Dice: Tech salaries increased in 2021
January 25, 2022
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Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the need for tech companies to retain old employees and hire new ones has forced the industry to offer more competitive salaries.

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While 2020 was a tough year for hiring within the tech industry due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, 2021 showed promising growth as salaries nearly across the board rose last year. Dice has released its annual salary report in the tech field to assist decision makers in extending offers and help employees know their value based on their roles and skills. The report broke down the trends by showing the increases within specific fields, as well as by the cities and states that saw the biggest increases from 2020 to 2021.

Salary trends by location

Despite the concerns with returning to in-office work during the ongoing pandemic, the median salary within tech positions rose 6.9% or an average of $6,707 per employee from 2020 to 2021. In addition, the average salary for a knowledge worker within the industry now sits at $104,566 as the hunger for talent in the tech field has forced companies to become more competitive with their salary offers to retain current employees and attract new ones. 

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

Within tech hubs throughout the U.S., Silicon Valley unsurprisingly ranked as the leader in median salary, with the average worker earning $133,204 in 2021. The report stated that while some believed that the pandemic would encourage employees to move away from high cost of living areas like Silicon Valley, but failed to take into account the existing base of companies seeking talent and the ability for these well-established companies to offer more in salary than their smaller competitors.

Rounding out the top-five average salaries within these tech hubs around the U.S. were Seattle ($118,729), New York City ($115,510), Boston ($114,959) and San Diego ($114,801). The biggest increases from 2020 in salary by percent came from the cities of Pittsburgh, which was up 14%, followed by Atlanta (13.9%), Chicago (12.6%), Miami (11.4%) and Seattle (11.2%). 

Salary increases by field and skill

In specific fields, the salaries of IT management executives, such as CEOs and CIOs, remained the highest-paying positions on average with a median salary of $151,983, followed by systems architect ($147,901), cloud architect/engineers ($140,571), cybersecurity engineer/architect ($135,059) and data architect ($128,835). A double-digit jump in salary percentage was seen in web developers, which were up 21.3% in salaries from 2020 and was noted as the fastest growing salaries in the tech field. The report theorized that the reason for this was due to the large shift toward needing well-kept and accurate information in organizational databases while also allowing businesses to easily analyze the data to shift focus as needed to cater to customers.

The report also detailed the salaries earned by employees who possessed certain specialized skills. Workers who showed experience in using enterprise-search platform Apache Solr saw both the largest salary on average with a median income of $143,464 and the biggest jump in salary percentage year-over-year, at a 15.8% increase.Several of the entries on the list, like PAAS ($134,894), HANA ($133,302) and  Hadoop ($129,913 average salary), have ranked highly in average salary on a yearly basis as companies continue to value experience in enterprise-level infrastructure, particularly in data storage, data discovery and the cloud.

While not seeing as large of a salary jump from their cloud and data storage counterparts, coders with mastery of programming languages like Ruby ($128,689), Python ($116,498) and JavaScript ($109,833) all saw salary increases of 4% or more as they remain the lifeblood of helping businesses of all sizes maintain legacy code or build new apps and services.  

Salary satisfaction in employees

While those working in tech have seen nearly universal increases in salary across the board, many employees working in the field still feel undercompensated. Of those surveyed in the report, 47.8% expressed that they felt underpaid in their roles, compared with 32.6% who felt they were appropriately compensated for their work. This may become a problem long-term, as lack of satisfaction in salaries may lead to increased resignations or employees increasingly finding work elsewhere with companies that will more adequately compensate them. 

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

Noted in the report is when employees should try and negotiate for additional compensation. The best opportunity for workers to find pay increases comes when starting a new role elsewhere, according to 48% of respondents who found work at a different company during the pandemic. Only 30% of those surveyed said they earned additional compensation when starting a new role with their employers, and 26% said they received a pay increase during their annual review in the same jobs.

As business picked back up in 2021 on the heels of mass layoffs and an economic downturn from 2020, many employees became more comfortable with attempting to negotiate salary increases last year. As employers continue needing more workers to help fill openings within their companies, the salaries within the industry should continue growing in the future.

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