Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of both our annual Salary Survey and our smaller Salary Survey PLUS polls. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
Generally speaking, one of the strongest influences on corporate salary across all realms of professional endeavor is probably where an individual worker ranks in his or her organization's employment hierarchy. While it's almost certainly the case that every person at a given level doesn't get the same salary, there are typically ranges that employees at a given level can expect to fall within.
For our most recent Salary Survey PLUS, focused on networking certifications, we asked survey respondents to tell us roughly where they stand in their various employment organizations. Among other things, we've learned by consistently asking this question that the largest single group of people who respond to our salary surveys generally rate themselves as being "senior specialists" — someone skilled, experienced and probably with a substantial degree of tenure, whether within their current organization, or amidst the ranks of everyone working in their IT niche.
So we looked at all of the U.S. networking professionals who responded to the survey, divided them up by organizational standing, and cross-referenced that with average annual salary. Here's what we found:
It's probably not all that surprising that Employees, lowest on the hierarchical totem, have the lowest salary. Specialists can expect to make a little bit more, but the real jump in salary comes when you make it up the corporate ladder to the Senior Specialist rung. Those folks are taking in nearly $30,000 more per year, on average, then their less tenured counterparts.
Also of interest is that those in the management tier, generally speaking, aren't much better off than those at the Senior Specialist level. It seems likely that most individuals employed as directors and executives get other forms of compensation than salary, so it's not all that surprising to see that, strictly in terms of salary, they tend to rank below management.
It's probably fair to say that most firms put the bulk of their salary money where the company's most valuable employees are. And if that's generally true, then it seems clear that, broadly speaking, Senior Specialists are perhaps the most highly valued employees at the organizations where they work. Aspirationally speaking, if you're an IT networking professional and you don't consider yourself to be management material, but you would like to be paid well, then aim for that Senior Specialist tier.