Study: IT pay rising for hot skills

Von Todd R.

For the second consecutive quarter, there"s some good news for IT workers : Pay for technical skills has increased by as much as 2.8 percent, according to a new study by research firm Foote Partners LLC.

The Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index, which tracks pay levels for about 48,000 workers in the U.S. and Europe involving some 170 IT skills, found that overall pay for IT workers without technical certifications increased by 2.8 percent in the first quarter of 2005, while pay for certified workers increased by 0.6 percent. For the full year ending April 1, noncertified workers saw average pay increases of 3.6 percent while certified workers saw increase of 2.9 percent, according to the study.

In contrast, annual pay one year ago was down 2.1 percent for noncertified workers and off by 0.2 percent for certified workers, according to the study.

"What we"re seeing is a return to the kind of numbers ... that we first saw going back to 2002," said David Foote, co-founder and president of the New Canaan, Conn.-based IT research company. The new nine-page quarterly study was released Monday.

It was the second Foote study to offer good news for IT workers this year. In March, Foote Partners released an IT pay study that found that IT skills bonus pay was finally increasing after three years of declines.

The noncertified skill categories gaining value include application development tool and languages, messaging/e-mail/groupware, networking and internetworking, and enterprise applications development, according to the study.

The certified skills growing in value include applications development/programming languages, networking, systems administration and engineering/network operating systems, and databases, according to the study.

As for reasons behind the upward move in salaries, Foote pointed to a healthier economy as well as renewed concerns about retaining quality IT workers who can maintain legacy systems and other critical technology initiatives. Employers have learned that if they don"t keep up with pay demands, they can lose good employees -- and those workers may go to competitors, he said.

Also encouraging the pay increases, Foote said, are federal regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley Act rules, which have prompted employers to seek out and retain workers with the specialized skills needed to comply with the regulations, he said.

The latest study also indicates that employers are beginning to reward noncertified workers for the actual skills they possess, Foote said. "This could be the beginning of a trend," he said. "It"s becoming more important what you did with your skills [for previous employers] than how you got them. It might be the reversal of the past, when you had to have certifications to prove you had the skills.

"Industry experience is now becoming as important as the skills."