Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
At the time of her death on Sept. 8, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom controlled a personal fortune conservatively estimated at £382 million, or about $500 million. So, as they say, it’s good to be the queen (even if your offspring are barely worth the headache). Also in 2022, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg controlled a personal fortune of roughly $100 billion. So you don't have to have your face on the currency to, as they say, laugh all the way to bank.
The vicissitudes can come for you when most of your net worth is tied to corporate stock, of course, but that's neither here nor there. The point is not to gawk at the plenitude profile of prominent individuals. We're just reasserting the long-lived truth that being at the top of the pecking order is usually an indicator of wealth.
Every business has its own pecking order, ofttimes more commonly referred to as an "org chart," and everyone involved in a given business knows at least approximately where they stand. (Some businesses are more specific about such things than others.) Wherever a given individual ranks, it's a good bet that the people below them earn less, the people at their level earn about the same, and the people above them earn more.
Each year when we fire up the Salary Survey, we ask a number of questions that help us get a sense of who, exactly, is responding to us. One of the basic ones asks survey participants to pick a title that roughly corresponds to where they stand on whatever the org chart looks like where they work. More succinctly, the question might be expressed as "What’s your employment tier?"
This week, we're looking at data from the 2023 Salary Survey to draw out a number that corresponds to each of those employment tiers. What could a relatively newly minted certified IT professional — roughly 47 percent of our 2023 survey respondents have worked in IT for between zero years (1 to 11 months) and 9 years — expect to earn at each of these respective tiers?
The list below contains only certified IT professionals who live in the United States. We’ll circle back to this topic in a week or three to consider our non-U.S. respondents. Here’s what we learned:
Employment Tier: Average Salary of 2023 Survey Respondents at This Tier (Percentage of All Respondents at This Tier)
Executive: $110,060 (10.8 percent)
Director: $138,660 (8.2 percent)
Senior Manager: $122,330 (16.7 percent)
Manager: $94,560 (18.9 percent)
Senior Specialist: $120,370 (24.7 percent)
Specialist: $87,990 (10.7 percent)
Employee: $71,780 (10 percent)
Past salary surveys have tended to reveal a heavy concentration of respondents at or around the senior specialist level, and that's evident here as well. Broadly speaking, however, the 2023 survey captured a more diverse population of certified IT professionals, at least in terms of overall workplace standing. We tend not to hear from very many individuals at the rank-and-file "employee" level. This year, however, there are roughly as many employees as both specialists and executives, and there are more employees than directors.
Those in the employee and specialist tiers are quite notably the worst off financially, though it's considerably better to be a specialist than an employee. Everyone else is taking home at least $94,000 per year, and while it's not all that surprising to see directors raking it in, the average executive salary is definitely below where many would almost certainly expect it to land.
As past surveys have shown, a key takeaway is that you don't have to be in a position where you supervise the work of others to notch a six-figure salary. The average "senior specialist" is comfortably above that baseline.