  7. John Pittaway

    First, no ship sails on yesterday’s wind.

    Programmer’s salaries where wildly inflated to by the Y2K concerns followed closely by the Dot-Nothing boom. Rookies were with no paid experience but good grades – however obtained – were hired at rates reserved for those with 3 or more years proven experience just a few years earlier. That bubble burst followed closely by the housing bust, etc. I know that I took a beating.

    This report shows that those with current skill sets are in demand. Even in down economy, software is vital to companies and the supply of experienced developers dropped. Also many companies are finding the economies of off-shore are not paying off like they flip chart – or Power Point – showed they would.

  8. I think the survey is flawed. Clicking on the map it would appear that only one respondent was from my state. What one IT guy makes is hardly enough data to consider it an “average”, and as well all well know, comparing a salary from San Fran and Maine are two different worlds.

    I’d argue that the article is dead wrong.. there’s heaping amounts of information from more comprehensive surveys that concludes the polar opposite. I also assess personal experiences of myself and other IT friends in the area. To any regard, we all make less than we did 10-15 years ago, and I only know one programmer (who ironically makes more now) in the mix.

    Me personally- I made 75k in 1998 (corporate takeover (competition bought us out), IT replaced), new job.. 55k in 2009 (corporate buyout, IT Replaced), … new job again, and now 46k today. In a 5-mile radius there’s at least 50 ITT grads who are waiting tables and dying to replace me should I be cocky enough to forget my place (sarcasm, but inherently true)..

    So .. no, the IT field isn’t booming, MORE jobs continue to go offshore, and tech schools continue to pump out 10’s of thousands of new-wave techies into a market that already has more talent than work. Everyone in this area now hires contract only, pay even worse than FT jobs … Remember when contracting paid $100/hr and up? Now it’s flat $20 or 25-30 if you have extensive experience and are a master in your field.

    This whole industry is just a sorry state. I agree with the guy who said we should unionize. But they’d probably just hire more temps to replace us…

        • I think you misinterpret me- For instance, in my former job, nearly half the company was technically IT.. if any of us dared say the word ‘Union”, we would have probably been fired on the spot (right-to-work state), and if we had massed together? A bunch of ITT grads and H1B’s would be at our desks the next day. There’s no footholds for unions in this industry, it was designed specifically to not be union friendly, and we all know it.

          My point was that if we tried to unionize, we would just be instantly replaced, end of story.

          If you want to discuss the fantasy of actually getting a union started, and be effective, well, sure, let’s daydream, but it certainly isn’t part of any reality in this day and age.

      • And me supporting the idea of a union is fantasy. I am NOT a proponent of unions at all. That said, there’s nothing to be done here at all. Employers are in drivers seat. Either we play by their rules or don’t play their game at all, which is to become self-employed/start a business.

  9. MoChaMan69

    I get bored listening to people talk about how all these statistics are lies. The fact is this – employers looking for Linux Systems techs have finally realized that not that many people can handle a Linux server so now there is wage inflation, much more than I’ve ever seen. For the first time, job postings are including salaries and those salaries now top $100K . A financial firm will pay $125-$150K. My history?

    1997 $36K ( rural )
    1999 $50K ( Boston )
    2002 $36K ( rural )
    2004 $48K +$12K bonus ( TX city )
    2007 $72K ( DC )
    2008 $85K ( Boston )
    2010 $85K ( Boston )
    2012 $95K ( Boston )

    Maybe you people need to pick up and move. Not easy? Being a migrant rarely is, but I’ve been able to do it to SFO , SAT , WDC and BOS.|0&Ntx=mode+matchall&op=300&x=38&y=11&

  10. From $69,400 to $85.619 over ten years is a total rise of 23.37%. Unfortunately, during that same period, inflation rose by 25% according to the Consumer Price Index and several online inflation calculators.

    Which means after adjusting for inflation, the average tech salary went down. That should not be happening if there is a shortage of tech workers.

  11. The pay for specific skills is not tied to the overall economy. Even in high unemployment times, there is a shortage for some skills. Take IT security – the government posted many openings, couldn’t fill them, and now turned to 3rd parties (consult/contract firms). They in turn have now posted positions. The hot skill will always be changing, but you can take advantage of such things with a little foresight and planning.
    Things go in cycles, and have changed a lot in the past decade. Too many people are posting about how bad their experience was 7 to 10 years ago – that is too long ago to even matter. I’ve been in this field over 25 years, and seen the cycles come and go. Developers were outsourced and off-shored, not it is coming back. Trends change about every 4 to 5 years.
    Those who don’t change with the trends risk their careers and complain about it. The talk about unions here is ridiculous and would not help anything, unless you want to fork some of your pay over to union reps? If you like unions, go to work for local government, and count the days until you retire. On the other hand, your embrace that is a career – not a job – and reinvest in your own training and knowledge. Always be ready to move on, ready to seize an opportunity and react to a layoff. I’ve been affected by layoffs, have quit two jobs without a new one waiting, and always manage to find another position and pay my bills. If you can’t, you might want to examine what exactly you are offering employers, or even whether you should move to a better market. Houston, San Jose, Seattle have pages and pages of different IT positions open…..

    • It’s not always that simple as people have spouses and children. Sometimes there are tradeoffs. I moved a little over a year ago for my wife’s job and it turned out to be a career downturn for me because the market here isn’t good for my skills, but my wife makes so much more than me I have to eat it because moving to a market where my skills would be more appreciated would cost us a lot more than we would gain.

      Unions aren’t the answer yet, but companies can and do bribe, I mean lobby politicians to control the market, whereas we can’t. I think the best solution is not to play the game. Go into business for oneself instead of being a slave to what the master wants on a particular day. In fact go into multiple businesses to have multiple streams of income so it really doesn’t matter if employers want purple squirrels and unicorns.

      • MoChaMan69

        @Jim – the suggestion to move is based on not having other options. If you have no other option but starvation for your family, moving for work becomes a great option. I used to work in a company with a VP that lived in Oregon and flew to San Jose for a 4 day work week. The family had a good quality of life in a much cheaper house and dad went where the work is. Granted, the scale is higher, but the idea is the same: Do what you have to do to make money. A more proletarian solution would be to keep the family in the cheaper city and rent a small bedroom in the employment city so you can come home on the weekends. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

        • And I’ve been there. We moved to Iowa for a job for me and lived there 9 years. In the latest move, my wife was offered a position within her company that required we move. The first move really was an adjustment for me, the second one not so much. It was the reverse for the kids.

  12. In Silicon Valley demand for IT worker is hot at the time of this writing. My peers who are senior level make 130-150K when you factor in base salary and bonus. If you’re having a hard time finding a job move to where the jobs are.