Main image of article Technology Job Newbies Face Stagnant Salaries (Things Get Better)

Let’s say you’re new to the technology industry. Maybe you graduated from a traditional four-year college with a degree in computer science, or you spent a couple of months in an intensive bootcamp for software development. Or perhaps you’re self-taught, with a hefty portfolio of apps and code snippets on GitHub.

In any case, you’ve heard that technologists are earning bigger salaries than ever, and that, thanks to the technology industry’s low unemployment rate, jobs are plentiful. Maybe you land your first gig pretty easily—but if you don’t, and you’re still out there looking, it’s easy to become discouraged. Your first job may also pay much less than you expect.

The latest Dice Salary Report gives us some granular insight into why some brand-new technologists might not feel like they’re enjoying the opportunities and perks of their profession: Increases in salary don’t really start until technologists are at least three years into their careers. After that point, the year-over-year increases are notable. Take a look at the chart:

Those with less than two years of experience saw their salaries decline year-over-year, while those with 3-5 years of experience enjoyed considerable gains (7.2 percent). Despite regular (and warranted) concerns within the tech industry about the impact of ageism on technologists’ careers and salaries, those with more than 15 years of experience also enjoyed a year-over-year rise in compensation, albeit a somewhat smaller one than those with between three and 15 years of experience.

What conclusions can we draw from this data? Employers are hungry for tech talent—but they’re especially willing to pay for talent with the right combination of skills and experience. Once technologists spend enough time in their positions—hopefully improving their skills along the way—they begin to see those coveted year-over-year gains.

But which skills translate into the most money? The 2020 edition of the Salary Report gives us some insight on that front, too. As you can see from the following chart, many of these skills are related to data and IT infrastructure, which are absolutely mission-critical for companies; they are also complicated, which means a relatively small pool of technologists who have mastered them—which boosts demand and salaries:

But even if you have no interest in learning something like containers or MapReduce, there are plenty of in-demand technology skills. For example, programming languages such as Python or Swift are pretty much always needed by some company; any technologist advancing in their career also needs to pay attention to soft skills, especially if they eventually want to manage teams or even companies (skills such as empathy and communication can also help make your role at least somewhat automation-proof).