New graduates with multimedia skills can command salaries as high as #25,000 a year, but this is exceptional at a time when wages for IT-related jobs are falling.
In a national survey of salaries for permanent IT jobs, research company Corps Business found that people with traditional IT skills such as programming in most languages, or technical support, cannot call the shots in salary terms as they could a few years ago. This is partly because there is less shortage of their skills, which in turn has been driven by the reduction in IT department sizes and the increasing reliance on contractors.
However, there is a serious shortage of multimedia skills such as Web design and other forms of production. Salaries will stabilise over the next five years as more people come out of college with specialised multimedia degrees, says Corps. Currently, the range of salaries on offer for permanent jobs in this field is between #20,000 and #30,000, which is slightly higher than the levels expected by a range of IT job seekers interviewed for the survey.
Only 26 per cent of those with multimedia skills are female and most are still in their twenties and early thirties, with limited experience.
Demand for other types of computer-based designers is falling, and they are often not achieving the salary levels they expect. For instance, art workers, such as people skilled in Quark Express desktop publishing, expect up to #30,000 but are usually earning #19,000-#25,000. Some people in this category are earning as little as #7,000, mainly in northern England.
Some large companies are still paying programmers #40,000 a year, especially if they have relatively rare skills such as object oriented techniques. However, the average range on offer is #23,000 to #30,000, even though the programmers surveyed claimed to expect #28,000 to #40,000. However, expectations tend to be inflated by the rates programmers earn on a freelance basis, and the trend is for companies to hire most programmers on this basis anyway.
In this sector, 98 per cent of the skilled programmers interviewed were male. All age groups expected higher salaries than companies are offering, but to balance this, the majority of very experienced programmers have left the permanent job market for contract work.
Senior technical support staff also expect higher salary levels than industry typically offers. This is because their skills were scarcer in the 1980s and early 1990s and salaries rose steadily, but now their positions can be filled with the increasing number of younger, cheaper people with similar expertise. Average salaries for those with good support skills are now in the #23,000 to #30,000 range.
Juliet Ripley, sales and marketing director of Corps Business, commented: "Within the traditional areas staff are finding that companies are not willing to meet their salary expectations. The IT industry is still very much a male-dominated industry, even in the newer, more exciting sectors."
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