So, how does your paycheck look? Is it a big ol' fat wad of dough, or is it more like a thin little stunted strand of spaghetti? Most likely, it's somewhere in between. You're probably happy with it, but you're also more than a little curious about what other people in your field are making. You want to see whether you're in the right ballpark, or at least just outside the main gates trying to worm your way onto the playing field. Salary surveys are a vital tool for gauging earning potential and negotiating raises.

In these pages, we scrutinize salaries according to such determiners as job function, gender, age, experience, and education and look at how companies' demographics and geographic region affect the paychecks of IT pros. Read on to see how you stack up. For information about Windows IT pros' overall satisfaction with their salary, see Dianne Russell's article "Are You Satisfied?".

What Do You Make?
Last year, almost 59 percent of the IT professionals who responded to the 2004 Windows IT Pro Industry Survey received base salaries from $40,000 to $79,999, with the remaining respondents almost evenly divided between those making less than $40,000 (nearly 22 percent) and those making $80,000 or more (19 percent). The percentages this year show an upward trend, with 57 percent earning salaries in the same midrange but a full 26.5 percent reporting salaries of $80,000 or more. The number of IT pros making less than $40,000 dropped to 15 percent, and only 7 percent receive less than $30,000, compared with last year's 11 percent. See Table 1 for this year's base-salary results. The average base salary for 2005 is $67,841.

Our 2005 survey asked specifically how this year's compensation compared to last year's. Of the 1719 respondents, 79 percent reported a salary increase, and that increase averaged 4.8 percent—not bad in today's economy. (Compared with a recent Computerworld salary survey, this average increase is quite a bit better than that publication's reported increase of a mere 3 percent. My personal, unscientific conclusion? Windows IT Pro readers get better pay hikes.) A comparatively small 18 percent reported a salary equivalent to that of 2004. The 1.4 percent who reported a decrease saw an average slide of 6.7 percent.

In last year's survey, we looked at salaries according to job title. This year, we take a slightly different approach by studying how the size of your paycheck reflects your job responsibilities. For example, the two most common IT job functions are systems administration (59 percent) and end-user support (57 percent), the average salaries for which are $71,356 and $67,967, respectively. Among the highest paid IT functions are application architecture ($86,365), manufacturing/production management ($86,319), and department management ($83,455). Among the lowest-paid functions are end-user support, end-user training ($67,354), and hardware/software deployment ($66,666). If you're trying to find your niche in IT, the information in Table 2 might influence the direction you choose.

Many IT pros—58 percent of respondents—expect to receive bonuses at year's end. A solid 19 percent expect this extra compensation to exceed $5000, and 9 percent look forward to a bonus in excess of $10,000. In the midrange, 11 percent anticipate a bonus ranging from $2501 to $5000, and 14 percent are looking at one in the $1001-to-$2500 range. Another 13 percent said that their 2005 bonus would ring in at $1000 or less. The average expected bonus is $2444. See Figure 1 for your peers' bonus outlook.

Also on the topic of additional compensation, the number of IT pros doing some type of work outside their day job is significant—about 13 percent. The most popular sources of extra income are consulting, second jobs, overtime, stocks/options, and freelance work. On average, other income amounts to $1524.

Who Are You?
As in 2004, 2005 salaries are directly affected by personal characteristics such as gender, age, experience, and education. This year's results are, again, somewhat predictable: Older, experienced, educated white males receive the fattest paychecks.

Windows IT pros are still much more likely to be male (89 percent) than female (11 percent). And, in keeping with national men-make-more statistics, female IT pros continue to earn less than their male counterparts. Male IT pros receive an average wage of $74,902, and female IT pros bring home $67,527. On average, a higher percentage of men tend to pull down the heftier salaries, whereas women cluster predominantly near the lower end. In the $30,000-to-$49,999 range, for example, you'll find nearly 40 percent of the women in the field, compared with only 23 percent of the men. Stepping up to the higher end, nearly 17 percent of men are making over $100,000, compared with only 8 percent of the women. Table 3 shows salaries according to gender.

There's also a strong correlation between salary and age. Older IT pros are better compensated than the up-and-comers out there. Of 1772 respondents in our survey, 41 percent are from 30 to 39 years old, and 31 percent are from 40 to 49 years old. Significantly, a full 36 percent of twenty-somethings earn less than $40,000 per year. On the flip side, more than 54 percent of IT pros who are 60 or older earn from $70,000 to $124,999. Table 4 shows average salaries by age groups.

The longer you're an IT pro, the more experience you amass, and that experience is reflected in your salary. Most of you—59 percent—have been working in IT for 6 to 15 years, and 24 percent land in the 16-to-30 group. Only 3.8 percent of you can claim to have worked in IT for more than 30 years. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 12.3 percent of you have been in IT for 5 years or less. Your average length of time in IT? 12.6 years. Bucking our findings in last year's survey—which called out those with 35 to 39 years of experience as the highest earners— this year, salaries that exceed $100,000 are going primarily to IT pros who have 21 to 30 years of experience (28 percent) and to those who have been in the field for 16 to 20 years (25 percent). Table 5 shows salaries organized by length of time in IT.

What about education? Of 1720 respondents to our question about education levels achieved, 18 percent have an associate degree, 41 percent have a bachelor's degree, and 15 percent have a master's degree. Two percent boast a doctoral degree. In general, the more advanced the degree, the larger the paycheck, as Figure 2 shows. Despite the findings evident in the figure, however, pursuing that doctoral degree won't necessarily lift you to the next income bracket: Most of the IT pros who have a doctoral degree—nearly 54 percent—fall in the $80,000-to-$99,999 range, with only 18 percent laying claim to a salary higher than $100,000.

Are you certified? According to our survey, 40 percent of you aren't. The three most popular certifications among you are the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), and Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), at 40, 38, and 18 percent, respectively. Interestingly, half of you think certification has made a difference, and the other half of you don't. What's the real story? You might be surprised to find that certification, in general, isn't all it's cracked up to be: Whereas 14.6 percent of IT pros holding some kind of Microsoft certification can boast salaries higher than $100,000, 17.5 percent of IT pros without certification can make the same claim. It's only in the $60,000-to-$99,999 range that the number of certified respondents exceed the number of non-certified—49.3 percent versus 43 percent.

Where Do You Work?
In many ways, your salary is also affected by the company you work for. As we saw in our 2004 survey, factors such as company size, location, and type of business affect what IT professionals can hope to earn.

We can measure company size in several ways, but for our purposes, let's focus on two metrics that are especially pertinent to you: number of supported end users and number of servers. In general, the more end users or servers you're responsible for, the higher your salary. Tables 6 and 7 show the general salary uptick according to supported users and supported servers, respectively.

In which geographic region are you working? The vast majority of you—76 percent—work in North America, with Europe (13 percent) and East Asia/Pacific (6 percent) taking up the slack. It probably comes as no surprise that these three areas are the highest paying, with East Asia offering the highest percentage (21 percent) of salaries above $100,000—an interesting statistic, considering that many US companies are outsourcing to Asia to save money. The areas in which respondents earn the lowest average salaries are Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Here in North America, the most represented region is the South (25 percent), followed by the West and Midwest (both 23 percent), and the Northeast (18 percent). The highest salaries can be found in the South, with 21.2 percent of IT pros receiving salaries higher than $100,000, followed closely by the Northeast (20.6 percent) and the West (18 percent).

What's your industry? Popular industries for IT pros this year are consulting, government work, computer-related manufacturing, and accounting/banking. When it comes to salaries, accounting/banking pays the most impressively, with 34 percent of applicable respondents reporting salaries higher than $90,000. The industries addressed in our survey that pay the lowest salaries are agriculture/forestry and entertainment/recreation. So remember: If you want the big bucks, you need to stay tied to your cubicle. No outdoors for you!

How Do You Feel?
Now that we've broken down your salary according to several key factors—job function, gender, age, experience, education, certification, number of end users and company statistics, region, and industry—how do you feel about your paycheck in relation to industry averages? Are your earnings in line with those of others in your field? If not, perhaps now's the time to approach your supervisor and have "the talk." Good luck!