Average Tech Salary Breaks Six Figures, Some Workers Still Feel Underpaid

The average salary for a tech worker reached US$104,566 in 2021, yet nearly half still feel they’re underpaid.

Forced to digitize operations and move to virtual work because of a worldwide pandemic, as well as address increased security concerns raised by those developments, organizations were hungry for tech talent in 2021 and willing to pay for it, Dice, a technology-focused employment website, noted in its annual tech salary report released last week.

According to the survey, technologists in IT management — CEOs, CIOs, CTOs and such — made the highest average salary ($151,983) in 2021, followed by systems architect ($147,901) and cloud architects and engineers ($140, 571).

It reported that the tech occupations that saw the fastest-growing salaries included web developers (21.3 percent to $98,912), database administrators (12.4 percent to $111,362), technical support engineers (12.4 percent to $77,169) and data analysts (11.5 percent to $84,779). The all-consuming need to store, clean, and analyze data and enhance cloud applications all drove increased salaries, it noted.

“With average tech salaries breaking the six-figure mark for the first time in the 17 years we’ve been conducting this survey, and a revolution in workplace flexibility and wellness well underway, there’s never been a better time to be a technologist,” Art Zeile, CEO of Dice said in a statement.

“Our Tech Salary Report shows that organizations are responding to the heightened need for tech talent,” he continued. “However, we’re still seeing a gap between what benefits technologists want and what they receive, presenting an opportunity for employers everywhere to better understand this all-important group of professionals, and to build environments where they will thrive.”

The report found that 67 percent of tech workers are satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their paychecks — an increase of more than 11 percentage points over 2020.

However, while only 10.2 percent of workers are very or somewhat dissatisfied with their salary — a 20 point drop from 2020 — 47.8 percent felt they were being underpaid, a slight increase of around two percent compared to 2020.

Feeding Underpaid Feeling

The hot recruiting market could be contributing to workers feeling underpaid, maintained Brittany Nisenzon, metro markets manager with Robert Half, a global staffing company.

“There’s a lot more active recruiting being done,” she told TechNewsWorld. “When someone is getting offered a higher salary somewhere else, it makes them feel like they’re underpaid where they are.”

Although they may feel underpaid, nearly seven out of 10 of them (69 percent) aren’t pressing their case for more money at their annual salary reviews, the report found.

“Some people feel they could have faster access to a higher salary at a new job than they would trying to negotiate a higher salary with their current employer,” observed Nisenzon.

“If they go out and find a raise for themselves, then the company comes back and offers them an increase, it’s not as valuable as being offered a raise in the first place,” she said.

In some cases, a lack of benefits can make a tech worker feel underpaid, noted Darrell West, vice president of government studies at The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, D.C.

“The tech area has long relied on outsourcing,” he told TechNewsWorld. “A lot of tech companies use independent contractors, as opposed to full-time employees.

“So it’s not just a question of pay, but benefits,” he continued. “You might get a pretty good salary as an independent contractor, but you’re not going to get your health and retirement benefits covered. “

More Than a Paycheck

Deidre Diamond, founder and CEO of CyberSN, a cybersecurity recruiting and career resources firm in Framingham, Mass. added that while professionals in the cybersecurity space aren’t directly complaining about salary, indirectly they are.

“These cyber professionals feel undervalued because they are doing the job of two or three people with the pay for one person,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“Because these professionals are doing the job of what should be multiple people they are resigning,” she explained. “Many of them would stay if they were given the pay of multiple people.”

According to data gathered by CyberSN on 45 cybersecurity job categories, all but four have salary ranges starting at six figures.

Paychecks, though, aren’t the only thing on the minds of tech workers. “They want to make sure they get benefits, especially during a pandemic when good healthcare benefits are very important,” West said.

“They also want a good work/life balance,” he added. “The pandemic has given people time to reassess their personal priorities.”

“People are quitting old jobs and looking for new positions that fit with their interests,” he continued. “People want jobs that make sense to them and where they feel like they’re doing something worthwhile.”

Company values can be important, too. “One of our surveys showed that 71 percent of workers said company values are important,” Nisenzon observed. “They said they’d leave a company with values that didn’t align with their own.”

“Corporate programs relating to employee well-being, diversity, equity and inclusion are definitely important to people besides salary,” she added.

Benefit Gaps

The Dice report found that tech workers continue to value benefits like paid vacation days important (85 percent), health insurance (85 percent), dental insurance (81 percent), paid sick days (80 percent), remote schedule options (74 percent) and training and education (68 percent) — all of which many organizations continue to provide.

“Career advancement — having room to grow and continue their career — is important,” Nisenzon said. “It’s something they’re looking for.”

Dice also reported that significant percentages of technologists are also interested in benefits that have gained prominence during the pandemic, such as flexible schedule options and child/elder care options, although there’s a gap between what employees find important and what employers are offering.

“As balance has become increasingly important, technologists are seeking support in making work-from-home work for them, including stipends and child/elder care options,” Dice CMO Michelle Marian said in a news release.

“With 38 percent of respondents noting work-from-home stipends as important, the dissonance is clear with only 13 percent receiving stipends,” she noted.

“Even as companies are talking about going back to the office full time, that’s something that’s not appetizing to technology professionals,” Nisenzon added. “Having flexible work options is important.”

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.

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