Is $80,000 the new IT starting salary?


Technology salaries have always been pretty decent if you’ve got the right qualifications (think Oracle, Cisco, high-end Microsoft etc), but have they really hit the heights of $80,000 a year being standard for a graduate? According to Fairfax website WA Today, they have — at least in Perth:

“It is now not unusual for university graduates to be offered up to $80,000 for their first job, while those with only a few years experience are receiving well over $100,000 as a project manager, according to acting head of Curtin University’s School of Information Systems Peter Dell.”

The most your writer ever earned as a systems administrator was a humble $35 per hour as a junior Unix systems administrator contractor — which in salary terms works out at around $80k or so, although obviously that assumes you work all year round and don’t take superannuation out of that, and so on and so on. Still, it was a pretty decent rate for someone who wasn’t even out of university, back in 2002, and it compares favourably to the rate which you’ll normally get working as a full-time journalist, although again, contractors can pick up a lot more.

What do you reckon? Is $80k the new $40k?

Image credit: Max Romersa, royalty free


  1. But the quote says up to $80,000

    So it isn’t the new starting amount at all.

    It can be in some situations, but not all

    • No, that is not what we are seeing even in the tight markets of Perth and Canberra. Good graduates are in the 55k to 60k range. A graduate with a couple of years experience, a relevant vendor qualification and a clue might get you close to the 80k mark for the right candidate.

      There are always circumstances when a quick hire is required and you pay above market, but I find this always bites you in 12 months at review time, and should never be done lightly.

  2. The Perth market is a little tougher than your Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane – it’s harder to attract good IT staff, because there are less of them, so you’ve gotta pay them more to keep them.

    Sixteen years ago when I got my first “professional” IT job, I started on $28,500 which I thought was bloody awesome at the time. I’ve crept up over time…shall we say…

  3. Also project manager isn’t a bog standard job…. So no. If a few years of experience project manager is getting 100k then no 80k isn’t the new starting salary then!

  4. Right now, at this exact moment, that might be right. Only because there seems to be a nation wide shortage, I haven’t applied for a job since 2009, but I’m being cold called by recruiters who got my details back then, who want me to apply for jobs they’ve got going. So, if they’re willing to cold call someone who hasn’t shown even the lightest interest since 2009, then they must be desperate.

    I doubt many people would get $80k though, more like $55k to $60k.

    Also “Is $80,000 the new IT starting salary?” that’s the stupidest question ever, especially on a site like this, considering how loosely “IT” is defined. Are you comparing Programmers, Database experts, Sysadmins, and Help Desk all in one go?

  5. Depends on location, industry, role, company, all that stuff.

    Are a few freshly-minted grads getting $80k offers? Yeah, probably. Are most of them? I doubt it. I know that the public sector is paying not that much more than that as a base for medium-to-seniorish sysadmins, unless they’re outsourced contractors.

    And perhaps I’m just a bitter old sysadmin, but it seems to me that someone who goes into IT as a grad and aims for a project management gig within a few years wasn’t really interested in being *in* IT. Most PMs I’ve met may well have been okay at managing projects, but really weren’t IT pros.

  6. $80k starting wage? Doubtful, especially for graduates who have no real world experience or can prove their capabilities in the real world. And I’ve worked with enough highly qualified people who are effectively useless, all those qualifications don’t mean squat if you can’t do your job.

    I think I got about $35-40k when I first started in the work force (Service Department Administration at an Apple Reseller) about 12 years ago, like most it’s crept up over time.

  7. Wow, $80,000 (which as i’ve just checked on XE equates to £49,000)? Thats a fab figure. When I tell all my grad buddies, i’m sure they’ll be closely eyeing up the Australian IT job market – I know I definitely am.

  8. Wow $80,000 as a start? I think that can be confined to young I.T. project managers AND highly dependent on the sector and individual company.

    5 Years ago I started at 38K and was happy, CS degree, top marks, programming Java for a large(ish) corp in Brisbane. I still don’t make 80K with 4 years experience… It’s slowly crept up, but I don’t ever expect to make 80K (well maybe) in a non-managerial programming position. This article made me weep. I’ve even returned to Uni to start a civil engineering degree because of this very fact.

  9. For my work (which is also IT related), I would be getting well over 100k+ if I was working for fulltime, which will most likely happen in a couple of years

    I think the issue is due to demand, according to our faculty we are not getting enough computer scientists graduating

  10. We should definitely take into account the fact that the source of the quote is the head of an IT department at Curtin. Needless to say heads of departments have a significant interest in making their qualifications as attractive as possible in the competition for the best and brightest students, and advertising “best-case” starting salaries is a pretty common tactic to use. Best to take it with a grain of salt.

    • “Best case”. Nail on the head. From my own observation there is no way an $80k salary is typical, or even common.

      For my own part, last year I looked at moving into a permanent position after ~6 years in the contracting game. I’m a C# dev with nearly 15 years experience (obviously not all of that with C#, but you get the idea) and most of the recruiters I spoke to in Brisbane said to expect somewhere around $90-95k. Based on that I think it’s highly unlikely that someone with zero experience could expect $80k. Of course job markets differ across cities, so maybe it’s plausible in Sydney if all the planets align?

      Incidentally I never took a permanent position. The renumeration gap between permanent and contract is still huge, at least in my subset of IT.

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