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2005 Salary Survey

10th Annual Salary Survey: Moving On Up
After a flat year, salaries for Microsoft Certified Professionals have gone up, as this year’s 10th Annual Salary Survey shows.
by Michael Domingo

10th Annual Salary Survey: Moving On Up What a difference a year makes. The average salary increase reported by the nearly 1,700 readers responding to our 10th Annual Salary Survey was 5.3 percent from 2004 to 2005. While that may not be a tremendously impressive number, it becomes more so when juxtaposed against last year, when readers reported an increase that amounted to a mere 0.3 percent — essentially no increase at all.

But what is impressive indeed is comparing the average annual salary of this year’s respondent pool –$68,535– with that of last year’s, which was $61,400. That’s a difference of $7,135, or slightly more than 12 percent (see “2005 Compensation”).
More Salary Survey
The PDF format of this article boasts over 30 charts, including average salary by state, by certification and job title, salaries by certification for over 40 Get the complete 2005 Salary Survey from the Tech Library as a PDFmetropolitan areas, certifications impact on employability — and much more. Free registration is required to get the PDF. Get it here.
If you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, I didn’t get an increase even approaching 12 percent,” perhaps we can explain. In years past our sample focused on the Microsoft Certified Professional demographic. As such, fewer than 20 percent of respondents held titles such as manager, program lead and networking project lead.

But our readership has been evolving over the years, none more so than this past year, and in large part it’s due to the influence wielded by our sibling/spin-off magazine, Redmond, which has influenced the demographic we canvassed to take this survey (see “Methodology”). Our reader base was clearly taking on new responsibilities and, with them, assuming management titles — and salaries. This year, management-level folks made up 30 percent of all survey respondents — and reported average salaries of more than $83,000 per year.

In other words, you’re progressing up the IT ladder, taking on new responsibilities, and getting paid accordingly.

He’s the Boss of Him
Christopher DowChristopher Dow
Consultant, Trainer
OdysseyNetworks, The Computer Trainers
Mobile, Alabama
Salary: $65,000
Years in IT: 15
Certifications: MCDST, MCSA, MCSE, MCT, Microsoft Office Specialist, CIW

Certified Instructor/Security Analyst, Cisco CCNA, CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+
The idea of being a small-business owner appeals to many folks: the ability to set your own schedule, call the shots and make big money if your business is successful sounds like a fast boat to happiness.
Well, as the immortal Meat Loaf sang, two out of three ain’t bad.
Christopher Dow of Mobile, Alabama owns a network consulting firm. Although he sets his own hours and calls the shots, the big money part has yet to happen. It’s not that he’s starving, but working 80 hours per week for $65,000 per year means that, with vacation, he earns somewhere in the vicinity of $16-$17 per hour.
On the other hand, how do you put a price on a job you love? Dow says one of the best things about his job is “Change. I didn’t want a job that would [always] have to do the same thing the next day. In IT things are always being updated, and new technologies appear every day, so I am never bored.”
Dow’s consulting firm is called Odyssey Networking, and includes a training division called The Computer Trainers. The company has 10 employees, including Dow. He’s been in the biz for 15 years now, after stints as a search-and-rescue helicopter crewman, soldier in the U.S. Army, lifeguard and farm hand.
Now Dow is his own boss, and although his life is hectic, Dow says he made the right choices. “Salary is very important, but not as important as being able to wake up every morning wanting to go to work.”
–Keith Ward
The picture gets even rosier when you look at the job outlook for IT professionals from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS indicates an increase that will be “faster than the average for all occupations through 2012, as organizations continue to adopt and integrate increasingly sophisticated technology.” (Details at ocos268.htm.) It points specifically to “cyber-security” as a specialization that will outpace other areas of tech.

The Department of Labor Web site also points to positive evidence of job opportunities in the non-farm sectors, which includes IT. You only need to go as far as the July employment data, which shows, over the year, professional and technical services jobs up by 22,900, computer systems and design services up another 2,200, and management and technical consulting services higher by 6,200 jobs (see empsit.t14.htm).

Accounting for job losses, an additional 23,000 jobs were tacked on that month, which adds to the 188,000 jobs in the overall sector that were added in the previous six months. (See the July 2005 Employment Situation Summary at empsit.nr0.htm for the hard numbers.) That, along with the positive outlook that the BLS cites above for computer job growth to 2012, makes for some powerful evidence that companies are keen to invest in updating their software and hardware technology while there’s money to spend.

What this all means is that IT workers are once again in demand, enabling you to potentially gain an upper hand in salary negotiations.

The Measure of Happiness
If you think that’s wishful thinking, talk to David Glenz, an MCSE and lead systems administrator for a retail company in Mount Laurel, N.J. The 12 percent increase we saw compared to last year is in line with the salary bump he received this year. “I think management at my company is well aware of the tendency for technology professionals to job hop,” he says, “and they are willing to do what they can to hold on to the right people.”

The $68,535 overall average salary among the 1,675 valid respondents to our survey is also more than 4 percent higher than the average salary figure reported by the BLS: For computer and mathematical occupations, its number is $65,510. Our result is more on the money when compared to the BLS’s result for computer systems analysts, at $68,370. (See

And while the mean salary increase of $3,472 is above 5 percent year-to-year, the news is even better for the 18 percent of you who reported raises of $5,000 or more. (For more on this, see “Increase in Salary.”)

On top of rising salaries, more than half of all respondents — 55 percent — expect to receive a bonus this year, with 20 percent of them totaling $5,000 or more (see “Expected Bonuses”). That’s down a bit from the 59 percent who expected bonuses last year, but still adds up to a pretty good year to be working in IT.

Certification’s Impact
Historically, this survey has focused on the impact of certification on salary. But increasingly, that impact seems to be muted. This year, more than half of you — 51 percent — either weren’t sure certification made a difference in salary or flat-out said that it didn’t (33 percent).

Dave, Your Friendly IT Guy
David GuibordDavid Guibord
Network Administrator
Shufelt. Inc
Farmington Hills, Mich.
Salary: $74,500
Years in IT: 8
Certifications: MCSA: Security, MCSE, CCSA

Dave Guibord is living proof that soft skills, particularly people skills, can not only help your long-term career, they can very directly affect your pocketbook. A few years back, his reputation as a friendly, helpful IT guy got him a significant raise at Shufelt — without him even having to ask.
“I fell onto the radar of the owner — he had an IT problem and I helped him out, so he started asking around about me,” he explained. Because the managers all came back with such positive feedback about how genial and willing to help he is, Guibord said that soon after the owner pulled him into his office and gave him a 14 percent raise on the spot to put him on equal footing with another IT coworker: “I didn’t even know [it was coming].”
It doesn’t hurt that Guibord genuinely likes people. He said a main reason he enjoys his current job so much is the opportunity it gives him to interact with so many employees on a regular basis: “I support a fairly large-sized building, and we’re always out fixing something, helping a user . We cover almost the entire building once a week. I couldn’t get that kind of interaction if I was in accounting.”
He also gets satisfaction from helping users. “You can call it a hero complex if you want to,” he laughed.
But he said what really drives him is the technology and doing something different every day. He’s currently working on numerous projects, and while sometimes putting out the day-to-day fires can get frustrating, “that’s what I like about the job too, so I can’t complain.”
–Becky Nagel
That still leaves a healthy population that is seeing a benefit from certification, of course. When David Guibord, a network administrator in Farmington Hills, Michigan, obtained his MCSE in 2005, “It helped me get a job … [with] a 47 percent increase,” he says.

Guibord says he tacked on other certs since 2001, such as an MCSA: Security and a Check Point CCSA, but those are ones he hangs out on a shingle for more personal reasons. “Unfortunately, now it’s more for my knowledge and for my market value, as management does not seem to care what my certifications are,” he adds.

Certifying beyond the boundaries of Microsoft technology is not just smart, it’s a good way to expand one’s marketability, and that notion’s never been lost on our readership. “Many [companies] require Microsoft and Cisco certifications, which is a definite plus to get an interview,” says Casey Wood, a systems administrator with VistaCare in Scottsdale, Ariz. His goals lean toward Cisco titles. The same goes for Lee Ann Swanson, a network engineer in Watertown, S.D.: “My certification goals are to upgrade my MCSE and to obtain the Cisco CCNA.”

Wood’s and Swanson’s goals, if met, will place them among the 52 percent of respondents to this year’s survey who count at least one other certification besides an MCP. Specialization dictates the best salaries, as Chart 5 on p. 50 shows, with IBM’s WebSphere and Hewlett Packard’s Master ASE breaking six figures, followed by the Project Management Professional in the third spot. Those possessing a Cisco CCNA, which is a goal for Swanson, reported making $68,730 on average. Based on popularity among non-Microsoft certifications, the Computer Technology Industry Association’s A+ and Network+ rank first and third, Cisco’s CCNA is second, and Novell’s CNA and CNE round out fourth and fifth.

As “Base Salary by Microsoft Certification” shows, all certifications, with the exception of the MCSA: Windows 2003 and MCSD: Visual Studio 6.0 titles, ticked upward. MCDBA: SQL 7 holders experienced the highest increase, up $12,509 from last year.

Nearly half the respondents believe that obtaining a certification has improved or enhanced their chances of finding or keeping a job (shown in “The Reasons for Certification”).