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Security workers feel the pinch

Despite the ongoing focus on security since the Sept. 11 attacks, computer security administrators are not immune to the current economic malaise, according to a study.

Tech Industry
Despite the ongoing focus on security since the Sept. 11 attacks, computer security administrators are not immune to the current economic malaise, according to a study released Monday.

Though they remain among the most highly paid tech workers, security professionals have seen their average raises drop more than 40 percent since December 2000--from increases of 11.6 percent to bumps of 7 percent. And trading up to better-paying jobs in the same field is a thing of the past, said Alan Paller, director of research and development for the System Administration Networking and Security (SANS) Institute, which produced the survey.

"The supply/demand equation has shifted, and it has shifted a lot," Paller said. "What creates upward pressure is if you are going to lose people, and at this point hardly anyone is moving."

"The collapse of the dot-coms, and the financial difficulties facing telecommunications and financial services organizations, have combined to reduce the furious rate at which salaries for security professionals have been rising," said Paller.

Still, among the 1,214 security and system administration professionals who responded to the survey, the average salary hit a healthy $69,340 with an average bonus of 14.5 percent of base salary.

Within the United States, the New England/New York/New Jersey region reported the highest salaries--about 9 percent over the U.S. average. The West Coast and the mid-Atlantic states also reported higher-than-usual salaries, coming in at 4 percent and 3 percent above the national average. Companies that had more than 10,000 employees paid their security and system administration staff almost 10 percent more on average than smaller businesses.

Other factors affecting income included the type of systems that administrators were in charge of. Those overseeing Unix systems made far more than their Windows counterparts, the study said.

Perhaps adding to the reduction in raises, base pay came in last among the five most important factors determining job satisfaction. At No. 1, security staff wanted management that showed respect for their decisions. Tied for second place were adequate educational and training opportunities; the ability to work with new, advanced technologies; and a challenging set of responsibilities.

Among the things least important to satisfaction were the reputation of the company, availability of gym facilities and stock options.

While European salaries were lower than those in the United States, the percent increases were higher this year.

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