How much should I be making in IT?
January 14, 2009 7:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm The IT for 50 users. What is my salary range?

The economy sucks right now, and I realize I'm worth only what someone will pay me, but help me decide whether I'm working for slaves wages. I get paid $55k a year plus some benefits. I'm the only guy at a firm of 45 users. Here's what I've done over the last 12-14 months:

- Upgraded to the latest Exchange version, moved and now monitor 100GB of mailbox storage.
- Turned the PBX over to VoIP, expanded to a branch office and programmed the routers, switches and associated VPN
- Also implemented this "unified messaging" thing with IM and other fancy features
- Virtualized a rack into just a 3 or 4 physical servers (with 10-15 servers a piece)
- Support mobile, branch office and other users.
- Most importantly deal with the fact that no one else in the company has any idea of what I do beyond the occasional visit to install a program.

Ok, ok. Sort of burnt out I work 50-60 hours a week. I'm beginning to feel as if I'm really underpaid for this job, and I don't know anyone else who does IT who can help me judge my salary. Out of college I researched tech companies for a consultant relative. I'm 25 now, he retired about 18 months ago and I promptly got this current job through a connection as a "a smart kid who could figure things out." Well I guess I went from an elevated help desk to deploying servers and expanding into branch offices. I'm an expense and don't make money for the company in a direct way, so I have no idea how to value myself. Is my salary in the price range I should expect?

Again, I do realize the job market is bad, but I'm trying to gauge if I just feel underpaid, like everyone feels, or if I really am underpaid.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What state do you live in? And how big of town is it? But that sounds like it's a bit low. However even if they would be screwed without you, it matters what the other people around you are making and the hours they are working, even if there jobs have nothing to do with IT, before you would get a large raise.
posted by benk at 7:52 PM on January 14, 2009

You don't mention what part of the world you're in. That's going to be a major factor in determining what is an appropriate salary.

You can also check out SAGE's salary surveys.

Most importantly deal with the fact that no one else in the company has any idea of what I do beyond the occasional visit to install a program.

This is going to give you the biggest trouble. In my experience, you are going to have to fight tooth and nail to justify an appropriate salary, and it may take some tie. That time may not be worth it. I was just laid off. I was the IT Manager for 3 years (in a similar situation - I was the ONLY knowledgeable person, IT-wise). I also have 18 years of hard experience. I had to fight with management to get a reasonable salary. I got it, too. I was promptly laid off 3 months later.

YMMV. Make sure this position is worth staying with (remember, you can always look while employed). Goodluck.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:54 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's too bad you left off a few of the details people will really need to answer this. Like what is your title? What is your geographical location? What certifications/education do you have? How long you've been there. What the company you work for does.

If I am reading things right you're 25 and took over this job 1.5 years ago when someone retired (got a bit confused with what you wrote there).

This is why things like geography matter. In Chicago or LA you'd probably be at about the right pay. In Des Moines maybe a bit overpaid.

Same with certifications and such. If this is your third job in IT you can bank on more than just being a bright kid.

And there's also a big difference between working for a bank and working for a charity.

There are websites that give you ranges for jobs per area. Google up some. Or talk to a job recruiter and ask one of them (like Robert Half).
posted by cjorgensen at 8:00 PM on January 14, 2009

"I'm an expense and don't make money for the company in a direct way, so I have no idea how to value myself."

Tell me, if the computers are down all day, how much money does that company lose? Get some quotes on what it would cost a consulting company to do VoIP for 50 users. You'll quickly see that you have a lot of value.

What city are you in?

Why are you working so many hours? You could probably easily trim back to only 30-40 hours a week and do some consulting on the side making 30-50/hr. Probably your best bet financially and career wise is to start looking for a more challenging and higher paying work.

It doesn't hurt to interview and get offers. It's a lot easier to get a raise if you can pull out a stack of documents showing quotes from consulting companies to do the work you did at 4x the cost and higher paying offer letters from other companies.
posted by edmo at 8:01 PM on January 14, 2009

+1 on making sure that the people that sign the checks know in a detailed and visual way how valuable your contributions are.
posted by edmo at 8:04 PM on January 14, 2009

Get your CV together and float it to a couple headhunters in your area. They should be able to give you a general idea what the market (under the current conditions) will bear.
posted by sexymofo at 8:05 PM on January 14, 2009

Get some quotes on what it would cost a consulting company to do VoIP for 50 user

Alternatively; stop letting the company buy software/hardware without quotes for installation. If you think you are doing more than your worth, you need something to substantiate that.

Fake Numbers:

VMWare conversion = $500/server.
Phone System Install = $200/phone

Me doing it = $17,000 savings.

Most importantly deal with the fact that no one else in the company has any idea of what I do beyond the occasional visit to install a program.

Your role is how people see you. If no one knows you have 4 VMWare servers instead of 15 physical servers; you still have 15 physical servers.

If you find out you are being paid what the market value is; atleast take an opportunity to market yourself internally; and try to get some formal training.

"I would like to become VMWare;Cisco;etc certified to help further our system" -- then use that on a resume to get another job :P.
posted by SirStan at 8:14 PM on January 14, 2009

Purely anecdotal: From 1995 until 2000, I was you with a slightly larger userbase...I was the IT "department" for about 120 users, half a dozen servers and a PBX system. At the time, I was making about what you're making factor in the increased cost of living and you might have an appropriate figure.

Note: that was here in New York City. YMMV.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:15 PM on January 14, 2009

PS-you have 3-4 vmware servers with 10-15 physical servers in each? 30-50 servers for 40 users? Really?
posted by SirStan at 8:19 PM on January 14, 2009

I made 25/hour and got to make my own hours. This was 1998, east bay, SF.
posted by scarabic at 8:20 PM on January 14, 2009

This is why things like geography matter. In Chicago or LA you'd probably be at about the right pay. In Des Moines maybe a bit overpaid.

If your starting salary was $55k now would normally be a good time to ask for a raise. However, with the current economy as it is, I think you'd want to assess where the company is financially and perhaps wait a bit.

Salaries for IT are all over the place, seriously. In my own profession (web programmer) I've seen the exact same amount of work with salaries at 35k on one end (and sometimes much lower if it's hourly and part-time) and 70-80k on the other. Your job sounds like "default IT guy" which sometimes i really underapid.

It does sound like you're doing a lot of work, but $55k is actually a nice salary for someone your age. The smart thing to be doing now, I have to say, is be glad you have an okay job and save as much as possible. The advantage of your current position is that since you have to do everything for everyone you have an opportunity to learn a lot of skills and technologies. See this as a school where you're being paid $55k per year and it won't seem quite so bad.

If you feel overworked might be able to do something about this. I'm not sure how you might raise this, but ask if you can get your overall hours to be lowered to something more reasonable like 40-50 instead of 50-60. This makes a big difference on your "salary." $55k for 40 hours/week translates to $27.50/hour. $55k for 55 hours/week lowers your hourly rate to $20/hour. That's a significant difference. Explain to them that you will be a more energetic worker if your workload can be lowered. Maybe you can get a little more leeway on deadlines or recruit one of the more tech-savvy individuals at the company to give you a little help with activities that are more grunt-work.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:24 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Raises come most easily through better offers. So float your resume and getting your vitae together. If you are not tied to the area by house, girl, etc. then you should also weigh adventure into possible offers. You might even apply abroad, like England, Belgium, etc.

You might instead negotiate for overtime pay even if your currently exempt from FLSA. Btw, FLSA effectively says a 7 min. email response from home is billable at 15 min. of overtime. If they worry about the overtime, you might offer that they pay it for 6 months, and then reevaluate for some undetermined salary raise. You're lifestyle will improve considerably if they either drop you to 40 real hours or pay you for the extra 10-20.

Can you ask them to make you CTO? Maybe formally being an executive for 1-2 years is worth the shit?

You can also undocument all your work while still keeping the systems running yourself. If you get a better offer and depart, then they might realize they can't afford your absence after some crashes.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:39 PM on January 14, 2009

Who do you report to, who do you take direction from, how much autonomy do you have in your job? Who does the IT budget for the coming year? Who creates the IT strategy?

The more autonomy, the higher your salary. Could you hire an assistant? Could you effectively manage that assistant?

If you're the IT guy, it sounds like $55K is an adequate salary (I have created salary surveys and guides for tech positions in the tech industry). You could earn more, you could earn less. Your right at the median for your position.

But, instead of salary (how much happier are you going to be with an extra $5K a year?) increases, why not shoot for professional growth.

As others have said above, start quantifying how your choices and plans have saved money and increased productivity, and start arguing that you can lead IT strategy for your org.

And to end the burnout, hire an assistant.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:53 PM on January 14, 2009

IT recruitment firms and job sites will help you with this.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:06 PM on January 14, 2009

A job similar to yours, but supporting about 200 users (40 faculty, with the remainder consisting of post-docs, grad students and administrative staff) and managing a larger server facility will pay about $45-55K in the Philadelphia area. This is academia, so add about 5-10K if you work corporate.

Given your job description, I suspect you are paid a median salary, but it's hard to say without knowing where you are. It doesn't hurt to ask for a raise if you can argue for it, but either way, do try to get an assistant before you burn out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:56 AM on January 15, 2009

Your salary sounds fair to me. Certainly you could find a new job with better pay, but would it be worth it?

What I'd do is develop a plan, and then talk to management. Tell them flat out that you are getting burnt out and need to do something to fix the situation. Working 60 hours a week is easy, if you make enough money to be able to pay for people to do your personal life time sink stuff. Hell, I could probably work 70 hours a week and have MORE free time, if I had the money to pay for laundry service, cleaning service, car detailing, etc.

So, you either need more money, or better hours. Is there someone in another department who is under utilized that you can bring in as a part-time lackey? Use a receptionist or admin person to screen calls for you? You (probably) could save a tremendous amount of time if you had someone listening to the end users chat about their problems, while you focused on solving them. Some other person who you can train to unjam printers, or even to go around once a week and change toner cartridges that are low?

Again, make up a business case that solves your time problem and their "don't want to pay you more" problem. $55 Large looks a lot better when you get to go home at 5.

The "don't know what you do" issue is much harder to quantify. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to track your time and analyze the numbers. Serving two purposes- t the end of a week or a month, figure out what tasks are your biggest time wasters are, and also to be able to know and show people what you do. "Well, I worked 57 hours last week. Spent 10 of them removing viruses, 10 more reinstalling software, etc."

Also, have backup machines ready to go when something goes down. Huge downtime saver, and makes it easier to diagnose and repair when everyone is safely back working...

PS-you have 3-4 vmware servers with 10-15 physical servers in each? 30-50 servers for 40 users? Really?

When you aren't constrained by hardware, sometimes the best solution is a separate "machine" for each service. That sounds like a lot, but maybe not. If they are VMs, you probably have a standard image for the base OS, there's no administration if they are in a Domain/NDS Tree, and you don't have to screw around with one software package mangling another one. Just delete the old one and install the new one.
posted by gjc at 6:55 AM on January 15, 2009

"I get paid $55k a year plus some benefits.... I work 50-60 hours a week."

Depending on where you live that might be a tremendous amount of money. Out here in the Bay Area you'd be considered underpaid unless this was some kind of exceedingly junior helpdesk monkeyboy position without decisionmaking power. Someone doing either of the Exchange work or the virtualization work alone would be better compensated, let alone being the guy who wrangles printers and explains Excel.

So yes, geography matters.

More to the point, though, the more you work uncompensated overtime the more underpaid you are going to be. Stop doing that. Either get paid the OT or accumulate comp time and the right to actually apply it.
posted by majick at 7:23 AM on January 15, 2009

Comparing this to the Minneapolis/St. Paul market, I would say you're a little underpaid for the work you're actually doing. Ignoring the work though, I think your salary is about right for someone with just a few years experience in IT. I was in a similar situation at your age, but luckily the company I work for recognized that and gave me a 20% raise one year to make up for it. If you're not lucky enough to work for a place like that, I would agree with others that said any significant bumps in pay are going to come from either going to a new job or using a new job offer to negotiate with the place you're working at now.
posted by hootch at 7:59 AM on January 15, 2009

Start preparing a monthly report for your boss. Include hours worked, project status for all projects, accomplishments, and any stats on # of calls, visits, problems resolved. Focus on ways in which you save the company time & money. Instead of asking for more money, I'd be asking for ways to get the job covered while you go on vacation. But the key is reminding your employer of your accomplishments on their behalf.
posted by theora55 at 2:45 PM on January 15, 2009

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