With the stock market climbing to new heights almost every day, it is inevitable that workers will soon be looking at their paychecks and wondering about their cut of their employer's new found wealth. After all, if they had to take salary cuts during the recession, isn't only fair that they get some raises now? 

There is certainly talk that supports that train of thought. Worldwide staffing leader Robert Half, in its salary guide for tech professionals in North America (free download, registration required), found that nearly two out of three companies tie compensation to organizational and individual performance.

But if that is the case, then everyone must being doing substandard work (just kidding, of course) because the average raise for a tech worker in 2017 was a mere .7 percent according to Dice.com's 2018 Tech Salary Report that looked at survey responses from 10,705 employed technology professionals. To be fair, most managers feel that their hands are tied what it comes to raises because their budgets are flat, according to WorldatWork, a top resource for compensation professionals.

The State of IT salaries

The Dice report noted that the average IT professional earned a base salary of $92,712.00 and an average bonus of $10,254.00. Remember that salaries of both managers and first year developers across the United States are included in averaging the data. If you live in places like San Francisco, Boston, New York, San Diego or Washington D.C where the cost of living is higher, you can expect to earn as much as 40 percent more, according to Dice.

Robert Half looked at many more job categories than Dice and included a number that pay extremely well at the highest end of the range — $212,500 for top level big data engineers, $199,750 for accomplished mobile application developers, $173,250 for lead application developers, $194,250 for information systems security managers. More about how to work toward these high paying jobs later.

Does the Size of the Check Matter?

According to data from Dice, in addition to annual bonuses, 37 percent of companies offer spot bonuses for individual or team performance, and that 18 percent offer retention bonuses which are most commonly used to keep workers from leaving. It is worth asking, too, if money is the carrot that most technology workers are after. And that, of course, depends, if you're living comfortably on what you earn, as the nearly 40,000 developers who responded to HackerRank's 2018 Developer Skills Report seem to be. When the money is right, work-life balance and "professional growth and learning" rule.

Almost Half of Tech Workers Looking For Jobs

All of that being said, 42 percent of tech workers surveyed by Dice said that they anticipate changing employers in 2018. Those who make under $80,000 said that they want to make more money. Those who earn between $84-88,000 want better working conditions or shorter commutes. While 23 percent of those making over $103,000 believe they should change jobs because they fear losing the job they already have.

Dice's data also offered some interesting statistics around why raises are granted. Thirty-six percent come because of merit, 23 percent because a tech worker changed employers, 10 percent because of an internal promotion, 8 percent because they received a cost of living increase and 6 percent because there was a mandated company increase.

Learning Opportunities

Quickest Path to Growing Your Compensation

Instead of doing great work and seeing little return, the quickest path to the compensation you seek — whether it is money, working from home or flexible hours (HackerRank found that developers prefer working between 10 AM and 8 PM) — may be pivoting to a skill set that is in high demand. Robert Half lists ten that should be accessible (with some training) and on the radar of tech workers. Salaries are at the midpoint of starting salaries for these roles:

  • Software Engineer $121,000
  • Wireless Network Engineer $119,000
  • Project Manager (Applications Development $110,000
  • Network Security Administrator $109,250
  • ERP/Technical Functional Analyst $107,000
  • Cloud Computing Analyst $92,500
  • Business Systems Analyst $92,000
  • Data Reporting Analyst $73,000
  • Front End Developer $72,750
  • Desktop Support Analyst $60,000

Dice took a different route by calling out the top paying IT skills.

  • PAAS $127,702
  • MapReduce $125,378
  • Elasticsearch  $124,650
  • Redshift $124,640
  • Cloudera $124,221
  • DynamoDB $124,054
  • CMMI $123,970
  • webMethods $123,578
  • ISO 27000 $123,575
  • Service Oriented Architecture $123,192

The good news for tech workers who want a bump up  is that in many cases you can start with what you already know, take some free or inexpensive classes at highly respected schools like MITOpenCourseWare (free on eDX), Coursera, Udacity, SkillCrush,  General Assembly and  such and then get a job in an entirely different salary grade and range.