Editor’s note: This story is part of the CIO Dive Outlook on 2021, a series on the trends that will shape the industry in 2021. For a look at the business trends affecting other industries, see the Dive Outlook on 2021.
Incoming employees can expect higher salaries in line with higher demand in 2021, as companies hire more IT workers across sectors.
With too many open IT jobs and not enough talent to fill them, demand for IT employees rises following the digital transformation spurred by the pandemic. Six-figure salaries have become the norm across experience levels and job titles and growth is on track to continue, according to Randstad's 2021 salary guide.
At the top of the list, businesses demand more cloud engineers, DevOps developers, front-end developers, machine learning engineers and security analysts — but they must be willing to pay to secure the talent, according to Randstad.
The average annual salary for DevOps developers is $137,830 and mid-level cloud developers can expect to make $135,191. It's a "pay-to-play hiring environment," Randstad wrote in the report, so businesses will have to budget to spend a considerable amount of cash to hire a high-quality IT department.
Top 10 highest mid-level IT salaries
|Software development architect||$152,009|
|Certified ethical hacker (CEH)/penetration tester||$150,451|
|Build and release engineer/configuration engineer||$140,779|
|Artificial intelligence (AI)/applications engineer||$140,511|
SOURCE: Randstad 2021 Salary Guide
For cybersecurity positions, demand is even higher. Companies posted more than 166,000 jobs for security analysts in the last 12 months, and the field faces a 28% growth forecast over the next decade, according to Randstad.
"The demand for IT pros with skills in cloud and cybersecurity have been high for years," said Zane Schweer, who leads the Global Knowledge's Skills and Salary report. "The pandemic has heightened it, but this is not new."
As a measure of demand for IT skills, cloud and cybersecurity made up two of the highest-paying certifications in Global Knowledge's 2020 report. Data is still being compiled for the organization's 2021 report, but as IT architecture has become more complicated, "salaries should continue to trend in the positive direction" and innovators will be positioned to receive top salaries, said Schweer.
Very few positions listed in Randstad's 2021 salary guide for technology jobs fell below a $100,000 salary. Some of the lowest-earning IT positions listed included help desk support technicians, project managers and instructional designers.
Top 5 lowest mid-level IT salaries
|Desktop/help desk support technician||$80,330|
|Network engineer (Cisco or Juniper)||$112,032|
|Manual QA tester||$115,256|
|Automated QA tester||$115,847|
SOURCE: Randstad 2021 Salary Guide
The shift to remote work is also spurring a "normalizing of compensation rates" across locations, according to Christine Trykoski, recruitment director of Randstad Technologies. Employees no longer have to move to high cost of living places to perform well-paying IT roles. While some may take a paycut, Trykoski expects a 2% pay increase across the board.
IT leverages demand for better benefits
At-large, the demand for IT professionals is driving more than just salary increases. Because employers need the help, employees ask for other benefits beyond pay.
"Flexibility has been one of the absolute No. 1 things we've seen," Trykoski said of what employees are looking for this year. Flexibility could mean remote work even after the pandemic or a better understanding of non-business employee obligations, such as caring for loved ones.
"Around one in five working age adults said that they were not working because COVID-19 disrupted their childcare arrangements and while keeping parents in the workforce will be key for our economic recovery, only 32% of organizations returning to work has a childcare plan," Karen Fichuk, CEO, Randstad North America, said in a Jan. 13 webinar covered by HR Dive.
These benefits show manager engagement and how much a business cares about its employees, a trait top talent is seeking out, according to Trykoski.
But for the sake of their career development, IT professionals also look for jobs with opportunities for growth. Opportunities for growth and development was the top factor for changing employment in Global Knowledge's survey of 9,505 professionals.
"IT pros want to see a future in their job," said Schweer. "There was a time when formal training had a stigma to it but it's now a serious job perk, especially in IT."
Plus, it's often cheaper to upskill the in-house workforce rather than pay a premium to hire top talent from the outside, according to Schweer. Over one-third (37%) of respondents to the Global Knowledge survey listed inability to pay what candidates demand as a reason for skills gaps.
For the benefit of IT professionals and businesses, it's about "creating that environment where IT pros can be as great as they want to be," Schweer said.