Surprising Factors That Impact IT Salary
Cynthia Harvey, Datamation 933 Times 659 People

The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.

A lucky few work for government agencies or other organizations that have transparent pay scales; however, the vast majority of people who work in technology have limited ability to compare salaries to those of co-workers. IT professionals have a vague idea that certain factors such as their skills, experience, value to the company and ability to negotiate well (or not) determine how much they get paid.

But most are not aware of the other factors that impact their annual pay.

A survey conducted by DevOps tools vendor Puppet is changing that situation just a bit. Based on data collected from 3,200 technology workers on six continents, the 2017 DevOps Salary Report takes a deep dive into technology worker pay, comparing salaries in light of several different factors.

Data from the Puppet report was used to calculate the average and median pay for technology workers in the various categories. The survey asked people for their salary range, not an exact number, so to determine the averages, a midpoint in the range was used. The range between the highest and the lowest was then evaluated to rank the factors based on their impact.

What are the surprising factors that you would have never imagined?


Geographic Region

Based on the data from this survey, where you live has a bigger impact on your salary than any other factor. It's not even close.

In this case, when we're talking about geographic location, we're not talking about the differences between Silicon Valley and Topeka. We're talking about the differences among the major global regions.

According to this report, the average pay for a US technology worker is around $141,725. And the median salary falls in the $100,000 to $125,000 range. By comparison, the average tech pay in India is about $50,650, and the median is less than $25,000. In other words, tech workers in the highest-paying part of the world make $90,000 to $100,000 more than tech workers in the lowest-paying part of the world.



As you might expect, how long you've been on the job also has a major impact on your salary. And although the technology industry has a reputation for favoring younger workers, people generally earn more the longer they have been on the job. However, pay increases start to flatten out once you've been working in your field for more than 15 years.

In this survey, workers with more than 20 years of experience had an average pay of around $141,700, and the median pay was in the $100,000 to $125,000 range. At the low end, tech staffers with less than five years' experience made an average of about $79,725 with the median falling in the $35,000 to $50,000 range. In other words, experience had about a $60,000 to $75,000 impact on annual salary.


Job Title

Most IT workers won't be surprised to hear that job titles also have a significant impact on salaries. The Puppet report doesn't provide data for all the possible job titles, but it does break out a few of the more common ones.

In this case, the lowest-paid job title was "Systems Administrator." On average, these folks earn about $115,250 with the median falling between $75,000 and $100,000. By contrast, people with "Architect" in their job title averaged around $168,000 with a median between $125,000 and $150,000.

So for this select group of job titles, your title can make around a $50,000 difference in your yearly pay.


Number of Servers

Somewhat surprisingly, the factor with the fourth largest impact on tech salaries is the number of servers in use at a given organization. Although bigger companies tend to have more servers than smaller companies do, the server count actually has a more significant impact on pay than the headcount does.

In this case, the sharpest increases in salary occur between companies that have 100 or fewer servers and up to 2,000 servers. Beyond that, the average salary levels off and even dips slightly.

The highest salaries are in companies with fifty thousand to one hundred thousand servers, where the average salary is $129,225, and the median falls between $100,000 and $125,000. The lowest salaries are at organizations with one hundred or fewer servers, where the average is $102,125 and the median falls between $50,000 and $75,000.

In other words, the number of servers in an organization affects salaries between $27,000 and $50,000.


Management Responsibilities

Most people assume that managers earn more than the people they supervise, but within technology, the difference might not be as great as you expect. In fact, the Puppet report noted that in Western Europe manager salaries are actually on par with staff salaries.

On average, US managers make $168,300 with a median between $125,000 and $150,000, compared to an average of $141,725 and a median between $100,000 and $125,000 for all US tech workers.

That means managers make about $25,000 more than non-managers.


Size of Organization

As previously mentioned, the size of the headcount at an organization also makes a difference on tech salaries, although that difference is not as significant as the difference attributable to the number of servers in use at a company.

Very small organizations with fewer than 20 employees pay the least — $98,450 on average with a median between $50,000 and $75,000. The number of employees becomes less significant beyond 2,000.

However, the best-paying organizations are the largest companies. Organizations with more than ten thousand employees pay an average of about $122,575 per year with a median between $75,000 and $100,000.

In other words, the size of the organization you work for can make about a $25,000 difference in your salary.



Although people sometimes assume that IT workers in the technology industry get paid the most, that wasn't true in this survey. In fact, government IT workers had the highest average, about $127,375, with a median between $75,000 and $100,000. At the low end were IT workers in the education sector, who bring home an average of about $109,300 annually with a median between $50,000 and $75,000.

That means the industry where you work can make an $18,000 to $25,000 difference in your pay.



The survey asked respondents whether they were part of a group that is under-represented among technology workers. That category is obviously pretty broad and open to interpretation. It also might mean different things in different parts of the world.

Despite these caveats, the findings were still interesting and significant. People who said they were part of a minority group reported an average salary of $108,300 with a median between $75,000 and $100,000. Those who said they weren't part of a minority had an average salary of about $117,150 with a median in the same range.

That means those who are part of a group that is under-represented in tech might make about $8,850 less than their peers who are not part of those groups.



Gender makes a very slightly smaller difference in annual pay than being part of a group that is under-represented in tech. (This might be because many women consider themselves part of an under-represented group.)

In this survey, male technology workers reported average pay of $114,525, while female workers reported an average of $106,225. Both groups had a median between $75,000 and $100,000. The difference between the two was about $8,300.


Level of Automation

While many people worry that automation and artificial intelligence will drive them out of a job, this survey did not find that these technologies are currently having a big impact on technology salaries.

Across the board, median pay was in the $75,000 to $100,000 range not matter how automated the workflows. Workers at companies with fewer than 25% of their processes automated had the highest average pay: about $118,275. Companies with 25% to 75% of their processes automated paid the least: about $110,025 on average.

In other words, the level of automation at your company might make a $2,675 difference in your annual salary.


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