For yet another year running, the technology job market has grown strong and healthy, surpassing expectations and other industries along the way.
Participation in the $6.3 trillion global tech economy requires a sizeable and talented workforce, and the number of jobs requiring tech skills continues to rise as companies bring systems into the modern digital age.
Based on 2016 growth, CompTIA projected a 2.5% year-over-year growth in tech occupations this year, but the industry has surpassed expectations. The 2017 IT job market saw more than 3%, said Tim Herbert, senior VP for Research and Market Intelligence at CompTIA, in an interview with CIO Dive.
Much of the same looks to be in store for 2018.
"You'd think at some point some of these compensation levels will start to normalize, but we've been saying that every year for the last few years and it seems like tech continues to outpace just about every other industry out there," said John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology.
The rate of growth is unlikely to fluctuate more than a few tenths of a percent any given year, barring unforeseen events in the industry. The growth rate should not plateau and is not expected to jump to a high 5-7%, according to Herbert.
Compensation for leadership, roles tied to hype technologies and security professionals are demonstrating even more robust growth. Yet finding the right job is tough given the balancing act going on behind the scenes between a talent shortage and winning candidates with the right benefits and hiring process.
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By 2024, the tech space will require approximately 1.8 million workers from a combination of growth and retirement, said Herbert. Certain pockets will see a faster rate; today, those pockets include technologies such as cloud computing, data and AI.
The healthcare, financial services and manufacturing industries are currently growing the fastest in the tech sphere, and among the most in-demand roles are business intelligence analysts, data scientists, cybersecurity professionals and developers, according to the Robert Half 2018 Salary Guide.
A growth in data scientists will be especially prominent in 2018, according to Herbert. Big Data engineers were the only group outside of leadership to break the $200,000 mark with salaries ranging from $126,250-$212,500, according to the report. Other positions that came close were mobile applications developers, consulting and systems integration directors, network architects and information systems security managers.
In-demand jobs will naturally bring in higher salaries, especially when they closely align to technology hype, according to Reed. For example, AI and ML may currently have some slightly overpaid workers because demand is so high. AI salaries can cost a company well into the six figure range — and sometimes even into the millions.
On the flip side, it is important for companies to make sure that they are compensating non-hype workers well, too. Operational jobs, such as network administrators, network engineers and systems administrators, are easier to underpay because their work handles so much of the day-to-day, base operations, but they are ultimately what stands between a functioning network and one that goes down, according to Reed.
At the management level, compensation has also risen — though not without an increase in the at-risk segment. Most roles are rising at a similar pace, but C-suite positions focused on security, such as chief security officers, are currently outpacing other positions in terms of growth, said Reed.
The compensation range for CIOs rose 4.2% from 2015 to 2016 to $165,500-$245,000, according to Robert Half. In 2017, the CIO salary range was $170,500-$287,000.
CSO salaries grew 6.6% in 2016 to $146,750-$234,750, and in 2017 the range expanded again to $143,250-$241,000.
Upward trajectory for CIOs has also improved though. More CIOs are moving on to become CEOs, said Herbert. This transition is a clear indicator of just how important technological fluency and skills are for businesses today, and how applicable these skills are at most levels and positions.
Sometimes it is about more than just money
If tech salaries are high, overall compensation is even higher.
The majority of employers offer technical workers flexible schedules and various insurances, and other benefits are wide-ranging.
Various forms of insurance are still the most common type of benefits offered by employers, and 56% of employers offer reimbursement for an employee's tuition or professional certification, according to the Robert Half report.
With annual and signing bonuses hitting more than $40,000 for tech giants, recruitment and retainment of new employees sounds like an easy feat, yet the process is still plagued by problems. CIOs cite long hiring processes, which average out to 4.5 weeks for staff positions, as a big problem in hiring, according to the report.
"The companies that seem to be doing the best are the ones that are moving very, very quickly. Not to say that they're sacrificing quality in their interview process, but they're finding ways to eliminate steps and shrink the timeline," said Reed.
Hiring is further complicated by the nuance of each position and candidate as the dedicated job role and its skills can be difficult to distinguish, according to Herbert. A job ad for a "software developer" sounds like a general role, but oftentimes openings are tied to very niche skills, such as blockchain, which has seen a 200% increase in job postings compared to 2016, said Herbert.
But skills and certifications make a candidate more marketable. Employers may raise an employee's salary by 5-10% if they have in-demand talent, according to the report.
Employers find that technical skills are equally important alongside fitting into workplace culture and being able to work with other teams, and soft skills non-technical experience, such as in marketing, give candidates a tremendous edge, according to the Robert Half report.
But does the money buy happiness?
Tech workers ranked sixth in on-the-job happiness and level of interest, out of 13 surveyed industries, and hit the No. 1 spot for lowest stress levels at work, according to Robert Half.