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Tech veterans vs. newcomers: Salary gap widens

July 9, 1998
Web posted at: 1:54 PM ET

by Laura DiDio and Barb Cole-Gomolski

The salary gap between veteran information security managers and newcomers has widened dramatically, which could pose a problem for the future of the profession.

Experts said the pay scale for experienced information security managers has risen an average 20% in the past two years, while entry-level salaries have dropped 10% to 15%.

The problem is that the low pay for neophytes -- sometimes less than $30,000 per year -- could produce a future shortage of security managers, given that entry-level recruits in other information systems fields are getting offers of $40,000 and more.

"The rise and severity of internal and external corporate hacks means that businesses are willing to pay a premium for experienced security pros. But they won't shell out the dollars on newcomers," said Andrew Briney, editor in chief of Information Security magazine in Norwood, Mass.

Most security managers with more than three years of experience are getting salaries of more than $50,000 per year and, increasingly, some are topping the $100,000 mark, according to the latest survey of 1,050 readers of the magazine.

In contrast, 65% of the entry-level security managers make less than $50,000 -- and 23% make less than $30,000 per year, the survey found.

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"No company wants to put its corporate jewels in the hands of a neophyte," explained Pat Slaymaker, manager of enterprise information security at Nabisco, Inc. in Parsipanny, N.J. "Experienced security managers are at a premium. Once we find one, we try desperately to hold on to them because they are so scarce."

Slaymaker said she knows of cases where seasoned security managers have been lured away with "30% salary increases, promises of annual bonuses that represent 15% of their salary, plus sign-on bonuses."

Tom Samson, national director of IS staffing at Pro Staff Personnel Services in Irving, Texas, said demand is fairly low at the entry level because companies are looking for data-security experts with lots of business experience.

But the imbalance between entry-level salaries for security specialists and other IS professionals could result in a drought of security experts down the road, said Cameron Carey, president of Computer Security Placement Service, a Northboro, Mass.-based firm.

"So why would any [entry-level person] go into security?" Carey asked. The answer, he said, is that security experts can command high salaries later in their careers.

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