Make sure you don't miss the boat

By Steve Alexander, InfoWorld |  Career

THESE ARE BOOM times in IT, but not for everybody. Some workers whose skills are
not up-to-date are in danger of being left behind as the IT world continues to evolve.

One way to measure whether your skills and area of specialty are no longer on the
rise is to look at the percent raises for the field.

Although any raise can be considered good, raises below 5 percent represent only a
tiny premium above the rate of inflation, says Holly Thomas, a senior consultant at the
Wilson Group, a Maynard, Mass., company that designs compensation plans and reward
systems for IT companies.

"Five percent is kind of a normal raise these days. If you've got a hot skill
you're probably getting 8 to 15 percent," Thomas says. "But anybody who is getting
under 5 percent is on the on low side, because salary ranges move up about 3 percent a
year just due to labor-rate inflation. A person with a 5 percent raise really is
getting a 2 percent merit increase. In other words, he or she is just ahead of the
market."

An annual IT salary survey by RHI Consulting, in Menlo Park, Calif., shows several
areas in which IT professionals are getting raises below 5 percent. They include
application developers, tier-one help desk personnel, telecommunications managers,
Internet and e-mail security administrators, IT operations shift supervisors, Microsoft
Exchange developers, and software development product support personnel.

Those raises that are under 5 percent contrast sharply with the raises given for
hot skills, according to the RHI survey. Job titles with hot skills -- and salary
increases greater than 10 percent -- include application development programmer
analyst, tier-three help desk personnel, Lotus Notes developers, and Internet and e-
mail electronic-commerce specialists.

Why some fall behind

Thomas says that telecom especially seems to be falling behind in salary
increases "because there is more of a demand for expertise in areas such as operating
systems, databases, the Internet, and language skills like C++. So IT is not having to
pay as much to keep people for areas such as telecom."

Not all help desk jobs get small raises. People in tier-two and tier-three help
desk jobs fare better. But Thomas says people should not assume that all help desk
people will get better increases as they gain experience.

"You don't always find someone with a strong computer science background on a help
desk, so some might not ever move on to a better job. Hence, the pay raises in that job
tend to be low," Thomas says.

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