IT Jobs: Wages Hold Up, but Fewer Openings

In the main IT industry wages look to be weathering the economic storm, according to this year's Skills Survey, but there are signs that first-time tech workers are taking a hit.

The research shows that fewer tech workers are on the lowest rung of the pay ladder compared to last year, while the proportion taking home larger salaries is up on 2008.

Less than a fifth (16 per cent) of tech workers report taking home a salary of under £25k this year, compared to more than a fifth (22 per cent) who did so in 2008.

The average graduate salary for computer science grads last year was just over £21k, according to a Higher Education Careers Services Unit (Hecsu) report published earlier this month, while the starting salary for information systems and software engineering grads was just over £20k.

The number of vacancies offered by the top graduate recruiters has fallen more than predicted in the past year, the Hecsu report notes.

The report, entitled What Do Graduates Do?, states that unemployment rates for IT grads rose by 4.2 percentage points to 13.7 per cent last year. While the percentage of IT graduates entering employment dropped from 68.1 per cent in 2007 to 63.6 per cent in 2008. In addition, it notes that a survey of graduate recruiters published by the Association of Graduate Recruiters earlier this year found the number of IT graduate vacancies available last year shrank by up to 44.5 per cent.

But while recruitment freezes could be helping to prop up IT industry wage levels above £25k, as fewer grads get jobs in tech, the good news for existing IT workers is that the freeze has not necessarily extended to their pay packets.

Just over a quarter of IT pros responding to the Skills Survey reported taking home an annual pay packet of between £25,001k and £40k this year, while just over a fifth (22 per cent) said they pocket £40,001 to £55k. Meanwhile, 17 per cent of techies claimed to earn between £55,001 and £70k – which is up five percentage points on last year.

The peak of the IT pay scale is also apparently unscathed by the recession, with the proportion taking home the most bacon rising marginally on last year. Almost a fifth (19 per cent) of this year's respondents reported taking home more than £70,001, compared to 18 per cent who did so in 2008.

Better News at the Top End

Despite the cost-cutting forced on many organisations by the recession, pay packets for the IT management team have held up – and for some even grown.

According to the exclusive 2009 Skills Survey a greater proportion of IT chiefs are now taking home bigger pay packets than in last year's survey.

More than half of the CIOs and IT directors who responded to this year's survey reported annual salaries in excess of £70,001 – up on last year when less than half earned that much.

And many IT managers have also got cause to smile this year, with a greater proportion of these tech workers finding themselves at the higher end of the mid-range pay scales. Almost a fifth (19 per cent) now pocket between £55,001 and £70k, up on last year (16 per cent) and 2007 (14 per cent). Meanwhile, more than one in 10 tech managers (13 per cent) are commanding an annual salary of between £70,001 and £110k – also slightly up on last year.

However it's not good news for all IT managers – there's evidence that a growing proportion is finding itself on the bottom rung of the pay ladder. Seventeen per cent of IT managers now make do with under £25k per year, compared to just nine per cent in 2008.

This year IT consultants have seen their earning power grow too, with close to a third (28 per cent) bringing home between £70,001 and £110k per annum – a jump of almost 10 percentage points on last year's result, while just over a fifth (22 per cent) earn between £55,001 and £70k; and a further fifth (20 per cent) get £40,001 to £55k.

Almost one in 10 (eight per cent) of workers in the IT consulting game claim to be taking home more than £110k per year.

Elsewhere in the IT job market, there's evidence that software and web developer's store is rising after a relatively bad 2008 – with almost half (46 per cent) of survey respondents in this job category now earning between £25,001 and £40,000 annually, compared to only a fifth (23 per cent) who did so last year. In addition, less than a fifth (17 per cent) reported earning under £25k this year, compared to almost half of these respondents last year.

IT contractors haven't had such a good year in the pay stakes, with close to half (43 per cent) earning less than £40k this year, and less than fifth (17 per cent) laying their hands on in excess of £70,001. In 2008 more than a third (35 per cent) reported taking home £70,001+. surveyed 415 people for its Skills Survey between June and November 2009.

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