Application designers report higher pay, smaller bonuses than IT peers

Anne Stuart, Senior Site Editor

Application designers and developers brought home bigger paychecks than IT professionals overall in 2013, according to a recent TechTarget survey. But when it came to bonuses, members of this group received much smaller payouts than IT pros as a whole, the annual survey found.

Respondents in the application design and development category reported base salaries averaging about $2,000 higher than the average for IT pros overall, according to TechTarget's 2013 IT Salary and Careers Survey. But at bonus time, the average windfall was about $3,700 less for application designers and developers than for IT pros in general.

In terms of their outlook for 2014, application designers and developers were slightly more optimistic than IT pros overall.

Perhaps for that reason, members of this group were slightly more likely than IT pros as a whole to be dissatisfied in their current jobs, according to the survey. At the same time, application designers and developers were slightly more optimistic than IT pros overall in terms of their outlook for 2014.

More than 1,700 IT professionals from throughout the United States and Canada participated in the survey, conducted online in October and November 2013. The field included 394 IT pros who work primarily in application design and development, and this feature drills down into that group's responses.

Application designers and developers: A profile

Job titles varied widely among application design and development respondents, who identified themselves as senior IT executives (27%), programmers or developers (23%), IT managers (16%), project managers (10%) or IT staff (9%). Most of the rest were divided between other IT roles, with just 1% identifying themselves as "non-IT corporate or business executives."  

The majority of participating application designers and developers worked in IT-related services or consulting (15%), the health care, pharmaceutical or biotechnology fields (15%), financial services or banking (10%), government (8%) or non-IT manufacturing (8%), with the rest scattered among a variety of other industries. Sixty two percent of respondents in this group were employed in small and midsize organizations-- those with annual revenues of less than $500 million.

Most of the application designers and developers surveyed were mid-career professionals, with just 16% reporting less than 10 years' IT experience. Forty percent had worked in the field for 11 to 20 years, while 31% had 21 to 30 years of experience. The remaining 13% had been in the business for 30 years or more.

However, many reported moving around during their careers. About 60% had been in their current jobs for five years or less. Another 25% had been on the job for six to 10 years, while 13% had held their current positions for 11 to 20 years. Just 2% reported being in the same job for more than 20 years.

Metrics for success: Projects completed, goals achieved

Asked to identify up to three top measures for success in their jobs, application designers and developers chose:

  • Completing projects on time (56%)
  • Helping achieve a business goal or outcome (47%)
  • Meeting productivity goals (40%)
  • Ensuring reliability of IT services (33%)
  • Improving product or service delivery (32%)

Just 28% identified "innovating and encouraging creativity" as a top priority. Sixteen percent selected "achieving ROI on projects and technology purchases," 14% chose "coming in under budget" and 9% selected "creating a new business opportunity" as major measures for success in their roles.

In what technology areas were members of this group spending most of their time? No surprises here: For 100%, the top priority was application development and design, with application management (38%) and general IT management (28%) running a distant second and third. For IT pros overall, the areas of highest concern were IT management, application development and security.

Compensation: Doing well overall

In terms of compensation, application designers and developers were largely in step with other IT pros. However, while these survey respondents' base salaries were slightly above the average for IT pros overall, their bonus amounts were significantly lower.

Respondents in this group reported base salaries averaging $107,074, compared with the average salary of about $105,000 for all IT pros. Total compensation, including salaries and commissions, averaged $117,166 for this group, which was virtually identical to the average of about $117,000 for IT pros overall.

Fifty-five percent of application designers and developers received raises in 2013, the same percentage as for IT pros overall. Raises for this group averaged 5% of base salary, just slightly below the average of 5.5% for IT pros as a whole. Exactly half of respondents in this group said they expect raises in 2014-- again, the same percentage as for IT pros in general. Only 4% in this group reported salary cuts in 2013 and only 1% expected a pay cut in 2014.

Application designers and developers were actually slightly more likely than IT pros overall to receive any type of bonus. Thirty-five percent in that group received bonuses in the past year, compared with 33% of IT pros overall.

However, actual bonus payouts for this group lagged behind those of other IT pros surveyed. Application designers and developers reported bonuses averaging $13,866, more than $3,700 below the average bonus of $17,630 for IT pros overall.

Among the fortunate respondents in this category was a West Coast systems administrator. "I was surprised last week to be informed that I am getting a bonus this year," the participant commented in a follow-up interview, asking that he and his company not be identified. "Not everyone in my organization got [a bonus], and I don’t want that to be an issue," he said.

Meanwhile, the majority of survey participants--both overall and in the application development subset--aren't optimistic about receiving bonuses in the next year. Just 20% of those in the smaller group and 18% of IT pros overall expect a bonus in 2014.

A slightly more restless bunch

According to the TechTarget survey findings, application designers and developers were slightly more likely than IT pros overall to be dissatisfied with their current jobs.

Among all survey respondents, 21% said they were content with and planning to stay in their current jobs, while 43% described themselves as "open to new opportunities but not actively looking."

In contrast, just 19% of application designers and developers said they were satisfied with and planning to stay in their current positions. Again, 43% were open to new opportunities.

In both cases, most of the rest were either actively looking or starting to look for new jobs, while a few were considering internal moves.

Outlook for 2014: More optimistic

Ultimately, application designers and developers were slightly more optimistic compared to survey respondents as a whole.

Among IT professionals overall, 38% were more optimistic and 30% were less optimistic about 2014 compared with 2013. The remaining 32% described themselves as "neither optimistic nor pessimistic."

However, fully 42% of the application designers and developers said they were more optimistic about 2014 compared with 2013. Twenty-eight percent were less optimistic about the coming year, while the other 31% described again described themselves as neither.

What's driving that positive outlook? The more optimistic application designers and developers cited the following factors:

  • Innovation is encouraged (60%)
  • Our business is picking up (42%)
  • We have a strong management team (30%)
  • The IT budget is increasing (22%)
  • Career advancement is an organizational priority (18%)
  • Training is increasing (13%)
  • Jobs are being brought back in-house (7%)

Meanwhile, those who considered themselves pessimistic about the coming year cited multiple reasons, including:

  • Career advancement is limited (53%)
  • Management is ineffective (42%)
  • The IT budget keeps getting cut (30%)
  • Jobs are being outsourced (23%)
  • Training is limited (19%)
  • We're still in a down economy (19%)
  • There's little room for innovation (9%)

Asked to identify their top project focus areas for 2014, 53% of respondents in this group chose -- not surprisingly -- application development and design. Other top priorities included:

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