Computer graduates still enjoy above-average pay

IT graduates enjoy higher levels of employment better rates of pay and more career opportunities than the general graduate...

IT graduates enjoy higher levels of employment better rates of pay and more career opportunities than the general graduate population, according to a survey commissioned by the DTI and the Engineering Council. Cynics may point out that this could simply mean that other industries are faring worse than ours, but the research still makes for encouraging reading, writes Nathalie Towner.

The survey looked at the employment experiences of computer science graduates and engineering graduates six months and three years after graduation.

The results show that, despite the downturn in the communications and IT industry, Itec (IT, electronics and communications) graduates are faring better than graduates from other disciplines.

Six months after leaving college, the average annual salary for computer scientists is £17,000, compared with the £15,000 average for graduates from all disciplines. After three years, graduates in Itec roles are earning £25,000, while the general average graduate salary is £20,000.

Three years after graduation 86% of computer scientists are in a job related to the subject they studied at university, compared with 74% across all sectors.

The research gives mixed messages for women in the industry. Six months after graduation there is little difference in salary between male and female computer scientists (men earn an average of £17,108, while women get £17,000). Age has a greater impact, with young graduates earning £17,500, and mature graduates (aged over 25) earning an average of £15,599.

However, three years after graduation female Itec graduates earn an average of £22,700, while male Itec graduates are on £25,000. Despite this, women still get a better deal in IT than in other industries - on average, three years after graduation men are earning 20% more than women.

"It is still unclear exactly why the salaries for female IT professionals do not keep up with their male counterparts, there is no real explanation," says Tony Farrington, researcher at the Engineering Council. "It could be that women are less ruthless about climbing the corporate ladder or that they are simply are not being given the same opportunities."

Staff retention is high in the sector, with 58% of computer scientists having only worked for one organisation in the three years since leaving university. However, although many have worked for the same organisation, a smaller percentage have kept the same job, suggesting that they are benefiting from career progression.

"These results show that generally IT professionals are happy with their work and feel they are rewarded with reasonable pay," says Farrington. "Ultimately they are still doing pretty well and are still in high demand, although it may not be as high as it was last year."

Most significantly, job satisfaction remains high. An impressive 98% of computer scientists say they work with people they enjoy socialising with. Similarly, more computer scientists say their jobs are challenging and varied than other graduates (94% of computer scientists compared to 86% of the whole sample).

When asked what other factors motivate them in their work, most ITers cite continual skills development and international job opportunities.

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment