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U.S. Tech Salaries Grow, But Not For Everyone

Gender and race gaps widen even as tech booms

2 min read

Consumer and broadcast tech pay the most in 2020; gender and race gaps grow
iStock Photo

The median income for tech professionals hit US $154,443 in 2020, up from $148,500 in 2019. Adjusted to constant 2020 dollars, that's about a 2.8 percent increase. These numbers exclude overtime, profit sharing, and side hustles. That's particularly good news for engineers this year, considering that inflation-adjusted salaries were basically flat in 2019 compared with 2018.

This data—and some 60 more pages of detailed salary and job satisfaction statistics—comes from IEEE-USA's 2021 Salary & Benefits survey. It focuses on professionals working in their area of technical competence (5466 of the respondents), and excludes overtime pay, profit sharing, and other supplemental earnings; when those are considered, the median income was $160,000.

A Good Time for Broadcast Engineers

The gains weren't spread equally, of course. In this latest survey, engineers working with consumer electronics and broadcast technology came out on top, with median salaries of $209,373 and $209,000 respectively. Though there's no way of telling from the data collected, it wouldn't be a huge leap to suggest that our dependence on home entertainment during the pandemic gave these categories a boost. Tech professionals working in energy and power engineering continue to hover near the bottom of the ranks, with a median salary of $140,000, and robotics and automation is down there as well. Both seem surprising, given the growing need for new energy technologies as well as increasing automation across the board. Bringing up a distant rear is education, with a median income of $120,000. (Consulting income is not included in that number; for some educators, that's a big missing piece.)

Job Satisfaction and the Pandemic

Job satisfaction data in the 2020 survey are the first to reflect the pandemic effect. This analysis looks at several factors, ranking them on a scale of -2 to +2. Comparing numbers to 2019, overall satisfaction rose during the pandemic. However, survey respondents found that their satisfaction with technical challenge, employer support for technical viability, and work/life balance declined since the 2019 survey.

The West's Dominance Continues

Companies forsaking California for Texas have made headlines over the past few years. And Texas salaries indeed saw gains, with 2020 salaries $7307 above the national norm, compared with $1500 in 2019. But these did not come at the expense of the Pacific region: West Coast tech professionals still draw top dollar.

Gender and Race Gaps Increase

Salary disparities related to gender and race continued to grow, according to the most recent IEEE-USA survey, with the median gap between men and women's salary jumping $5500 to $28,000 from 2019, after a similar increase in 2019 from 2018. This is certainly a trend in the wrong direction.

And the gap between Caucasians and African Americans also continued to grow, up $2250 to $24,250 in 2019, after a $1500 increase in 2019 from 2018.

The Conversation (6)
Timothy Klein
Timothy Klein14 Oct, 2021

Interesting data in the article, but lacking any analysis. Until someone does some critical thinking concerning the data, it's best that we keep woke culture out of a society as technical as the IEEE. I know it's hard not to interject personal opinion, but real journalism is reporting the facts in a well articulated manner and letting readers draw their own conclusions.

Mark Oude Alink
Mark Oude Alink14 Oct, 2021

IEEE is said to be a global institute. It would be interesting to see for many readers the same information worldwide (perhaps corrected for local price levels to have a fairer comparison), rather than just seeing what it is in the US.

Evariste Galois
Evariste Galois11 Oct, 2021

These numbers are always suspect, coming from a self-selecting survey, but some things seem odd. Look, for example, at the men's salaries from 2020 vs 2018. It shows an increase of 39%. We're to believe salaries rose 39% in two years? Also, the gender comparison is not useful for many reasons. For one thing, the age of the females probably skews younger, simply because there are more female engineers now than several decades ago. How many 65-yr-old female engineers are there? Probably few.

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