Federal IT Pays Premium

Federal information technology workers earn slightly more pay than their counterparts in the private sector, new salary data suggests.

Dice.com's 2010-2011 salary survey found that while average salaries for federal IT workers stayed relatively flat in 2010 -- down just 0.1 percent to $83,292 -- they're still higher than the overall average salary for tech workers, which was $79,384 last year. Average pay for federal IT workers also is up significantly since 2005, when average federal IT salaries were $69,078, according to Dice data.

"Even though the trend is relatively flat, government and defense workers are better than average in terms of their salaries," Tom Silver, senior vice president at Dice, said Monday.

Still, as the economy recovers and federal IT workers face a two-year across-the-board pay freeze and the potential for other budget cuts, the government could lose some of its competitive edge with the private sector for IT talent, Silver said, pointing to Dice's research that shows 40 percent of tech pros overall think they can make more money if they change employers in 2011.

"Market conditions are improving, and perhaps the private sector is going to do a little better than the public sector," he said. "I think more people are going to be looking for other opportunities as the market starts to improve, and employers need to be paying attention to that more than they have in the past."

In order to attract and retain top IT talent, the government should be touting its job security and branding its top-notch opportunities to show tech pros how they can develop and enhance their career and keep their skills up to date, Silver said. "The government works on some pretty cool projects, but yet it's the government," he said. "They should be working with leading edge technologies and making sure they are investing in their people."