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Network World - After two straight years of flat wages, tech pros finally got a bump in 2011.
The average wage for tech and engineering pros climbed 2% to $81,327 last year from $79,384 in 2010, according to new salary data from Dice.com. Workers lucky enough to get bonuses saw an even bigger boost as the average bonus amount rose 8% to $8,769.
IT JOB SPOTTING: Top 20 metro areas for tech jobs
"The demand for tech professionals and the skills they have continues to grow, and now employers -- unfortunately for them -- have to pay up a little bit. That's what we see happening," says Tom Silver, a senior vice president at Dice, a career site for technology and engineering professionals.
Stiffer competition for tech pros contributed to the salary gains. While the national unemployment rate is roughly 8.5%, the unemployment rate among tech professionals is 3.6%, Silver says. "The labor market for tech professionals is tighter than many other industries. That's indicative of the skills tech pros have and their strategic importance to their organizations."
On the bonus front, employers not only increased the average bonus amount by 8% but also gave bonuses to more employees. The percentage of tech pros receiving bonuses climbed to 32% in 2011, compared with 29% in 2010 and 24% in 2009. The industries most likely to pay out bonuses in 2011 were telecom, hardware, banking, utilities/energy and software, Dice reports.
Employers typically have more flexibility when it comes to bonuses than they do with salaries. "Bonuses give you that additional flexibility to give someone who's doing a really good job -- who may be at risk of being poached and going somewhere else -- a little bit more," Silver says.
Across the U.S., some metro regions fared better than others. In Silicon Valley, tech professionals cleared six-figure salaries on average for the first time. The average 2011 salary ($104,195) is up 5.2% compared to 2010, while the number of available tech jobs (5,026) jumped 26%. In addition, bonuses are both larger and more common in Silicon Valley, with 38% of tech professionals receiving bonuses worth an average of $12,450.
Twelve of the top 20 cities for tech jobs had above average wage growth. Salary growth was strongest in Austin, Tex., where wages climbed 12.7% last year. (See our slideshow for specific details about each of the top 20 cities for tech jobs, including how much IT pros are getting paid and the number of open positions.)
Another metro area that saw particularly strong salary growth is Portland, Ore., where salaries grew 12.3% year over year. In addition, the number of open positions posted on Dice skyrocketed 70% in 2011. "You just wouldn't expect that," Silver says of Portland, "but what a great place for a tech pro to be."
The rebounding auto industry led to job gains in Detroit: "We've been watching Detroit for a long time. It's still under the national average in terms of compensation level, but the job count is up 23%," Silver says. "A lot of the other smaller firms that supply the auto industry are starting to pick up business, and they need tech professionals."