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Archive - How much pay is enough for your IT professionals?

By James Del Monte, C.P.C., JDA Professional Services, Inc.

You’ve searched for weeks, or months, retained the help of JDA Professional Services, Inc., or a counterpart in the industry, and finally located the most highly qualified candidate to fill an important position in your IT department.  Just one question remains: how much pay is enough?

You don't want to offer too little because it’s clear that the candidate’s skills are in high demand.  Chances are the candidate is already earning a competitive salary with excellent benefits.  How can you make an attractive offer that will entice him away from his present job?  JDA can help you.

Determining Salary

There is no question that companies want to remain as competitive as possible in terms of employee compensation packages.  Therefore, as an IT manager, you must constantly monitor what the current market is paying skilled IT professionals.  Tracking salary trends in the industry can be a daunting task.  It’s not uncommon for us to hear from clients that they are ready to hire a new college graduate at a starting salary in the upper $30,000 range.  The reality is that the average starting salary for 2008 college graduates is 4 percent higher than it was last year, according to a recent article published on” [1] 
Even more startling, graduates with technical degrees, such as computer science, are earning average entry-level salaries of $56,921 annually.

A competitive company needs to be knowledgeable about the industry in order to attract the most qualified candidates.  Equally important is the need for you to remain knowledgeable about salary trends impacting the IT industry.  JDA recognizes the dilemmas you face and provides a convenient and reliable source for obtaining up-to-date salary information.  Our latest salary survey includes invaluable information for virtually all positions within your IT organization.  To review the most recent Houston IT salary survey, please <click here>.

Grading Structures

Another aspect essential to determining a new hire’s salary involves your internal grading structure for IT positions.  Is your internal grading structure fair and equitable for your entire staff?  Additionally, is your grading structure out-of-date?  Has adequate consideration been given for the demands of various skill sets within the company, including skill sets representing newer technology?  

A good grading structure will contain a compensation level that increases as the skill for a particular job becomes more challenging.  For example, if your grading structure has the same job grade and pay level for all developers, you probably need to consider updating the structure. Remember that not all developers are created equal, and some possess skills and experience that exceed those of their counterparts.  A company should have a grading structure that enables the manager to determine an employee’s individual value based on his or her skill set.

Can you Afford the Best?

If you find that your company currently has a satisfactory internal grading and compensation structure, you may be struggling with how to justify the high costs associated with this new hire as well as other skilled IT professionals.  In some cases, many companies find it more cost-effective to hire a candidate with less experience at a lower salary, and then spend resources training that candidate for the specific job that he or she was hired to perform.  This practice is considered to be a trade-off, and, when doing so, an IT manager must consider several factors.

First, you must consider whether the potential employee has the aptitude and attitude to learn the task for which he or she is being trained to perform.  Next, you need to realize that when hiring a lesser-experienced employee at a lower salary, you are going to spend more money, time, and energy to train that employee.  When these costs are taken into consideration, hiring a skilled IT professional may be a better alternative.

The truth is that hiring skilled IT professionals can also involve answering some difficult questions.  For example, if you hire an individual who has been in a particular job for an extensive period of time, you must consider the issue of retention.  Ask yourself, “How long will an employee remain in the position they were hired for before they ask to be considered for advancement within the company?”  Another question to ponder is, “How long will it be before that same employee might consider leaving their present job to follow another career opportunity?”  It is important to remember that the hidden costs of employee retention must be evaluated when considering any staff changes.  

Still unsure what to pay this person?  JDA recommends a two-fold approach in the case of uncertainty.  First, fit the employee’s initial wage into the lower-end of the appropriate compensation grade.  Second, add on non-cash incentives such as flexible scheduling and telecommuting.  This way, the overall initial cash outlay is relatively small but the overall compensation package is competitive.  In the event the employee is not a good fit, this approach minimizes the risks inherent in a large initial cash outlay.  If later the employee appears to be a good fit, then cash compensation may be adjusted upward.        

Additional Staffing Services

In addition to salary-related consulting services, JDA can help you in a number of ways:

  • Customized Salary Surveys. If you are concerned that your internal salary and grade structures are not competitive, JDA can develop a personalized analysis of your company to guide you in making necessary changes.
  • Contract Employees. Rather than risk time and money training a lesser-skilled IT professional, consider contract labor instead.  Contractors are professionals that have the skills you need at an affordable rate without the ramp-up time, the administrative burden, or the worry of long-term plans.
  • Full-time Staffing. Our full-time staffing service means that we take ownership of the entire hiring process. We will help you find and recruit top-quality candidates with the experience and skills you need.  JDA will guide you all the way through to making and negotiating an offer while providing the best return on your investment.
JDA Professional Services, Inc. is a Houston-based IT staffing firm specializing in the recruitment of strategic-technical to executive-level IT professionals. We provide IT staffing solutions through full-time, contract, and project-based placements. Since 1981, we have been helping companies locate, attract, and retain the right IT candidates to build great IT departments while helping IT professionals find the right opportunities to advance their IT careers.  

To have JDA start working for you today, please contact James Del Monte at 713-548-5444 or jdel (at) jdapsi (dot) com.

About the Author

James Del Monte, CERS, CPC
From modest beginnings in 1981, James Del Monte founded JDA Professional Services, Inc. which today is one of Houston’s leading IT staffing firms according to the Texas Association of Personnel Consultants (TAPC).  Over his career, James has helped hundreds of companies build great IT departments by finding key individuals and providing excellent strategies for employee retention.  In addition, he has helped thousands of professionals find great IT careers through direct placements and by providing valued advice and guidance. In November 2007, James joined an elite group of professionals becoming a Certified Employee Retention Specialists (CERS).  

James is a board member of both the TAPC and the National Association of Computer Consulting Businesses (NACCB).  He is a former president of the Houston chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) and a founding member of the Open Door Education Foundation which provides scholarships to IT students.  In 2006, he was awarded the TAPC community service award for his commitment to the community and charitable contributions.

As part of his commitment to the advancement of IT training in Houston, James is a regular speaker at various colleges/universities, trade groups, and job ministries, and he is often quoted as a subject matter expert for the IT staffing industry.  Additionally, James serves on the advisory board for technology departments at the University of Houston Downtown, Westwood College, and ITT Technical Institute.

[1] Rachel Zupek, Best Entry-level salaries for new grads,, April 28, 2008

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