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IT workers' salaries slip in middle

Study finds compensation drops for midlevel IT managers, rises modestly for execs and staff.

Many middle managers in the information technology field are seeing their pay drop, according to a recent study.

The study, published Tuesday by research firm Enterprise Systems, found a decrease in compensation for 50 percent of the IT middle management positions surveyed, compared with 2002. There was better news for those higher and lower in the pecking order. The survey of 1,130 "enterprise IT sites," most of which were in the United States, showed "salary stabilization and modest growth" for executives and IT staff.

The research comes as technology professionals are recovering from the recent economic downturn and facing the threat of "offshoring," in which tasks like application development are sent to lower-wage countries such as India. The trend has been criticized as bad for U.S. workers, but some economists and industry leaders say the offshore trend is ultimately healthy for the U.S. economy.

Still, a recent study found morale among IT workers has dipped to an all-time low, even though demand for certain skills is rising. Seventy-two percent of the 650 organizations contacted by Meta Group said the continuing lack of job growth in the industry is dampening the spirits of IT staff. More than half of the companies said they lost staff this year.

Enterprise Systems found that Internet managers weathered a 9.4 percent decline in compensation, while information systems managers suffered a 5.8 percent drop and help desk/support managers experienced a 4.5 percent decline.

Other findings in the salary survey included:

•  Modest gains (about 2 percent to 4 percent per year) for most IT staff positions across the salary scale.

•  Hot growth spots for IT management and staff working in UNIX environments, as well as in business-to-business and supply chain management applications.

•  Systems analysts and application programmers saw the largest jump in salaries and bonuses--6.6 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively--over 2002.

•  System administrators were the only IT staff position to see a decline--down 9.7 percent--over the last two years.

•  Chief information officers and vice presidents experienced the largest overall increase on average, earning about $130,000, compared to $110,560 in Enterprise Systems' 2002 survey.