As IT Salaries Plateau, Retention and Skill Building Are More Important Than Ever

By Chelsea Babin

In demand technical professionals are often well paid because their skillsets are hard to find. And, while IT salaries are still trending upwards, Dice’s recent Salary Survey suggests that tech pro salary levels in the United States are starting to plateau.

According to a recent report from PayScale, most employers won’t be offering meaningful pay bumps to their IT professionals in 2018. 73% of employers said the average wage increase they offer to their technical talent in 2018 will be three percent or less—which is not enough to keep some highly motivated and highly skilled employees around. That’s why almost 60% of employers are “very concerned” about retention.

Unfortunately for highly skilled technical professionals, the retention concern isn’t likely to turn into an adjustment in compensation. PayScale also reports that, while 85% of managers feel confident they can justify employee pay, only 37% of organizations share that confidence. Additionally, the number of employers offering spot bonuses is down 7%, which is contributing to the plateau of technical salaries. While there is no concise explanation for this trend, it’s clear that a lot of employers are throttling salaries across the board and technical professionals will start to feel the pinch in 2018.

To combat plateauing salaries, most technical professionals will turn to learning new programming languages. However, the most recent Dice Salary Survey shows why it may be better to focus on learning non-language skills and platforms. Rare skills and platforms like MapReduce, RabbitMQ, Jax-RS, Korn Shell, and Pearl are the skills most likely to earn a salary bump in that order. The TIOBE Index, which provides insight on which languages are most widely used, also offers insights that reflect on technical salaries.

The most popular language on TIOBE’s list, Java, didn’t even make the Dice Salary Survey skills list on its own, but its Java Database Connectivity API does, and it pays more than any of the top ten languages. TIOBE’s second most used language, C, was no where near a top earner on the Salary Survey, lagging behind more modern languages where as Amazon Dynamo DB, a scalable NoSQL database service, spans half of the top ten TIOBE languages in use today, and pays almost $20,000 more on average than C alone. Languages are trailing behind skills and platforms proving that being a master of one platform or skill is often the smartest route to a better salary rather than becoming a jack-of-all-trades.

In more positive news, employers are attempting to retain their top technical talent by offering perks in lieu of better pay. From revenue sharing to telecommuting, valuable perks are offered to IT professionals more and more as salary levels hit their ceiling in 2018.