How a Tech Management Track Can Really Pay Off

Tech managers can make quite a bit of money, according to data from the latest Dice Salary Survey.

In 2017, those in the upper echelons of tech management—including CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, and vice presidents—pulled down an average of $136,786, virtually unchanged from 2016. Things were similarly rosy for “nuts and bolts” managers typically charged with product implementation: product managers, for example, could expect to earn around $119,141, while strategists and architects could pull down $117,748 (in the latter case, that’s a 6.1 percent increase over 2016).

Project managers, although at the lower end of this scale, nonetheless averaged a very healthy $114,136, a year-over-year increase of 1.6 percent. And none of these salary figures include perks and benefits such as stock options, which can greatly increase the size of an overall compensation package.

Whatever their role and package, managers make quite a bit more than your “average” tech pro. In 2017, tech pros’ average annual pay hit $92,712, a very slight 0.7 percent increase over 2016. As always, specialized and in-demand skills will earn practitioners a salary well above that average; for example, those tech pros who focused on MapReduce (a programming model associated with Big Data analytics) had an average salary of $127,702 in 2017, driven by companies desperate for people who can wrangle increasingly enormous datasets.

A subset of tech pros disdains the idea of abandoning their current career track to enter management, and that’s understandable; they’d rather work on interesting projects than try to wrangle people. But there are a number of reasons (in addition to the money and benefits) to consider aiming for a management position of some sort.

For starters, managers at certain companies have a greater degree of control over what they work on, especially if they have technical skills. While a CIO or CEO may not listen to a rank-and-file tech pro extolling the virtues of a particular technology, they’re liable to perk up when a respected manager says that a platform or idea is worth pursuing. Once ensconced in management, you could find yourself running something very interesting, provided you’ve demonstrated its potential worth to the company.

In light of that, tech pros interested in management need to decide on what kinds of positions actually interest them. A C-suite job, which might take years to land, potentially gives you the opportunity to affect the direction of a company, or at least its tech stack (C-suite pay is also pretty sweet); but it may also prevent you from working daily with the technologies you love. (And if you want a company board to consider you for CEO, it helps to have an MBA or other, business-related degree.)

A middle-management position may present some tech pros with the best of both worlds: the opportunity to guide the direction of projects and programs, all while actually working with the latest software and services. Programs such as the ITIL expert certification (which features a fantastic ROI) can help you make your case to hiring managers and recruiters about jumping to a management track, especially if you boast degrees and certifications in a related technical discipline. (For example, if you want a management position centered on cyber-security, you could consider earning your ISSAP/CISSP (InfoSys Security Architecture Professional).

When eyeing management, finding a mentor is also key: they can teach you things about people that you’ll never find in school. Just remember: while the money associated with management is good, it’s not the only thing; make sure you’re getting onto that particular track for the right reasons. And if you’re interested in finding out how much your skills and experience can potentially pay, check out the Dice Salary Calculator.

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