How Much Cash Are You Raking In?

And what are the factors affecting that salary?

We love to know how much money everybody's making, don't we? We also like to know that we're being compensated fairly for our own jobs, and the most effective path toward that knowledge is to directly survey the fellow professionals in our field. In her article "Change in the Air?", page 11, Diana May takes some time to rake through the results of SQL Server Magazine's 2005 salary survey to really discover who you are. Our next step is to see how those factors directly influence your paycheck.

In this article, we look closely at how such determiners as job title, experience, gender, and age affect the size of your paycheck.We show you some ways you might consider—based on our findings—to increase the amount of money you make: by pursuing that certification you've been pondering, moving to another industry, or changing your career path. So sit back, relax, and learn how your compensation stacks up against that of your peers.

What Affects Your Wage?

Echoing the results of last year's survey, your average base salary for 2005 is approximately $70,000. (Figure 1, page 15, shows base salaries for 2005.) But things are looking up. The percentages of respondents falling in the $90,000-$124,999 range are higher than last year: In 2004, only 9 percent of you could boast a salary in the $90,000-$99,000 range and only 7 percent landed in the heftier $100,000-$124,999 range, but in 2005 those percentages increased to 12 and 11 percent, respectively.

The length of time you've been on the job has a definite influence on the size of your paycheck—good news for you oldtimers. A large percentage of you—37 percent—have been in the IT field for 6 to 10 years. An even larger percentage—40 percent—have been at the job for 11 to 20 years. So, you're in it for the long haul. That being said, 79 percent of you have been administering databases—and, in particular, working with SQL Server—for no longer than 10 years. (To see how long your peers have worked in IT and specifically in database administration, see Figures 2 and 3, respectively.) In general, you've been employed in your current position for a relatively short time, but by and large, you're quite happy with your position and your compensation and you can't even imagine leaving your current job. (For a more in-depth look at job satisfaction, see Dawn Cyr's article, "It's What You Make IT," page 23.) But keep in mind that more than 60 percent of DBAs who have been in their position for more than 10 years are looking at a wage of between $90,000 and $300,000.

Perhaps we won't shock you when we tell you that you're a whopping 87 percent male. Also not particularly surprising is that, on average, women's earnings continue to lag behind those of men. Of the men responding to our survey, 25 percent make $100,000 or more per year. Among women, that figure is closer to 15 percent. Climbing up the salary range toward the very highest earners, a full 5 percent of men earn $150,000 or more, whereas the women can post a mere 1 percent in the top tier.

Delving a bit deeper, we found that job title plays a role in salary versus gender. We found that men have claimed a stronghold on management titles, accounting for the salary gap at the top end. Of all the presidents,owners,CEOs,CFOs, and other executive managers responding to our survey, only 20 percent are females, and no female CIOs or CTOs responded. Across the rest of the range,however,salaries are more equitable. On average, midrange salaries—those between $80,000 and $100,000—are enjoyed by just as many women as men. So, with the exception of high-end positions, fairness seems to reign in your chosen career. For a breakdown of gender versus salary, check out Figure 4, which shows women spiking in the $70,000-$79,000 range and men spiking much higher.

How old are you? Of the 773 respondents in our survey, 43 percent are in their 30s, and 31 percent are in their 40s, so you're not exactly in a "young" field. The highest earners are those in their 50s, 30 percent of whom rake in more than $100,000 per year, lending credence to the notion that older workers simply have more experience. On the other end of the spectrum, as expected, the young pups in the field bring in the lowest salaries: A full 31 percent of you twenty-somethings earn less than $40,000, but the good news is that higher salaries await you. After age 30, the most common salaries easily top $70,000. For a breakdown of age versus salary, check out Table 1, page 16.

Perpetuating the stereotype of the white, thirty-something IT guy, a full 74 percent of you are Caucasian. There's just not a heck of a lot of diversity in your chosen career. And how does your location affect your wage? It probably won't surprise you to learn that, like last year, jobs in North America and Europe pay the most. Digging deeper into North America, it might interest you to know that the top 10 states/provinces where you'll find the highest wages are, in alphabetical order, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Increasing That Paycheck!

Of 632 respondents, 82 percent said their total compensation increased in 2005, as Figure 5, page 17, shows, and 22 percent said their pay had increased by 10 percent or more. A full 26 percent expected increases of 4 to 5 percent, and 25 percent expected the common 3 percent lift. Only 3 percent—22 people—expected their pay to decrease, 12 of them by 10 percent or more. We feel your pain. Some good news surfaces when we compare these results with our 2004 survey, in which only 73 percent of respondents reported an earnings increase and 5 percent reported a decrease.

More overall good news: Compared with last year, a larger number of you are expecting bonuses by year's end, as Figure 6, page 17, shows. On average, the number of you anxiously awaiting this extra compensation rose by at least a couple of percentage points. A whopping 66 percent (compared to 56 percent in 2004) are expecting a bonus of some kind, and 26 percent expect to receive more than $5000. Nice!

Many of you also turn to supplemental work for additional cash.This year, 29 percent of you reported that you supplement your income, mostly through consulting work.

As mentioned, most of you are happy—or at least satisfied—with your level of compensation, but what if you're seeking still more? As I suggested earlier, the length of time you've been in the industry is a big factor in the size of your income, as is your age. What about certification? The bulk of you—58 percent—report that you have no Microsoft certification. Of the 42 percent who are certified, 29 percent are Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs), 20 percent are Microsoft Certified DBAs (MCDBAs), and 15 percent are Microsoft Certified Software Engineers (MCSEs). For a look at which Microsoft certifications your peers hold, check out Figure 7, page 19.

Interestingly, 62 percent of those of you who have some sort of Microsoft certification don't think it's helped your career very much, and only 10 percent think certification has been a key factor. Our survey results bear this out: On average, the MCDBAs among you aren't making a whole lot more than those who don't hold that certification.The same is true of the Microsoft Certified Solution Designers (MCSDs), MCPs, MCSAs, MCSEs, and Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs). In fact, in a surprisingly high number of cases—as you can see in Table 4—those of you without any certification can even boast a higher paycheck than those who have taken the time to get certified.

To delve further into this concern, we specifically compared salary results with Microsoft certification status and came away with little variance, save for a minor blip in favor of the certified in the $80,000-to-$99,999 range. In fact, if you lack a Microsoft certification, you're more likely than your certified brethren to boast a salary above $100,000!

Are you in the right industry? If you're seeking a higher income, you might want to take a look at banking and finance, computer-related manufacturing, and consulting. These three fields are where the big money is—35, 36.4, and 37 percent of people in these fields, respectively, reap salaries of $100,000 or more. On the other side of the spectrum, if you're in education, agriculture, government, wholesale trade, or entertainment, you're among the lowest-paid employees in our survey, coming in on average toward the under-$60,000 end of the salary range. For a complete breakdown of pay by industry, see Table 2, page 18.

In tune with our findings last year, job roles also make a difference in pay. As Diana May reports in "Change in the Air?", most of you are DBAs. Sure, some application developers, programmers, and architects are among you, as well as a number of IT generalists, but DBA is the predominant role among SQL Server Magazine's readership.

The salary range of DBAs is all over the map—naturally influenced by such factors as years of experience and certification—but this year we're seeing a general concentration in the $90,000-to-$124,999 range. Not bad at all. Your salaries don't come close to the levels of CEOs, CIOs, and CTOs, of course, but DBAs are faring better than most other SQL Server professionals. IT generalists are doing a bit better in the coveted $125,000-to-$199,999 range, but DBAs see more consistently respectable wages at the higher end.

Business intelligence (BI) specialists, data warehouse architects, and consultants are among the highest-paid, and network architects, database developers, application programmers,and particularly trainers (66 percent of whom earn less than $30,000) rank among the lowest paid. For a breakdown of salary by job title, see Table 3, page 18.

Is It Worth It?

Quite a few SQL Server professionals can boast healthy wages, but are you overworked? According to the survey, 55 percent of you are working up to 50 hours per week, 16 percent are putting in as many as 60 hours per week, and a bleary-eyed 4 percent are grinding out more than 60 hours. You're also likely to spend quite a bit of time working from home, with 55 percent devoting as many as 10 at-home hours to work each week and 14 percent toiling as many as 20 hours. So as you're bringing in the big bucks—or even the midsized-to-small bucks—be sure not to burn yourselves out! You're very important to the industry—and to us.

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