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IT channel income comparison: How does your salary stack up?

The results of our second-annual IT channel salary survey are in. Take a look at average compensation sliced by job role, company type, region, job satisfaction and more.

A year ago, our first-ever channel salary survey revealed that IT channel workers in a variety of job roles were, on the whole, satisfied with their salaries and careers. The outlook on 2014 among survey respondents was generally optimistic. In our new report, with data taken from the second-annual TechTarget Channel Salary Survey, we take a look at how IT channel employees fared during 2014 and how they expect their salaries and careers to change going forward.

In 2014, of the 210 qualified U.S. respondents to the channel survey, the overall average base salary reported was $101,000, while the overall average total compensation (base salary plus bonuses and commissions) was $124,000. To provide a comprehensive income comparison, we sliced survey responses in a number of ways, including job role, industry tenure, company type, company size, region of the country and job satisfaction. We also spoke to a few of the survey takers about their salary experiences and career goals.

Job role. Like last year's survey results, 2014 uncovered a sizeable gap in salary between the lowest-paid and highest-paid channel professionals. Customer and IT support staff and managers said they earned an average base salary of $86,000, and sales engineers, sales and marketing staff, and sales and marketing managers reported an average salary of not much more -- $87,000. Technical and engineer staff and managers, including CTOs, broke six figures with an average salary of $101,000, while senior executives (which include executive managers, corporate managers, CIOs, founders, business partners, owners or CEOs) reported $119,000. Consulting staff and consulting practice managers reported the highest average base salary at $129,000.

average total compensation by job role

Adding in bonuses and commissions, the channel income comparison shifts slightly for some job titles and greatly for others. The total compensation of customer and IT support staff and managers increased by just $4,000 over the base salary, to $90,000. On average, technical and engineering staff received $9,000 in bonuses and commissions, increasing their overall salary to $110,000. Sales and marketing staff and managers took in an average of $39,000 in bonuses and commissions for a total compensation of $126,000. Consulting staff and consulting practice managers reported an average total compensation of $129,000, while senior executives reported $149,000.

Industry tenure. In the IT industry, it pays to have experience, and channel experience proved again in 2014 to have a strong impact on survey respondents' earnings. In this year's survey, respondents with 10 or fewer years of experience in the field of IT reselling, services, consulting or integration reported earning an average base salary of $91,000, while those with 11 years or more reported $106,000. Looking at total compensation, the less experienced in the channel industry reported an average of $107,000 while the more experienced reported an average of $132,000.

Company type. For respondents working at companies that primarily identified themselves as managed services providers (MSPs), the base pay for 2014 was an average of $86,000. Those employed at a value-added reseller (VAR) or solution provider said they pulled in $92,000. Employees of IT consultancies reported the highest average base salary: $124,000.

When looking at the total compensation according to company type, MSP employees earned the least: $109,000.

When looking at the total compensation according to company type, of the three company types listed here, MSP employees earned the least: $109,000. That's compared with employees of a VAR or solution provider, who collectively reported an average total compensation of $119,000, and IT consultancy employees who reported earning $141,000 on average.

Company size. According to our income comparison, the average base salary depending on company size ranged from five to six figures. For IT channel workers employed at small companies (fewer than 100 employees), the average base pay was $86,000. Respondents working for medium-sized companies (100 to 999 employees) reported an average base salary of $106,000. Respondents with large companies (1,000-plus employees) reported an average base salary of $113,000.

Looking at the average total compensation, employees of medium-sized companies reported the most earnings. While respondents at small companies reported an average total compensation of $105,000 and large-company employees reported $127,000, employees of medium-sized companies reported $138,000 in average total compensation.

Region. Slicing the survey results by U.S. region reveals that the average base pay varies widely depending on geographical market. The Midwest ($89,000) and South ($96,000) were on the low end of the spe­ctrum, while the Southwest ($104,000) and West ($105,000) were in the middle. The average base pay of Mid-Atlantic region was $117,000. Topping off all the U.S. regions was New England at $124,000.

When looking at the average total compensation, the income comparison rankings shift a little. The Midwest reported $111,000 in average total compensation, while the Southwest reported $120,000. The South's average went up by $28,000 to $124,000. The top three regions were the Mid-Atlantic ($134,000), the West ($136,000) and finally New England at $152,000.

average total compensation by region

Job satisfaction. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they are open to new opportunities but not actively seeking a new position, while 27% said they are satisfied with their current position and plan to stay with their company for the foreseeable future. The average base salary for those who are satisfied is $99,000, while the average base salary for those open to new opportunities is in the same ball park -- $104,000.

The total compensation of those who are satisfied with their current company and career goals is an average of $125,000, compared with $108,000 in total compensation for those respondents that said they were starting to look or actively looking for a new job.

Looking back and looking ahead

The salary survey results showed that the majority of respondents experienced a gain in 2014 and expect to see a gain in the coming year, as well. In terms of overall compensation and benefits, 54% of survey respondents said they saw a positive gain in 2014, while 29% experienced no changes and 18% said they saw a loss. Looking ahead, 60% expect a gain, 32% expect the same and 8% expect a loss.

We've got about 22 people right now, and it allows me to get into a lot of different areas. And I enjoy that. I've been able to do a wider variety of projects than I think I would at a larger company.
Amy Smereckdirector of marketing, DMD Data Systems

James Nicol, senior design engineer at Tampa, Fla., solution provider BIT Direct, said he experienced a large gain in 2014 and the change in his earnings was due mostly to an internal program he signed up for. The program allows senior-level employees to give up their salary to take larger commissions instead. "Our company has a go-to-market strategy now of offering 50% of the gross profit made on sales to their senior employees. If you sign on to that program, there is no longer a salary. … [So] if you're doing good business, if you're doing fair business, and you're still making the company money, you're going to make a lot more money than you ever made at CDW and Insight or any of these other [companies]," Nicol said. "I no longer have a salary. … I pretty much work on 50% commission."

Nicol said his current role at BIT Direct covers several categories of the business. "Primarily, I'm the senior design engineer for the company, so I guide our 30-plus senior IT people to projects and testing, proof of concepts, network design, threat assessments -- things like that. I also lead the company for certifications. I hold most of the engineering and architecture certificates for most of the tier 1 and tier 2 manufacturers. I'm kind of the go-to geek for the company. And in doing so, I've kind of become an acting CTO in some aspects, because I kind of lead the company to bring on some of the most modern and niche manufacturers, because I am the sole person at BIT Direct that deals with the United States military and the United States federal government … and that's because I'm ex-U.S. and ex-Canadian military. That's kind of like my third role at the company."

Apart from being satisfied with his compensation, Nicol is very enthusiastic about his role in the company and with the company itself. "I really love what I'm doing. I can't imagine wanting to do anything different," he said.

Types of projects

In last year's channel salary survey, respondents cited the top three technology areas that they were involved with in regard to customer projects. The top-cited technology areas in the salary survey 2014 results remain unchanged, though in a different order: Storage and backup was revealed to be the No. 1 technology area, cited by 30% of respondents, followed by cloud computing (27%) and virtualization (24%). Last year, virtualization was the No. 1 technology, followed by cloud computing and, tied at No. 3, networking and storage and backup.

Amy Smereck, director of marketing at DMD Data Systems Inc., an IT solution provider in Frankfort, Ky., said her company focuses on storage. "We're locally a specialist in that area -- data center storage and services surrounding that, virtualization, [and] backup and recovery," she said. The company focuses business heavily on the public sector and had a good year in 2014, Smereck said.

"I think just as a company, we're in a really good place this year with our management team, and we are seeing a lot of potential for growth this year in our geography. … We have a lot of good things going on, and we're doing more and more managed services and growing our staff along with that. I foresee a really good year coming up," she said.

I guess my career goal is to establish my company to be as self-sufficient as possible so I can enjoy my later years.
Scott Granickiowner and president, AF Technical Resources

Having worked at the company for about four and half years, Smereck said one of the satisfying aspects about her job is working for a small company. "I enjoy working for a smaller company. We've got about 22 people right now, and it allows me to get into a lot of different areas. And I enjoy that. I've been able to do a wider variety of projects than I think I would at a larger company."

Smereck doesn't plan on looking for a job elsewhere anytime soon. Going forward, she said she would like to be in a position to manage and mentor more individuals than she has until now. "Currently, our marketing staff is just me, and I have some people assisting me on a personal-time basis," she said. "I think I would enjoy working with some more resources."

Organizations' mood and measures of success

The majority of respondents (65%) said the mood of their organization is optimistic, compared with 10% who said the mood is pessimistic and 25% who said it is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Seventy percent of respondents said the mood of their organizations is more optimistic about 2015 than they were about 2014. Of the factors behind the optimism, 66% of respondents said that the business is picking up, while 39% said innovation is encouraged and 38% said they have a strong management team.

BIT Direct's Nicol said the mood of his company was "excited," "growing," and -- in the positive sense -- "explosive." He attributed the mood to the company's 100%-plus year-over-year growth and its experienced team. "Things are really blowing up in a good way for us," Nicol said.

Scott Granicki, owner and president of AF Technical Resources, a Milwaukee-based managed services provider, also said the mood of his small company is optimistic in part because of the company's growth. One of Granicki's current goals is to boost revenue. "I want to increase my company to the millions. Right now, it's under $500,000," he said. He is also thinking about succession planning and finding the right person to eventually take over the company. "I guess my career goal is to establish my company to be as self-sufficient as possible so I can enjoy my later years. I don't think I'd ever sell it because I don't want to work for anybody else. I love my boss right now -- it's me."

Of the survey respondents who ascribed a pessimistic mood to their organizations, 68% said the leading factor behind it was ineffective management, while other top factors were limited career advancement (32%) and little room for innovation (26%).

Respondents also cited the top measures for success in their company roles. The No. 1 metric was gaining customer satisfaction (60%), followed by creating new business opportunities (45%) and technical acuity (39%).

Overall, the salary survey 2014 results showed 48% of respondents expect to see a raise in 2015, while 48% look forward to a bonus and 22% to a commission. Twenty percent anticipate no changes.

About the survey

The 2015 TechTarget Channel Salary Survey was fielded in the first quarter of 2015 through direct solicitation of TechTarget members. Two hundred and ten qualified U.S. respondents serving a range of vertical industries -- with the highest concentrations in IT-related services/consulting, finance/banking and healthcare/biotech -- participated in the survey.

To qualify, respondents had to either be employed by a technology VAR, reseller, systems integrator, managed service provider or consultancy, or be self-employed but work for one of those company types. End user respondents and tech vendor and OEM staff members were disqualified. Respondents were also disqualified if they had not worked the full year in 2014 and if they were not currently employed at the time of the survey.

The highest percentage of respondents (21%) said they work for companies that primarily define themselves as IT solution providers; 17% work for companies that primarily define themselves as VARs; 16% for IT consultancies; 13% for managed services providers; 8% for systems integrators; 6% for cloud service providers; 4% for software develops/independent software vendors; and 3% for resellers. The rest fall into a variety of smaller company types, including custom systems builder, hosting provider and others.

Their job titles include consulting practice manager (4%); consulting staff (9%); customer/IT support manager (3%); customer/IT support staff (5%); executive or corporate manager/CIO (5%); founder/business owner/partner/CEO (5%); project manager (3%); sales and marketing manager (7%); sales and marketing staff (10%); sales engineer (14%); technical/engineering staff (13%); technical/engineering manager/CTO (16%); and training staff (1%). The remaining 5% are classified as Other.

Respondents were from organizations of all sizes; 37% were from companies with fewer than 100 employees; 33% were from companies with between 100 and 999 employees; and 30% were from companies with more than 1,000 employees. Annual revenue ranged from $10 billion or more (10%) to $100 million to $499.9 million (13%) and down to less than $999,000 (6%).

Next Steps

IT channel certifications that matter in 2015

Channel trends in 2015 driven by IT transformation

Hiring best practices in the channel's war for talent

This was last published in April 2015

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What are your top career goals for 2015?
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My goals would be to finalize and market a few apps I have been tinkering with. If all goes well then I might pick up a few small consulting jobs to broaden my career.
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I am relatively happy with my career and with my current compensation, but there are many aspects of my current company that I don't like, and so I am actively seeking out new opportunities.

My goal for 2015 is to find something that feels like the right fit for me, that offers similar compensation to what I'm currently making.
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My answer to this is fundamentally different today than it would have been at the beginning of the month. Recently, our team lost our Director of Quality Assurance to cancer. Because of that, many of the skills and objectives he took over have fallen to me and other members of my team. Our career goal as of now is to prove worth of the example he set, which was to get our hands dirty and learn anything and do anything to be useful to the overall organization, and not myopically just think about software testing. At the beginning of the month, I was not the release manager. Now, I am, and there will be many more new endeavors I'll be taking on. Sometimes the vacuum of an unexpected departure can help make that happen. I would, however, give anything for the circumstances to be different. 
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Michael, sorry to hear about your company's loss. We have had the same situation here with a few employees passing away over the years. They do take a lot of knowledge with them. If the policies and procedures are not written down, it can be an up hill battle trying to figure out what they could do in minutes. Their duties get divided up among the rest of the staff and may take some out of their comfort zone. I'm always willing to learn and try new things but some of the "lifers" at the company do not want their boat rocked..
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2015 is kinda over.. a bit too late to /set/ "top goals" :)

My successfully-in-progress goal for this year was gaining even more expertise in Accessibility Testing, as well as sharing what I've learned.
I gave a talk and workshop at 2 awesome testing conferences. Published works in my blog and elsewhere. Working on 2 articles for testing magazines.

And got a new contract as leading accessibility test engineer.
Goals - check! :)
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