Main image of article Software, Data Skills Key to Bigger Paychecks in 2014

Though few packages are on par with Twitter’s $10 million engineer Christopher Fry, pay is on the upswing for IT occupations, according to a Robert Half Technology salary survey. The survey projects that while salaries will rise an average 3.7 percent in 2014 across a number of sectors -- accounting/finance, technology, legal, creative and administrative jobs -- the positions with the highest jumps will be engineering, software development and programming. For instance, mobile applications developers and software developers will see increases of nearly 8 percent. Noting that seniority and work ethic going forward makes comparison difficult, the survey looked at national average starting pay in IT positions across 150 markets. It doesn’t include bonuses, stock and other forms of compensation – indeed stock awards represent the bulk of Fry’s compensation. His base pay as Senior Vice President of Engineering was $145,513, with a bonus of $100,000. Software development figures prominently in the positions expected to show heady growth in salaries.

RHT Top Salaries

Special skills still warrant premium pay, according to the report. SharePoint tops that list by commanding an additional 12 percent in compensation. Microsoft SQL Server and virtualization skills result in a10 percent premium, followed by Java, .NET, PHP and C# development at 9 percent. Cisco network admins and Linux/Unix admins also can expect 9 percent more.

Software Dev Lifts All Ships

“We’ve seen substantial increases in the past couple of years,” says Deborah Vazquez, CEO of staffing and executive search firm PROTECH, which has grown from placing tech talent in South Florida to doing so globally. Candidates in software development, particularly with Java and .NET skills, are in high demand. Their salaries have increased by 15 to 20 percent over a few years ago. “We’re seeing demand along the whole software lifecycle,” Vazquez says, citing opportunities for business analysts, project managers and QA specialists as well. Meanwhile, IT services companies are hot to hire technology sales executives as well as talent with cloud, software-as-a-service and Big Data skills, she notes. However, while it’s a candidate’s market in areas such mobile app development and predictive analytics, there’s less salary growth on the infrastructure side. Indeed, positions in operations – manager, computer operator, mainframe systems programmer – were projected in RHT’s report to have the least salary growth, less than 3 percent. Pay growth for some help desk and technical support positions came in at less than 4 percent.

Not All About Money

Of course, every market’s different. The 8.4 percent projected growth for pre-sales engineers nationally doesn’t make it the top job in San Francisco, where Web developers and mobile app developers can – and do – demand top compensation. Business intelligence analysts and data architects, too, are in high demand as companies seek help in understanding the data they hold about their customers. “It’s a very competitive market, and companies really have to distinguish themselves from their competitors to get the top talent,” observes David Knapp, San Francisco Metro Market Manager for Robert Half Technology. But while companies have to pony up for high performers, it’s not necessarily all about the money for them, Knapp said. “It’s about the company, the technology, what they’re doing,” he says. “The ability to work from home a couple of days a week, the hours – that’s really important to them.” Vazquez concurs. “[Employers] have to have a [personal] growth story for them, a transformation story, a career path.” Also, Vazquez says signing bonuses are back, ranging from $5,000 for a solid software engineer to $25,000 for a technology executive. And, Knapp says, candidates are asking for them.

A Salary Gap

On top of all that, it’s difficult for companies to bring new talent into their software teams because the other workers’ lower pay would have been competitive in 2008 or 2009, but isn’t anymore. “There’s a big gap in salaries,” Vazquez says, “and they’re usually not in a position to give everyone a raise.” That, and layoffs leaving more work for those who remain have workers realizing they can bump up their salaries by moving to new jobs.