Average salaries for tech pros climbed 5.3% to $85,619 last year, up from $81,327 in 2011. It's the largest salary jump in more than a decade, according to career site Dice, which specializes in jobs for tech and engineering professionals.
Entry level talent (two years or less experience) waited three years to see an increase in average annual pay -- and the market made up for the stagnancy with an 8% year-over-year increase to $46,315. At the other end of the spectrum, average salaries for tech professionals with at least 15 years of experience topped six-figures for the first time, growing 4% to $103,012.
2013 JOB WATCH: Top 11 metro areas for tech jobs
"Employers are recognizing and adjusting to the reality of a tight market," said Scot Melland, CEO of Dice Holdings, in a statement. "The fact is you either pay to recruit or pay to retain and these days, at least for technology teams, companies are doing both."
Tech bonuses were slightly more frequent -- 33% of respondents got one in 2012 compared to 32% in 2011 -- but slightly less lucrative at an average of $8,636 (down from $8,769). [Related story: "Outlook for IT bonus pay murky"]
"In the early stages of the recovery, companies were staying flexible by using performance pay to reward their top performers," Melland said. "Now, companies are writing the checks that will stick. With a 3.8% tech unemployment rate, no one wants to lose talent."
By location, Pittsburgh tech pros saw the largest salary increase, up 18% year/year to $76,207. Six other cities also reported double-digit growth in salaries -- which is the most ever registered by the Dice Salary Survey.
- San Diego (+13% to $97,328)
- St. Louis (+13% to $81,245)
- Phoenix (+12% to $83,607)
- Cleveland (+11% to $75,773
- Orlando (+10% to $81,583)
- Milwaukee (+10% to $81,670)
Silicon Valley remains the only market where tech professionals average six-figure salaries ($101,278).
Across the U.S., big data skills are in demand, as evidenced by $100,000+ salaries for tech pros who use Hadoop, NoSQL and MongoDB. By comparison, average salaries associated with cloud and virtualization are just under $90,000 and mobile salaries are closer to $80,000, Dice reports.
"We've heard it's a fad, heard it's hyped and heard it's fleeting, yet it's clear that data professionals are in demand and well paid," said Alice Hill, managing director of Dice.com. "Tech professionals who analyze large data streams and strategically impact the overall business goals of a firm have an opportunity to write their own ticket. The message to employers? If you have a talented data team, hold on tight or learn the consequences of a lift-out."
Looking ahead to the current year, 64% of tech professionals are confident they could find a favorable new job in 2013.
Dice surveyed 15,049 employed tech professionals between Sept. 24 and Nov. 16, 2012, for its annual Salary Survey.
Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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