Why do people IT get paid high salaries?

Let me preface this by saying that I’ve been doing IT work for a number of years, professionally since 1996; recreationally since 1984.

I don’t consider my work to be difficult; in fact designing viable networks is not very difficult at all. I enjoy it for the most part. I would think that any reasonably intelligent person could learn what I do and be very good at it in a couple month’s time. The work described in this thread seems infinitely more difficult anything I’ve ever done for a wage. I imagine there are LOTS of positions that are grueling which don’t pay salaries even close to an advanced IT position. Why is that?

There are a few subsets of the IT industry: software development, network engineering, systems management, and database administration. My field, networking, pays, on average, higher than software development. This also strikes me as odd. Software developers are often not only very, very intelligent but they’re are creative as well. While my function is also both of these, I view programming as having a higher degree of both qualities.

Another piece of the mystery is that IT positions are almost always overhead; that is that are an expense for a company and rarely generate revenue.

My wife’s theory is that some people get easily overwhelmed by seeing things on a computer screen (especially when the black box with the white text (the command shell) introduces itself). Also when a person is presented a rather large schematic of a network, it too can be overwhelming. Enough so that the macro overview makes a micro viewpoint impossible. While she’s sweet, I am not sure I agree. There are a LOT of smart people out there.

It does? When did that happen? Granted, I’ve been out of the big company type places for a few years, but everyplace I’ve ever worked, the coders were paid better than the IT guys.

As to why one industry pays more than another… I’ve always wondered that. I don’t have any answers for you but I’ll be watching this thread.

From what I’ve seen, designing networks is something you need on-the-job experience for, and something hard to learn by yourself. It’s hard for regular Joe User to set up a network at home with 20 computers and verify that it works. Programming is something easier to learn on your own or in classes.

To take another example, administering large databases (I’m an Oracle DBA) is also something that you typically can’t learn at home, only by on-the-job training. It’s not necessarily more difficult than anything else, but experience is hard to come by. I can play around with the database on my laptop but I’ll never be able to similate the conditions of hundreds of people logging on to the database and running the application at the same time.

And after reading Athena’s comment, I’ll just add that I actually don’t know if the IT people at my company are being paid more than the programmers here.

I am going to school for IT but I am specializing in Database administration. I have no idea why it pays so well, since if I can learn it it isn’t too complex.

Database administration always seemed to me to be one of those specialized jobs; you have to be pretty smart to do it well, but the work itself can be pretty dull. You have to pay a smart person a lot to get them to do a dull job for 40 hours a week.

Apologies to all you DB Admins who think your job is really interesting. I formed my opinion by the bit I’ve dabbled in DB Administration along with talking with people who do it for a living.

Guys, you’re all being modest. The typical IT job doesn’t pay that well. You’re just good at what you do and are rewarded appropriately.

There are a LOT of dumb people out there, and people simply too impatient to want to deal with computer problems. People have their strengths and their weaknesses.

I think this is true of a lot of well-paying jobs.

I work with computers constantly, I use them all the time, I’m even called on to troubleshoot others’ problems from time to time, but I do not ever ever EVER want to be involved in creating or managing a network, at least not on Windows XP. You can attempt to enlighten me if you want, but I always feel like I have to do something twice - enable some property in two locations - like I can go in and say “Share this Folder,” choose “Everyone” and try to get in on another computer on the network, and it’ll say access denied. “Everyone” doesn’t mean everyone? I don’t care, I simply haven’t the patience.

My OP was probably misleading a bit. I’m not talking about IT departments, but the IT industry. I’ve worked for two technology-specific companies in which the network engineering departments were usually client-facing; they weren’t there to fix the internal infrastructure.

It’s basic supply and demand, really. There’s a high demand of talented IT workers, and not enough supply to fill it. Companies are therefore willing to pay a premium for those workers.

(Note that there may or may not be a shortage of IT workers in general, but there’s a pretty big spread in value to the organization between the average ones and the really good ones.)

But what is the difference between a Department and the Industry?

Isn’t a Department a small Industry?

In our small shop, (County Government) the network admins often have to work on weekends or after normal work hours. If it’s down, it HAS to be fixed.

I can go home.

I’m a programmer. GIS. I have the luxury of a bit of lee-way when something needs tweaked. And I can choose the time that I work on it (depends on the problem of course).

On the other hand… I also have much more contact with users, and need to be able to pick their brains, and well… really dredge them for what they really want the software to do.

Hardware, network and development are all very different fields. But we have to be able to communicate.

In my field I don’t need to know too much about switches and routers, but I do need to know about user interfaces and surveying. You may need to have broader knowledge as a programmer, but I don’t get called in on the weekends.

I know very good IT people. The thing is, their job isn’t IT. They end up spending 90% of their time dealing with situations where they are working with databases, or with setting up FTP access to servers, or whatever. They don’t get paid the rate that anybody even within the same organisation would get paid. This is why I don’t buy the answer simply of ‘supply and demand’, except that there’s a small supply of people willing to only do this work. The other 10% of the time is what keeps these people sane.

Speak for yourself! (Granted, as a State employee, I’m not being paid as much as I could be…but I only work 40 hours a week and don’t travel much)

I characterize it thusly: IT knowledge is like a lake. A big WIDE lake…just not very deep.

Can anyone calculate a subnet that’s not an A B or C standard? Yup.

Can anyone set the default font for a hyperlink to Arial, bold, 12pt using CSS? Yup.

Can anyone partition a drive? Yup.

Can anyone make a dialog box say ‘Hello World’ in VB.net? Yup.

None of it’s particularly hard…doing it WELL, articulating what you’re doing to the uninformed, being available at crappy hours of the day or night, managing a project with multiple thousands of lines of code, wiring a building with several hundred perfect connections…that takes more than the standard frycook job.

I think DBA stuff is particularly open for debate. Our MS SQL dba does that as about 1/3 of his duties. Oracle shops (I’ve heard on good authority) need quite a bit more care and feeding.

In my 12 years in the industry, I’ve written software in three languages, been a webmaster, web developer, wrote a web based content management system, drifted over to Network security, developed an intrustion detection infrastructure, and along the way rolled out Portal Server, SMS, MOM, WSUS (1.0 and 3.0) and developed a multicast infrastruture to bulk upgrade workstations to Windows XP.

I’m pretty happy with my salary, thankeyverymuch!

Sorry to be harsh, Unintentionally Blank, but you’ve gone down the route of talking about a whole load of technical stuff. Technical stuff which we weren’t really talking about. I can tell you lots of difficult things I do, with lots of terms you would need to look up, too, if I wanted. But I can’t be arsed.

I’d say in fifty years or so, when the vast majority of people who aren’t intimidated by computers are out of the workforce, this won’t be the case. Right now, we’re still considered technoshamans by most of the people who make the decisions about money.

I’m not sure this is really true, or that most people can or have the inate ability to do this sort of stuff. This board skews geek and logical, for the most part, but there are a hell of a lot of people out there who can’t do simple math, can’t think terribly well, and can’t take a real life situation and convert it into code, or find a technical solution for a networking problem, etc. More and more can grasp the technology, or at least the use, but I’d venture that fewer and fewer can actually figure out how to do something worthwhile with the underlying technical structure. Just because you or I feel something is not that difficult, doesn’t make it simple for the average Joe, Jane or Jose.

Of the people who do have the right mental stuff, not all have the aptitude, attitude or inclination. Some very smart, logical folks would rather be lawyers, teachers, physicians, musicians, etc. So in the end you have a decent pay scale for a career that is challenging and daunting enough to keep the the vast majority from excelling at it.

If I’m still alive in 50 years hopefully I’ll be able to remember this and judge which of us was correct. :slight_smile:

You think it’s only the older folks who are intimidated by computers? I do plenty of computer help desk work at a library and here are the two most common questions I get:

  1. How do I get to Google?

  2. How do I make a resume in Microsoft Word?

And these are from the teens and twentysomethings that were supposed to have “grown up around computers.” The ones who’s knowledge was supposed to one day put all IT people out of a job. Ain’t gonna happen.

Because one day, these kids will grow up, move into the business world and still need considerable help from an IT guru. As long as the IT guy knows stuff the average user doesn’t, there’ll be a large and thriving IT industry that businesses will pay big money to.

The IT profession is in a bubble IMO, soon people will write scripts and other progs that might take your jobs. It happens every day. A friend of mine was in charge of firewall support systems at (what is now Chase), he’s fairly dumb. His job is in dealing with networks, their connections, and other intrusion issues. He showed me his set of servers for his personal site, and gave me the “confused puppy” look when I mentioned a DSLAM. He knows enough to do his job, nothing more.

Soon there will be a winnowing of IT people, supported by software that makes them redundant. Not possible? Tell that to the guys that used to sell huge “mobile phones”. Tell them that you can have streaming video on a phone you could hide in your butt crack. They would laugh you out of their store.

Much as the “dot com” bubble burst, so will the “we need to pay dudes lots to run our crap” will burst. Bet on it. The upper echelon will survive, but not many more.

Write that down. Maybe tattoo it on yourself.

Do you remember DOS or BASIC? Programs have been written that make people that can only code in those languages obsolete. Can’t happen again? Are you that short-sighted?

From what you’re saying, your value is the information that you have in your head. Hmm, information technology, I wonder if such information will spread?

It used to be that one had to have programming skills to even make a simple program work. Today, any jackass can design their own webpage with Java scripts and all the bells and whistles. Your job isn’t the next one to be consumed by a program? Prove it. Also, find a good head hunter, you’ll need a job sooner than you think.

You will be DESIGNED OUT OF A JOB. Unless you adapt.

That seems to me to be a fact.