2015 Salary Survey

Campus Technology 2015 Salary Survey: IT Job Satisfaction

Our survey of higher education IT professionals polled hundreds of tech leaders and staffers on their attitudes toward their careers, their working conditions, their bosses, administrators and the very future of the profession itself.

Whether or not your salary is in line with the majority of your peers, salary surveys can help reinforce the value of a good working environment, benefits and the people you work alongside. And with higher education undergoing such dramatic transformation, the possibilities for opportunity can be staggering. Those are the unquantifiable aspects of a job that can keep you going when you're otherwise dissatisfied.

IT Pay

Don't miss part 1 of our 2015 salary survey: IT Pay.

Positive Outlook

We asked respondents to give us their outlook for the future of IT in higher education. While fewer than one in 10 people predicted "unbridled growth and opportunity," most foresaw "healthy growth" (40 percent) or at least "continued stability" (37 percent). Only one person in a hundred prophesied "doom in the near future."

Overall, respondents are positive on most aspects of their job. The greatest level of satisfaction was reported in the category of hours worked. Nearly eight in 10 respondents (79 percent) said they are either satisfied or very satisfied with the amount of time they're expected to give at the office. As one director of systems development from a private not-for-profit institution observed about her Texas university, "Great family/work life balance."

Three-quarters of respondents reported comparably high levels of satisfaction with "physical comfort" (75 percent), benefits (77 percent) and the people they work with (also 77 percent). Declared one educational technology consultant in a four-year public Louisiana university, while the pay "is not that good … I have wonderful coworkers."

Seventy percent also like their commutes, and nearly as many are happy with the equipment they work on (69 percent) and their supervisors (66 percent).

What Needs Fixing

The majority of respondents withheld their approval, however, in three key areas: departmental budgets, salaries and "top brass," all of which add up to a worrisome situation for managers.

Those were exactly the areas of dissatisfaction called out by a database administrator who works at a not-for-profit in Texas. As this person expressed it, "Never enough time, people or money to do the things requested of IT. I generally like my job, but it is becoming too stressful."

Or, as a technician at a public institution in New York summed up: "Too. Many. Administrators."

The sorest spot was IT budgets. A full six in 10 people (61 percent) reported being unsatisfied, very unsatisfied or at most neutral about the budgets their departments were getting. That doesn't surprise one instructional technologist at a four-year public institution in Texas, who stated, "Budget constraints are always an issue."

"Our budget is so tight that we have no room for growth," added a director of IT at a two-year college in Ohio. "My IT staff is stretched to its limits, and we are continually being asked to do more with what we have. I don't think management has a clue what it takes to run an IT department."

Salary limitations were called out by 56 percent of respondents. "I am losing good staff because there [is] an increasing number of jobs available locally which pay much more than what the university is paying," noted a director of systems development at a public university in Missouri. "This is a huge concern to me and my counterparts at other institutions that I have spoken to."

"Higher education faces critical shortages," reported another IT manager at a four-year public university in Michigan, who said the school has "lost so many … to business and industry in the past 20 months." Salary and compensation are a big part of the problem, noted this respondent. But just as important, administrators don't want to "acknowledge this issue," and that will only perpetuate the problem. The result: IT in higher ed will continue "lagging behind and never catch up."

Some managers aren't taking this situation sitting down. An IT director at a four-year public institution in Alabama reported working on an initiative to invest in the people in central IT as part of creating a "world-class IT organization." As this person explained, "Our roadmap includes focusing on salary normalization to market data; creating clear career paths and progressions; offering robust professional development and training plans; performance management; succession planning; and the 'softer' side of the organization." The goal, according to the respondent: "making our organization the place where technology professionals in our region want to work."

Still other respondents were more circumspect about their situations. As one systems administrator within a four-year college in Ohio pointed out, "With small private institutions, you are limited in your salary; but you do learn a lot."

Another, who works in a small, private not-for-profit, suggested that her salary needs to be considered "relative" to where she lives, "which is right in the middle of the Midwest. Here it is quite sufficient." Plus, she added, she enjoys a perk rarely found in the corporate world: "tuition remission for my children, which is a huge benefit."

Surging Toward the Future

Just as instruction is undergoing major transformation with the expansion of mobile, MOOCs, active learning, flipped and more, so too are the technology operations — and the jobs — that support those initiatives. If the prospect of contributing to positive change excites you and keeps you getting up and heading to the office in the morning, now is a heady time to be an IT professional in higher education.

Sure, we heard from plenty of people who gave their institutions poor grades for how IT is treated. As a longtime Web administrator from an Ohio public university put it, "All IT functions are viewed as trivial, expendable and outsource-able."

But just as common were the signs of anticipation and hope from those willing to persist. "Who will be the Amazon of education?" asked one director of systems development in two-year public college in Mississippi. "That's where I want to work!"

Methodology

Campus Technology polled its readership in August and September of 2015. We put out an open invitation to IT professionals in higher education, incented them to participate with a $500 Amazon gift card as a prize for one randomly selected winner, and promised confidentiality for respondents. The survey was advertised on campustechnology.com and in newsletters, as well as in e-mail promotions to our subscriber list, with recipients asked to encourage colleagues to participate as well.

We received 818 completed surveys. Responses were manually culled that were clearly false or inappropriate for the survey. (For example, several K-12 IT staffers responded to the poll; their answers were excluded, as were responses from faculty members and non-IT staff and administrators. Those who responded with patently unrealistic salaries — which ranged from salaries as low as three digits to those beyond the highest-paid IT salaries on record for the United States — were also eliminated.

The final tally for qualified respondents was 613, of which 383 were from public colleges and universities (258 four-year, 89 two-year, the remainder graduate schools or other types of public institutions); 187 were from private, not-for-profit colleges and universities (154 four-year, six two-year, the remainder other); and just 43 were from for-profit post-secondary institutions. Owing to the relatively low turnout of for-profits, those responses were excluded from weighted results.

The remaining public and nonprofit institutions were weighted by institution type to be representative of the nation as a whole based on data from the United States Department of Education.

We also asked for, but did not weigh against, geographic location and size of the institution's student body.

Geographically, our respondents tracked very closely with ED's regional data for post-secondary institutions. New England: 6.77 percent; Mid East: 16 percent; Great Lakes: 17.16 percent; Plains: 10.07 percent; Southeast: 20.96 percent; Southwest: 11.06 percent; Rocky Mountains: 3.3 percent; and Far West: 14.69 percent. (For geographic breakdown, we used regions as defined in NCES' 2013-2014 IPEDS report.)

Owing to the large volume of responses from public institutions and dearth of for-profit institutions, student body size among our participants tended to be on the larger side than would be representative of the nation as a whole. The breakdown in student body size was: 0-499: 5.22 percent; 500-999: 3.26 percent; 1,000-2,499: 11.42 percent; 2,500-4,999: 13.21 percent; 5,000-9,999: 17.29 percent; 10,000-19,999: 16.8 percent; 20,000-29,999: 11.26 percent; and 30,000 or higher: 21.53 percent. There was no clear relationship between institution size and average salaries. Across the board, unweighted salaries tended to fall in the mid-$70,000s, except for the smallest institutions ($61,749), those in the 1,000-2,499 range ($67,170) and those in the 20,000-29,999 range ($79,608). The five remaining categories fell between $74,752 and $77,776.

The survey consisted of 14 questions, 13 of which were mandatory. A final open-ended question asking for additional comments was optional, though more than one-quarter of the qualified respondents chose to add their two cents.

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