IT Job Myths Busted: What Is an Average Salary?

by Eileen Ristau Tauchman | Apr 26, 2019
A broken smartphone with the words IT Job Myths: Busted

This article is part of an IT Career News series called IT Job Myths. These articles break down and explain common misconceptions about a career in IT. Each article will address the myth and explain the truth behind each myth.

Getting a new job is great, right? The butterflies and excitement you feel from being accepted to a new position can make you feel like you’re on cloud nine. But that euphoric feeling can quickly make your stomach drop when you’re surprised with a lower salary offer than you were expecting.

For example, let’s say you were just offered a job as a security administrator. You’ve done your research, so you know that the average salary for a security administrator is $80,000, but you were offered $65,000. You may feel a little defeated and disappointed, but there are some details you should investigate while digesting this information.

What Does Average Salary Mean?

The average salary is a calculation of the salaries reported for a certain job category, location, demographic or other specification. This means that the minimum and maximum salaries that make up the range can vary greatly. The salary data put out by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, is based off wages reported on federal tax forms. But other average salaries may come from self-reported data, like the Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report. So, even though the average salary for a security administrator is $80,000, the actual salary you are offered could be between $40,000 and $120,000, as shown in the table below:

Minimum Salary Maximum Salary Average Salary
$40,000 $120,000 $80,000
$50,000 $110,000 $80,000
$60,000 $100,000 $80,000
$70,000 $90,000 $80,000


This table also shows the multitude of ranges that can produce an average salary of $80,000. It’s important to not get stuck on the average of $80,000 – know that there certainly are individuals earning $50,000 as a security administrator, as well as those earning six figures.

What Makes Salaries Vary So Much?

But why is there such a difference in salaries for the same job? First, as they say – location, location, location. Someone who lives in an area with a lower cost of living might make a lower salary than someone who lives in a major metropolitan area with a higher cost of living. . Similarly, salary ranges will vary from employer to employer based on the type – corporate, government or nonprofit – size and earnings of the organization. For example, a global Fortune 100 company will typically pay more than a local nonprofit. The number may also be based on experience – someone who is new to cybersecurity will earn less than someone with years of experience. And additional skills and IT certifications play a role in the salary offered.

How to Use Salary Data to Your Advantage

Let’s continue with the security administrator example. So, you get your $65,000 salary offer and you’re a little bit disappointed – you learned that the average salary is $80,000 after all! You could use the following arguments to negotiate that number up a bit.

  • Location: Do you live in a city like New York, Los Angeles or Washington D.C. where cost of living is high? You may have an argument for why you are deserving of a salary closer to the average of $80,000.
  • Years of industry experience: Are you still early in your IT career, or are you a seasoned veteran? Consider your years of experience when receiving a new salary offer.
  • Education level: While higher education is not necessary to be successful in an IT career, it can allow you to command a higher salary.
  • Skills: Does your previous experience showcase all the skills needed to succeed in your new role? If your skills go above and beyond the job description, then you could be deserving of a higher salary.
  • Certifications: The 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report finds that in North America, the average salary difference between certified and non-certified IT staff is $15,913, or 22%. If you want a higher salary but your certifications are lacking, consider adding a few more certs to your resume. Learn which IT certifications will make you the most money.

Weighing the Complete Offer

Remember that the salary is just part of the full perks and benefits package offered by most companies. There may be a number of ways, including the following, to increase that financial bottom line that should play into your decision as to whether or not the offer is right for you:

  • Retirement contributions, such as 401(k) match
  • Paid health, dental, life and other insurance benefits
  • Paid time off and holidays
  • Bonuses and stock options
  • Growth potential – could you get a raise in six months? A year? Is there a clear career path with promotions and salary increases?
  • Professional development – will the company pay for you to increase your skills through training and certifications or even higher education?
  • Discounts and reimbursements for things like public transportation, child care, home high-speed internet or even movies and rental cars
  • Worklife balance benefits, like a short commute, working from home, flexible schedules and compressed work weeks
  • Food and beverages in the office – even snacks and free coffee add up over time


When researching salaries and aiming your career at specific job titles, remember that you may see a wide range of salaries for one particular job. Salaries vary based on the company itself and geographic location and can depned on what other benefits are offered.  Remember to consider the full picture of the job, the salary and any benefits of perks to realize the true value of the offer.

Looking to get into IT? Check out our brand-new, free online course CompTIA On Ramp: How to Get an IT Job.


  • Sandra M Martinez

    Friday, April 26, 2019

    I think it sucks! I also feel if you are going to school for IT it needs to be removed from schools because seems certifications are more of value than a college degree. If that is the case certifications need to be replaced in colleges instead of a degree and make it the low cost of getting an education because people like me are getting degrees with there is no value in it and companies are only valuing a certification more. It really does not make sense. I think my student loans should be removed because there is no value in Computer Science degree. I can not afford a certification I am getting my degree funded why not fund a certification if its more of value?

  • Robert Writewell

    Friday, April 26, 2019

    It is important to note that salaries vary based on the company itself (and geographic location) and can "depend" on other benefits offered.

  • Homer Simpson

    Friday, April 26, 2019

    Also very rarely are 2 jobs with the same job title identical in their duties. Thus 2 programmers even in the same organizations could have widely differing salaries due to the complexity of their duties.

  • Don

    Friday, April 26, 2019

    Location and IT Industry knowledge(by the employer) is a big thing too. Here they don't know/care about certs. They do want you to have them, but the jobs don't require the skill set. Also top of pay grade around here is $12/hr. Not just in IT but in anything but dr/lawyer. So the whole "low cost of living" is really a joke. They still want $750/mth for a 1 bedroom.

  • Fabio Delgado

    Friday, April 26, 2019

    I'm really focused right now in obtaining certifications. I'm finishing a Bachelor's in Business Administration but I work as Helpdesk support for DuPont and now that I'm working in IT I'm considering later persuing a degree in IT but for now I would like to obtain the core ComTIA certifications.

  • Joseph Quinones

    Sunday, April 28, 2019

    Good info

  • Lee

    Wednesday, May 1, 2019

    @Sandra, Unfortunately public schools indoctrinate children into thinking a degree is necessary to succeed as an adult. With Bachelor's degrees now as common as high school diplomas were 20 years ago you can't blame businesses for looking at certs and experience. In our modern times there is far more value in showing that you have the knowledge and some experience. It is unfortunate that you have student loan debt, but you did make that choice.

  • Al Gonzalez

    Saturday, May 4, 2019

    A college degree never expires and shows an employer that the person will finish assignments that they are given. IT is always changing and certifications keep the IT professionals studying. Nothing replaces experience, but all three bring the pay that we all want. It took me over 20 years to get all. Hang in there Sandra, we need women in IT!

  • jason

    Saturday, May 25, 2019

    what top pay grade is 12/hr? thats is low entry position basically doing help desk ticket assignments. Certs depending on what they are show you are focused on a particular skill and combined with experience can help you leverage a higher wage. not always. And yes degrees are a dime a dozen now. And people want college to be free. What happens then? Worthless degrees.

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