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IT salaries stabilizing

Despite the overall stagnation in salaries, it's not all gloom and doom for techies. Some professionals with particular skills will likely fare better than others.

The hot market for IT professionals has definitely cooled.

Starting salaries for information technology workers will increase by just 0.1 percent in 2002, a new survey by RHI Consulting projects. Last year, the placement firm projected that starting salaries in 2001 would increase 8.4 percent.

Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of RHI Consulting, attributed the slowing growth in IT salaries to the weakening economy and the decline of the dot-com sector.

"Pretty much everything is stabilizing," Lee said. "Really what's happened is more of a return to a normal situation."

With the economy sinking into recession over the last year, dozens of dot-com and high-tech businesses have laid off workers or closed their doors completely.

On Wednesday, for instance, optical components maker Agere Systems said it plans to cut 950 more jobs on top of the 6,000 layoffs it announced earlier this year. And last month, Palm announced that it was laying off 250 workers in its third round of job cuts this year.

RHI Consulting's study echoes the results of two similar findings earlier this year by staffing consulting firm Matrix Resources. Matrix found that salaries fell 2.1 percent in the third quarter for nonmanagement technology workers hired in technology hubs such as Atlanta, Dallas, New Jersey and North Carolina's Research Triangle Park. In the second quarter, Matrix found that salaries for IT workers in such places increased only 0.85 percent.

The findings indicate the abrupt turnaround in the technology labor market. As recently as last year, high-tech employers, faced with frequent turnover and fierce competition for workers, routinely gave out healthy raises and paid big bonuses to retain or attract employees.

Despite the overall stagnation in salaries, some technology professionals with particular skills are doing better than others. Starting salaries for database managers, for instance, will increase 4.8 percent from this year's range of $83,000 to $114,000, according to RHI. And starting salaries for senior help-desk specialists will jump 4.9 percent from this year's range of $45,500 to $57,000, the study projected.

"I want to be careful about saying that it's totally gloom and doom for salaries, because it's not," Lee said. "There are some skill sets that are still very much in demand."

However, some positions will likely see a decrease in starting salaries. Starting salaries of information-systems mangers will fall 4 percent from this year's salary range of $92,250 to $125,500, the study projects. And salaries for desktop-support analysts will drop 4.7 percent, according to RHI.

RHI's salary study is based on regular surveys of chief information officers and on its own internal placement data.

Separately, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers launched a new salary calculator Friday that allows technology professionals to figure out their worth in the current job market. The calculator takes into account more than 70 variables, including geographic location, experience and education, to produce a range of salaries for particular positions.

IEEE is charging nonmembers $19.95 for a 12-month subscription to access the calculator and $9.95 to members. The calculator is based on a scientific survey of more than 9,500 respondents.

Earlier this year, Salary.com introduced its Personal Salary Report, which calculates the market value of technology and non-technology workers alike. Salary.com charges $59.95 for its report, which takes into account some 43 different factors.