Survey: Tech workers seek larger salaries in 2014

As demand for IT talent grows and salaries rise, companies could struggle retaining tech workers

Employers may need to open up their wallets to retain their IT staffers in 2014, according to a salary survey from IT career website Dice.com.

Among the tech workers who anticipate changing employers in 2014, 68 percent listed more compensation as their reason for leaving. Other factors include improved working conditions (48 percent), more responsibility (35 percent) and the possibility of losing their job (20 percent). The poll, conducted online between Oct. 14 and Nov. 29 last year, surveyed 17,236 tech professionals.

Fifty-four percent of the workers polled weren't content with their compensation. This figure is down from 2012's survey, when 57 percent of respondents were displeased with their pay.

The decrease in salary satisfaction could mean companies will face IT staff retention challenges this year, since 65 percent of respondents said they're confident they can find a new, better position in 2014.

This dissatisfaction over pay comes even though the survey, released Wednesday, showed that the average tech salary rose 2.6 percent in 2013 to US$87,811 and that more companies gave merit raises. The main reason for last year's bump in pay, according to 45 percent of respondents, was a merit raise. In comparison, the average tech salary was $85,619 in 2012 and 40 percent of those polled said they received a merit raise.

Meanwhile, 26 percent of respondents attributed their 2013 salary increase to taking a higher-paying job at another company.

Employers realize tech talent is coveted and are attempting to keep workers satisfied by offering them a variety of incentives, the survey found. In 2013, 66 percent of employers provided incentives to retain workers. The two most popular incentives were increased compensation and more interesting work. Incentives that allow employees to better balance their work and personal lives were also offered, such as telecommuting and a flexible work schedule.

Skills that commanded six-figure jobs in 2013 came from some of the hottest areas of IT. Data science led the way with big data backgrounds yielding some of the highest salaries. People skilled in Knowing R, the popular statistical computing language, can expect to make $115,531 on average, while those with NoSQL database development skills command an average salary of $114,796. IT pros skilled in MapReduce to process large data sets make $114,396 on average.

Other popular tech sectors with skills that made the $100,000-plus list include mobile development using Objective C ($102,652), user experience and design using the Omnigraffle tool ($111,039), project management ($109,598), development operations using the Jenkins tool ($104,461) and cloud computing (OpenStack, $106,957). Front-end development skills also paid well for those skilled in the use of Angular tools ($101,208).

In terms of job titles with the highest salaries, tech management positions like CIO, CTO and vice president paid the most money. People in those roles made an average of $132,974 in 2013, an 8 percent increase over 2012. Systems architects ranked second at $125,467 and data architects came in third ($118,756).

Other high-paying jobs include project manager ($109,598), database administrator ($101,166), database developer ($95,879) and business analyst ($90,180). Positions that paid the least include PC technician ($38,932), help desk worker ($42,512) and desktop support specialist ($49,033).

Tech jobs in Silicon Valley paid the highest salaries in any U.S. metropolitan area, with workers there making an average annual salary of $108,603 in 2013, a 7.2 increase from 2012. Part of that percentage increase was due to the fact that the survey didn't poll employees making more than $250,000 in 2012, but it did include them in 2013. If those workers were excluded from the 2013 survey, Bay Area salaries would have increased 5 percent last year.

The defense and aerospace industry around Washington, D.C., helped that area rank second with an average salary of $97,588. Los Angeles came in third at $95,815, followed by Seattle ($95,048) and Boston ($94,531). Other cities that made the top 10 were New York ($93,915), Denver ($93,195), Houston ($92,475), Philadelphia ($92,138) and Austin, Texas ($91,994).

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