IT Career JumpStart

Aug 18 2008   3:23PM GMT

Understanding what drives IT salaries

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel


On the IT Knowledge Exchange, I recently fielded the following question “What is the basic salary given to a starting network employee with CCNA and MCSE certifications?”

There are lots of factors that go into answering salary questions with any degree of specificity, which explains why my answer was pretty vague, and why the range of numbers provided ($35K-85K per year) was also pretty large. Just to give you an idea of what kind of information is needed to produce a more precise and meaningful answer, here’s a list of things this person might have told me to get a narrower and more relevant number range in reply:

  1. Location: local cost of living has a profound impact on pay.
  2. Education: number and type of degrees has a significant impact on pay.
  3. Certifications: number and type of certs can have some impact on pay, depending on which ones and how current they are.
  4. Experience: number of years of work experience, and type of work experience, even if irrelevant to the job at hand (as you might expect for an entry-level IT job) can still have an impact on salary offers. Same thing applies to prior military or long-term volunteer experience, such as Job Corps, Peace Corps, and so forth.
  5. Technical Skills and Knowledge: If a job calls for or might benefit from specific skills or knowledge, a candidate who possesses such skills or knowledge can’t help but be perceived and valued more highly than one who does not.

If you look at good IT salary surveys, such as the annual reports from Certification Magazine or, you’ll see that they take most, if not all, of these factors into account when they report on the “salary value” of various IT certifications. Likewise, if you read reports from companies that specialize in compensation information, such as Foote Partners, you’ll see they dig even more deeply into these kinds of relevant details.

It’s just another illustration of the old principle “The more you put in, the more you get back out.” This applies to researching salaries for IT positions, just as it does for many other things in life.


2  Comments on this Post

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  • Mooreronald
    My recommendation would be to choose a program that prepares you for various certifications. The double whammy of having both a degree as well as the necessary certifications will up your bargaining power in the job market immensely. I recently graduated with a [A href=""]computer science degree [/A] which prepared me for certifications in A +, CCNA, Novell-C.N.A., C.N.E.- Advanced Administration, CCNP-LAN Switch Configuration, SUN JAVA II, SUN-Solaris, Intro to Oracle SQL, OCP Advanced. PL/SQL, OCP-DBA and DBD, MCSD-.Net Studio, Visual C++, MCDBA, and more.
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  • MichelleDavidson
    Dear Ron: thanks for sharing your excellent suggestion with us. I, too, have urged readers to do as you recommend. But my undergraduate days are more than 30 years in the past so your more recent experience is more compelling and much more relevant (my first BA was in anthropology ;-). Thanks for posting, --Ed-- PS: I deleted your duplicate post; hope that's OK.
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