An increased awareness in the scale of threat that organisations face from hackers, viruses, spyware and other computer-related attacks has prompted a boom in demand – and payrates – for IT security staff.
Research by the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo) shows a hefty rise in salary levels among full-time security consultants, with the average annual wage rising 22% over the past year from £37,000 to £45,000. Mirroring that, hourly contract staff who could command £40 in 2004 now earn an average of £50 an hour.
An even steeper rise was seen among consultants engaged on troubleshooting assignments. Their hourly rates went up 32%. ATSCo observes the lack of availability of skilled security workers could have a detrimental impact on business. "The short supply of IT consultants with security skills is potentially problematic for UK institutions as they need to address stakeholder and customer concerns about data integrity," says Ann Swain, chief executive of the association.
High profile breaches – like those at LexisNexis and ChoicePoint where thousands of customers' personal data was lost – have prompted a higher degree of self-examination and more investment from many companies.
° In sharp contrast to the upsurge in security salaries, wages for IT helpdesk workers in the UK have been falling. The reason is simple, says ATSCo: competition from offshore helpdesk services. Hourly rates in the UK have decreased by 25% from £16 an hour to £12 an hour for contract and temporary workers, and even permanent helpdesk workers have seen a 3% drop in average salaries from £18,076 in 2004 to £17,538 in 2005. In India by contrast, wage inflation for helpdesk workers has hit double digits.
Swain voiced her concern that declining pay for entry level IT jobs would dissuade graduates from making a career out of IT, resulting in skill shortages at the top end in future years.