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Salaries and benefits for IT graduates

Jaymes Carr

Your graduate salary is a huge part of the reward for finishing your IT degree - so it helps to have an idea of what it will be.

As you look forward to launching your career, it’s only natural to be curious about the magic number that will appear on your payslip every month! We’ve done some digging for you to give you an idea of what you can expect. We also caught up with some recently employed graduates to find out what their salary expectations were and whether the reality lived up to the hype.

Factors that may affect your salary

There are a few factors that can affect how much you earn as a graduate, so it’s handy to keep these in mind.

1. Job role

Some roles are in higher demand than others, as well as harder to fill, so some companies may pay a premium to attract talent into these positions. Software development, applications development and IT security are some of the areas that employers are finding the most challenging to find talented professionals. The following, taken from specialist recruitment service Robert Half’s 2018 Salary Guide, will give you a good idea which tech roles are hard to fill:

Australia: Cyber-security Specialist, Fullstack .Net Developer, Cloud Engineer

New Zealand: Fullstack Senior Developer, DevOps Engineer, Business Analyst

Other skills in demand: Functional programming, GOLANG (Google language), ReactJS and VueJS (Javascript language), PowerShell, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

2. Company type

Pay scales may be vastly different depending on the size of the company you join. If you start your career at Microsoft, Uber or Google, the chances of increasing your earning potential shoot up. If you start off at a mid-tier or brand new startup, your pay may still be good but there is also the chance that smaller companies may not be able to match the salaries of blue-chip employers.

3. Location of role

Are you willing to relocate for your dream job or even a better salary? Different regions have different priorities in terms of the technological skills they are looking to bolster within their workforce and will probably pay higher-than-average salaries in order to do this.

Graduate salaries in IT

At GradAustralia, we’ve surveyed recent graduates and also contacted major companies so that, in this article, we can share with you what we’ve learned about average graduate salaries.

Generally, starting salaries for IT are highest at big, blue-chip employers. In Australia, they start at approximately $56,000 and vary by organisation and role. After a year or two on the job, graduates can expect a salary range from $60-90,000 (desktop/business analyst) or $50-70,000 (service desk/customer support). Of course, this can be significantly higher at well-known companies, which pay a premium to attract talented employees, and for graduates recruited into specialist roles.

Salaries for IT graduates are reasonably consistent across different sectors. According to a 2015 Graduate Careers Australia survey, average starting salaries for IT graduates ranged from $52,000 in industry and commerce to $59,000 in government. Interestingly, females received a slightly higher average starting salary ($57,000) than males ($53,000), which demonstrates the push to even out the gender disparity in the Australian technology workforce.

Can I negotiate a higher starting salary?

Generally, starting salaries are fixed and there’s little you can do to negotiate your remuneration. Having said that, some IT companies do have salary ranges and will position you according to your academic qualifications, previous experience and performance in the selection process. Ultimately, it depends on how determined a company is to hire you - it’s not uncommon for particularly accomplished graduates to receive competitive offers from different organisations.

Will I get paid more if I have a postgraduate degree?

Some IT employers do start their graduates higher up the pay scale if they have a masters degree or PhD. However, this is determined on a case by case basis, so the best way to find out if you’re eligible for a higher salary is to ask recruiters early in the application process.

Interestingly, while postgraduate degrees won’t necessarily affect your starting salary, they do have a positive influence on your overall employability. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures from May 2015 show that, in the general labour force (aged 15-74), 3.4 per cent of bachelor degree graduates were unemployed (3.2 per cent in 2014) compared to 2.7 per cent of people with graduate or postgraduate diplomas.

How much do experienced IT professionals earn?

This is a tricky question to answer because it depends on a variety of factors, including your specialisation, your employer, the city in which you work and the pace of your career progression. Nevertheless, it’s possible to get some sense of how much experienced IT professionals earn by comparing graduate starting salaries with average salaries for the overall sector. According to a 2016 Hudson survey*, these salaries range from $60,000-90,000 for experienced graphic designers to $180,000-350,000 for CIOs and CTOs.

Are graduates happy with their salaries?

At GradAustralia, we’ve interviewed graduates at different leading organisations to better understand how they feel about their starting salaries and opportunities. Overall, the feedback has been positive.

For example, one graduate at Optus said that “[though] the pay could be slightly higher... bonuses are excellent and I really like that they are performance-based.” Similarly, a graduate at CSC reported that the company “offers a competitive salary that is in alignment with the IT industry average”. Finally, a graduate from Accenture wrote that “My pay is good considering I am a graduate, but of course I would like more - who wouldn't?”.

*Source: Hudson Salary Guide