Why are Tech Pros So Unhappy with Their Pay?

Tech pros may make more than the national average, but a new study shows they might be less satisfied with their income than someone making $40,000 less per year.

Dipping into the Dice Salary Survey data, we see overall salary satisfaction is at 52 percent for those in tech. That 52 percent matches a low point set in 2014.

Furthermore, 63 percent of job seekers who anticipate moving jobs say they will do so for better pay, though only 60 percent report feeling confident they will be able to land a new role. Salary levels for tech pros have plateaued of late; the average salary is $92,712 annually, with very little movement since 2015.

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Though Dice doesn’t measure salary satisfaction state-by-state, it does quantify income levels. Separately, Kununu has examined income and satisfaction by state, with some interesting returns.

Washington D.C. has the happiest earners. On a scale of 1-5 (‘1’ being totally dissatisfied with pay, ‘5’ being over the moon about their salary), it scored a 3.32, with an average income of $68,000. Minneapolis and Seattle each scored 3.21, with average annual incomes of $55,010 and $61,170, respectively.

San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio round out the top five. San Francisco had the highest income (naturally) with $69,110 annually, while Columbus ranked near the bottom with $48,850. The scores for those cities were 3.18 and 3.14, respectively.

When we examine both datasets, some interesting points surface. Dice may cobble San Francisco into ‘Silicon Valley,’ but the average income for tech pros is $114,654 – over $45,000 more than the average posited by Kununu. Washington D.C.’s average for tech pros is $99,937; that’s $31,000 better than the average.

Minneapolis? Tech pros make $41,000 above average there. In Seattle, tech pros rake $38,000 more. Dice doesn’t have Columbus specifically listed, but the data for Ohio shows tech pros make $83,354 on average, or $35,000 above the overall average.

According to Kununu, the national average for salary satisfaction is 3.11 on their 5-point scale, which averages to 62 percent. That’s a full ten points higher than Dice finds for tech pros, despite those in tech making resoundingly more money.

In the Venn diagram of job satisfaction/annual income/feeling appreciated, tech pros may just sit at the most narrow intersection of the three. Employers are also in a difficult position; as salaries for tech pros level off, they’re offering increased benefits, but that’s not improving employee happiness. Sadly, we don’t see this trend reversing any time soon.

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13 Responses to “Why are Tech Pros So Unhappy with Their Pay?”

  1. Bonzo Radcliffe

    One of the major reasons that hourly rates and salaries have been held down is the Impact H1b and L1 visa programs have had on American IT pros.

    Why shouldn’t we be able to enjoy the same income levels that attorneys, physicians or any exec in any corporate suite enjoy??!!

    STOP the H1b and L1 visa programs immediately if not sooner!!

    This is a major factor and is holding back improvements to higher incomes for tech pros that are either consultants or employees.

    Companies in the US are at fault, because if they don’t want to pay more, it’s easy for them to simply call a company from India and hold Americans hostage to lower incomes.

    Why aren’t we decreasing executive pay, attorney pay, physician pay, etc.?!?!

    Businesses in the US have an arsenal of business and immigration law lobbies with tons of money to slow publicity, legal progress and buy politicians!!

    This is a problem that should have been squashed two decad s ago!!

  2. Bob Linsdky

    Yes, companies are at fault, but there’s something else that people can do instead of placing blame, to help each other in the IT workforce. This thing is called unionizing. I have worked in Union jobs in other Industries and it’s great and the working conditions and pay are much better. The employer gets what they want and the employees get what they want, and when there is a disagreement, the managers and employees come together and work it out. Very seldom does it ever lead two strikes and picketing. Workers in the tech industry should start looking into this, because things are not going to get any better because companies are getting greedier.

    • Riiiight. As much as I despise H1-Bs, unions are even worse. Check out Detroit to see how great unions have been. You want to see ALL tech jobs leave the US? Bring in the unions.

  3. wageSlave

    This article doesn’t do the subject justice. Mostly because all the data while useful it is not in the right format to be useful. Pay in IT labor market is not a straight line. You have to average to get a line. It is a scatter diagram. The Pay is all over the place, but clusters in a ban.
    I like to use the analogy using a drywall splatter gun and two walls. Draw a straight horizontal line right to left on both walls at the level of the sprayer nozzle. This represents the mystical unicorn that some refer to as the free market rate or equilibrium price. Now, stand back ten feet and splatter the wall right to left pointing at the line. We will call this a normal distribution. Now, on the other wall place a ladder the same distance from the wall. Climb up ten rungs and repeat the splatter right to left aiming at the line. You will notice a difference in the pattern. With the second distribution the mud hits the wall at a downward angle splattering with streaks that increase in length the farther away from the sprayer you get. If you compare the number of splatters that hit the ground the number increases in the second distribution. The splatters on the ground represent the number of IT workers unemployed. A foot above the floor represents the under employed. As you move up the wall you find the people who are still working but took a pay cut to achieve that condition. The band on both sides of the line is where the average wage will be derived from. The outlying splatters high up on the wall represent the chosen few that managed mostly through luck to hit a favorable niche. Ban below them represents the chosen few that moved into management.
    The rungs on the latter use gravity to represent downward forces. Move up the latter represent changes in the market caused by changes in the business models like resume mills, head hunters, off shoring, health care cost avoidance behavior, and yes H1B visa exploiting behavior. H1B visa exploitation is small part of the problem. It is a false flag issue. Eliminate the program and the problem will persist.
    The splatters on the ground are a demographic mostly of older workers getting killed by health care cost avoidance behavior. Moving up the wall you see the effects of off shoring and H1B. Above that resume mills and head hunters pulling wages down. They are the most influential cause and represents a large aria below the market ban. The perception of low wages is caused by these distributions below the ban. The people in the ban have eyes. They can see what is happening to the other workers below them and time waits for no one. Inevitability drives demand for higher wages as workers scramble to acquire enough wealth to bridge the unemployment gap between to social security 50 to 65. I believe this is what is driving the unhappiness with tech pro wages. You might say that the suffering of others combined with high intelligence quotations capable of doing the math is causing this perception.

  4. It is very simple: Average pay for a technology worker has not kept with devaluation of the dollar (hence its buying power) for the past 35 years.

    I can hire today a systems analyst or programmer for the same hourly rate in absolute dollars as I paid them in 1983. Same $60-65/hr, except that the dollar is worth somewhere around 1/3 what it was worth in 1983.

    So, is anyone surprised?

    • Microking4u

      Dan, you nailed it!
      So why hasent the hourly gone up since 1983?
      My guess is there are allot more skilled workers competing for that same job, thus the competition is causing the stagnation?
      Wasn’t this one of the reasons that IBM / Microsoft / Etc and other big players at the time brought the IT education to India so they could reduce their IT costs?

  5. H1bs have pretty much taken over in my nich of IT in the commercial enterprise arena. When I started back in 2000 there were no H1bs, well maybe a very few from Canada. Now in the commercial enterprise arena over 85% are H1bs. I have learned most are from the same country , where they get free or minimal cost training subsidized by their government. They often don’t have degrees only certificates in my craft. Where as the U.S. citizen have to pay for college and then get trained and certified with the cost coming out of their own pockets. Also, since 2000 recruiters for those same jobs the H1bs getting are now primarily from the same country. I can honestly say of the last 100 calls I’ve gotten from recruiters less than 5 were from from the U.S. I know they have undercut their offers to me, because when I was interviewed by a client and he found out what they had offered me he fired them and ended up paying me 45% more than what the recruiter was offering. My employer said that they would have made plenty of money by paying me what he ended paying. I could go on but I won’t.

  6. Im amazed at how serious IT support roles seem to top off at around 17-20 (max !) per hour here in the midwest. If im on call and have the candor to assist your VIP clients and internal staff thats worth at least 25. Some Gig economy workers make this much (17 to 20/hr). Tech salaries pay the same as they did 10 to 15 years ago, and inflation and rent has gone way up since then. You get what you pay for !

    Signed. Windows Client OS and SQL Scripting wiz.