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IT Pros Leave $4K on Table In Salary Negotiations

IT pros are leaving thousands of dollars on the table when they negotiate--or fail to negotiate--salaries for new jobs, according to a survey from Dice.com.

U.S. IT workers lose an average of $4,300 every year by accepting the first salary offered by a prospective employer, according to a new survey from IT job-search site Dice.com. Dice figures show the average IT salary in the U.S. is $85,619 and that the average bump in a salary offer is about 5%. But if a candidate doesn't ask, that bump doesn't materialize.

Only 6% of IT pros said they negotiate very frequently for a better salary after receiving an initial offer, while 27% said they negotiate frequently. Half said they negotiate after an initial offer occasionally, though recruiters told Dice fewer than half of successful job candidates even try to haggle.

But it can't hurt to ask. A third of hiring managers said raising the offer may not be routine, but it happens either frequently or very frequently, according to the survey. Only 18% of hiring managers polled said their companies rarely or never allow them to come back with a higher offer if the first was turned down.

So why don't IT pros ask for a higher salary? "The only explanation for the lack of haggling is fear," wrote Dice.com senior VP Tom Silver. Job candidates worry that refusing an initial offer, or asking for a higher salary or more perks, will alienate hiring managers, who will cancel the offer altogether, Silver wrote.

Some of the fear might be left over from the bottom-scraping economies of 2008 and 2009, when open job openings were so rare that each ad attracted hundreds of resumes. However, the market has since improved to the point that Dice Managing Director Alice Hill called it a "bright spot" in the economy in December 2012.

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IT pros may plan to improve their salaries via raises, but that's not a great strategy. According to the InformationWeek 2013 U.S. IT Salary Survey of networking and data center professionals, salaries have remained essentially flat between 2012 and 2013.

Change in Base Salary: Data Center Management
  Median percentage change in base salary
2011 2012 2013
Staff 1.2% 0% 1.3%
Management 1.2% 1.9% 1.6%
R6460413-NW/5

Base: 222 data center management staff and 212 managers in 2013

Data: InformationWeek 2013 U.S. IT Salary Survey of 1,137 networking and data center management professionals, January 2013

The results show base salaries for IT pros in networking increased for management by just 1.3%, while staff saw a rise of 1.2%. Their data center counterparts didn't fare much better; salaries for data center managers and staff rose a median of just 1.6% and 1.3%, respectively. The full report, which includes 70 charts, is available for download with registration.

Other surveys chart similar results. For instance, Janco's 2013 Salary Survey shows average IT compensation has gone up 2% during the past 12 months, which isn't much, but does bring the average back into the range it was in 2007 and 2008, before the housing market crash brought both IT hiring--and the economy in general--to its knees.

The takeaway for IT pros is clear: If you're changing jobs and negotiating a new salary, ask for more. The extra 5% bump will add up over the years. Kevin Fogarty is a freelance writer covering networking, security, virtualization, cloud computing, big data and IT innovation. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, CNN.com, CIO, Computerworld, Network World and other leading IT publications. View Full Bio

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