FRAMINGHAM (07/24/2000) - In her 15 plus years in the industry, Deb Brenamen, IT liaison manager for Midwest manufacturing company New Venture Gear, says she has witnessed a significant shift in upper management's attitude toward the network professional.
"Companies are finally starting to pay attention to technical employees as more than just a necessary evil," she says. "These employees bring a lot to the table in terms of business systems, and employers are changing things to be more competitive."
This increased recognition is translating into healthy increases in total compensation for network professionals, according to our annual Network World Salary Survey. The average base salary of the 3,702 network professionals who participated in the survey rose from $61,618 in 1999 to a projected $65,997 in 2000, an increase of 7%.
But that's not even the best part. Total compensation has gone up dramatically, fueled by hefty bonuses and stock options, from $63,050 in 1998 to $73,141 in 1999 to $80,235 in 2000, according to analysis of the survey results by STAT Resources, a research firm in Brookline, Mass. For the survey, STAT sent e-mails to a random sample of Network World subscribers requesting them to participate in a private online survey. STAT then analyzed the raw data.
Per that data, your average annual bonus increased 28%, from $5,193 in 1999 to an anticipated $6,670 this year. Stock options increased 24%, from $5,210 in 1999 to a projected $6,497 this year. The percentage of respondents who expect to receive additional compensation in the form of stock options and bonuses increased from 46% to 56%.
Sherry Callahan, senior network administrator at financial services firm State Street, in Kansas City, Mo., is enjoying the changes to her paycheck. She received a 15% salary increase last year and reports another 19% for 2000, on top of a four-digit bonus due later this year (see related story, page 66).
Of course, not all of you will see that large an increase, depending on your title, the size of your company, your location and perhaps even your gender.
But the numbers don't lie: Compensation in the network industry is on the rise due to the emergence of new, complex technologies like VPNs and voice over IP, the increased importance of e-commerce and a shortage of skilled workers.
The Web is clearly the hot place to be. If you can successfully create, design and maintain a dynamic Web site, your average salary is $83,000, but in terms of total compensation, you're pulling in about $106,000. Internet, intranet, e-commerce and Web managers - all relatively new positions in the industry - are in demand, and their average paychecks are more than 50% higher than network managers, who average about $61,656 per year.
Most respondents predict the salary gap will narrow over time. While those in non-Web positions may express a bit of jealousy about the high salaries going to people in online positions, they also understand the big bucks may be justified.
"I think it takes a pretty creative person to be a Webmaster," says Brett Carlsen, a systems analyst with Kings County in California.
With 17 years in this industry, Carlsen says it can be frustrating to work with one of these Web gurus, fresh from college, making double your salary. But Carlsen also admits his experience may be dated.
"In this industry, longevity does not necessarily justify a higher salary," he says. "Some of the stuff I learned years ago is no longer applicable. That makes part of my job skills obsolete."
The management track
Another way to boost your pay is to move into a management role. For example, a LAN, WAN or network manager makes about $61,656 per year, while the average help desk or tech support person makes approximately 27% less at about $48,500.
From the top of the management ladder down, those in charge are earning significantly more.
Of course, chief information officers make the most at about $112,479, but other managers pull in some great packages, too. Telecommunications managers, for example, are averaging about $74,843, and others in IS management take home approximately $76,690, while those on network staff make about 23% less at $62,152.
Bigger is better
Working for a large company is another way to increase your earnings. Survey results show the base salary for staffers in companies with 10,000 or more employees is $64,121. That's 10% more than the $58,077 average base salary for respondents in companies with 1,000 to 9,999 employees, and 18% more than the $54,303 average base salary at companies with less than 1,000 employees (see graphic, page 62).
Large companies also offer more in the way of stock options. The largest companies offer $9,264 in stock options, compared to $1,593 for midsize companies and, interestingly, $2,409 for small companies.
In terms of total compensation - bonuses and other benefits included - the big boys average out at more than $78,000, leaving midsize and small firms paying 21% and 27% less, respectively, to the average network staffer.
Location, location, location
It's not only what you do, but also where you do it that impacts your compensation. This year's survey shows if you work for a company located in the Pacific, Mid-Atlantic or New England regions, you make more than your counterparts elsewhere in the country. The average pay for an IT employee in the Pacific region is $82,969, almost 12% more than the national average for those positions.
On the other end of the spectrum, those of you in the East South Central region - Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee - are making about 23% less than the national average, bringing in only $56,884 on average for the same positions.
"The East and West coasts are the best places to get paid, unless you're contracting, because then all the places that no one wants to go, pay the best," says Hal Norman, IT manager for a wholly owned subsidiary of a large aerospace company. Because Norman's company is headquartered on the East Coast and he works for the subsidiary in Point Mugu, Calif., both locations virtually guarantee him a higher-than-normal paycheck.
Of course, you can find variations within regions. Sandee Sprang is the director of information resources at the South Carolina Office of the Attorney General in Columbia. Being in the South Atlantic region, Sprang's pay should be about 1.5% less than the norm. But being in the state's capital brings it in line with the higher-end regions, she says.
"I am extremely pleased with my salary and my budget," Sprang says. "They're at least as rewarding as those in the Northeast and on the West Coast."
In contrast, Eric Merillat, a network technician at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., says he knows he could double his salary if he commuted an hour south. Right now, making about $40,000, Merillat is content to stay at the university because of its tuition reimbursement program, and he prefers not to live in the city.
"My benefits package makes up for the salary," Merillat says.
Merillat also recognizes the budget constraints of a state university compared to a private company. "I will stay here and finish my degree, and then I'll see what I can make then," he says.
The man/woman thing
Roslyn Taylor, a network engineer for Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, agrees with Merillat that the public sector does not pay as well as a private company might. But she has the added disadvantage of being female.
Taylor describes a situation she encountered where a male employee with certification, but no experience, was hired at her salary. "He's a nice guy.
But I am teaching him, and he is at the same pay grade," she says.
Taylor says she's not sure whether to attribute this apparent inequity to gender bias or to the value employers put on certification over experience.
When it comes to gender differences, in last year's survey, STAT Research detected a significant gap. Women were earning 72 cents for each dollar earned by men. This year, STAT did a more detailed analysis that compared men and women in similar job positions and also factored in the number of hours worked each week. It found that at the most senior positions, women actually earned more than men - $27.63 per hour compared to $25.95 per hour for senior IT managers. But when it comes to other jobs, such as IT staff or other IT management, men earn about $4 per hour more than women.
According to New Venture Gear's Brenamen, however, it's not all about the money. She's been with this Muncie, Ind., company for three years and manages a staff of 10. She took a full-time job with the company after a brief stint as a contractor because New Venture Gear "dangled a carrot I couldn't resist."
The carrot was a stable work environment with growth potential and great benefits.