When it comes to salaries, some industries are willing to pay a premium for top talent. A software developer working for a public school district might not make as much as one employed by the aerospace industry, for instance, even if they have similar levels of experience and skill. Recruiters need to keep this in mind when sourcing talent. The discrepancy between industries is pretty easy to explain. Companies within lucrative industries have nearly infinite amounts of money to spend on talent (think financial firms or biotechnology), while others must balance out their need for tech pros with other budget and personnel concerns (such as a school district struggling for its share of the local tax base). An engineer or developer who takes $50,000 from a non-profit when they could earn $250,000 from a major defense contractor is probably driven by factors other than pay (such as a personal connection to the non-profit’s mission), which offers an advantage to recruiters and hiring managers who can't offer a high starting salary. With all that in mind, here are the industries where annual salaries top $100,000, according to the newest Dice Salary Survey:
Compare that to government, telecommunications, e-commerce, manufacturing, and other areas where top salaries range between $80,000 and $90,000 per year.
Meanwhile, tech pros in these industries can expect to top out at under $80,000 per year:
You can immediately see a pretty startling discrepancy here: Whereas higher-paying sectors such as aerospace and utilities/energy have seen significant year-over-year increases (with some notable exceptions, such as banking and finance, which dipped 3.1 percent between 2017 and 2018), industries with top salaries of under $80,000 per year saw some pretty massive year-over-year declines. What's responsible for these trends? It’s a difficult question to answer, especially since the economy was generally on the upswing over the past two years. It might have less to do with the health of the industries themselves, and more with tech pros, who have seen their salaries level off between 2017 and 2018. Lucrative or not, there’s only so much that certain industries are generally willing (and able) to pay their tech pros, no matter how mission-critical their functions; whether because of general belt-tightening or some other reason, many industries decided to pay their tech pros a bit less heading into 2018. For recruiters and hiring managers, these industry-specific salary ceilings make things pretty clear: When recruiting for an industry like defense, you can likely make a sizable offer for tech pros with the right combination of skills and experience. For industries where salaries tend to top out at less than $80,000 per year, however, recruiters will likely have to dangle other things in order to get the right tech pros on board, such as perks and benefits (e.g., flexible schedules) or appealing to the candidate's sense of civic mission.
Nick Kolakowski has written for The Washington Post, Slashdot, eWeek, McSweeney's, Thrillist, WebMD, Trader Monthly, and other venues. He's also the author of "A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps" and "Maxine Unleashes Doomsday," a pair of noir thrillers.