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Security Pros Underpaid

While much lip service -- and significant dollars -- are being paid to IT security in today's enterprises, many security pros still feel they are struggling to get the respect, budget, and salaries they deserve, according to a new survey from Dark Reading. (See DR Survey: Security Hot, Paychecks Not.)

In an email survey of 768 security executives -- nearly half of whom work at companies with annual revenues of $100 million or more -- Dark Reading found that more than half earn an annual salary somewhere in the mid- to high-five figures. That's about the same as, or slightly less than, the average starting salary for a software engineer or network engineer, according to human resources research firm Robert Half International.

Part of the reason is that enterprises tend to value security technology more than security personnel, according to those in the field.

"My experience is that too many management-layer decision makers rationalize spending on hardware and software as a sound investment at the expense of qualified staff," says Herb Mattord, a former IT security executive who now teaches the subject at Kennesaw State University.

"Yes, companies are being stingy," agrees Claude Gigoux, manager of networks and telecommunications at Princess Cruise Lines. "They tend to look at technology as a quick fix, and this is not justified."

The situation is not likely to improve soon, according to responses on pay raises. The Dark Reading survey indicates that more than 80 percent of security specialists received salary increases of less than 10 percent last year. Some 22 percent received no raise at all; about 5 percent actually took a pay cut.

This is at a time when overall IT security budgets are increasing at about 15 percent a year, according to Infonetics Research Inc.

This disparity is reflected in general attitudes toward enterprise security. While previous surveys of general IT management show security to be the enterprise's single most important issue, 72 percent of respondents to the survey -- i.e., the actual security pros themselves -- indicate that security is somewhere in the middle or lower half of the spending priority list.

The three-part salary survey series debuts today on Dark Reading. Part two will be posted next Monday, May 15, and part three will follow on Monday, May 22.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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