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 cybersecurity analyst. You’ve done your research, so you know that the average salary for a cybersecurity analyst is $99,730, but you were offered $75,000. 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 (BLS), 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.
Here's an example using CompTIA’s IT Salary Calculator, which uses BLS data. So, even though the average salary for a cybersecurity analyst is almost $99,730, the actual salary you are offered could be between $57,810 and $158,860, as shown in the table below:
10th percentile salary
25th percentile salary
Annual median salary
75th percentile salary
90th percentile salary
Cybersecurity Analysts and Engineers
This table also shows the ranges that can produce an average salary of $99,730. It’s important to not get stuck on the average of $99,730 – know that there certainly are individuals earning a salary in the 10th percentile of $57,810 as a cybersecurity analyst, 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. Referring back to the CompTIA IT Salary Calculator, someone in an entry-level cybersecurity analyst role tends to earn a salary between the 10th percentile and median salary, whereas someone at the advanced level might earn a salary between the median and 90th percentile. In addition to years on the job, learning new skills and earning IT certifications to validate them play a role in the salary offered.
Want to Bust Other IT Job Myths?
How to Use Salary Data to Your Advantage
Let’s continue with the cybersecurity analyst example. So, you get your $75,000 salary offer and you’re a little bit disappointed – you learned that the average salary is $99,730 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 $99,730.
- 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.
- Level of experience: 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 2020 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.
Calculate Your Potential IT Salary
As you explore IT career path options, use the CompTIA IT Salary Calculator to estimate your salary and know your worth during your job search.
Weighing the Complete Offer
Remember that 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 the 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, certifications or higher education?
- Discounts and reimbursements for things like public transportation, child care, home high-speed internet or even movies and rental cars
- Work–life 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 depend 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.
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