What’s all this have to do with the salary discrepancies I noted at the
beginning of the article? I think the problem of low salaries is related to the
emerging stratification of talent in the industry. The oft quoted figures of
high salaries in the network administration field were for those that already
had a very comprehensive skill-set and years of experience. The
“average” salaries we see now due to the amalgam of skills required in
This is similar to what we see in medicine in the United States. Medicine is
a very complex endeavor, similar to the IT business. And the medical industry is
stratified. In a simple classification scheme, there are LVNs, RNs and the MDs.
Each of these groups studies similar subjects: Anatomy, Physiology,
Biochemistry, Pharmacology and others.
However, the amount of study and hard-nosed dedication required of
each of these groups is stratified. On the top of the food chain are the
physicians, who put in a minimum of 12 years of post graduate work of dedicated
study before they can even practice, and then after they enter practice, they
must constantly study to keep up with the advances in their field. RNs must put
in at least four years, and LVNs 2 years. They all practice “medicine”
in one fashion or another, but their skills, and their salaries, differ based on
their level in the hierarchy.
The IT industry does not, as yet, have such a hierarchy. The only standard
that exists right now is how much do you know, how much can you do, how fast can
you do it, and how fast can you learn to do the next “new thing”. The
faster and better informed you are, the more money you can make. It’s
definitely a performance based compensation system.
So, while you slog your way through your MCSE studies, think about where you
want to be in the IT food chain. Do you want to be the job seeker? Or maybe you
are looking for more, and you’re interested in the middle rung and want to be the
network admin? Or, maybe you want the “Brass Ring” and become the
network engineer who knows a lot about everything and continues to learn more
Your earning potential is directly related to what decisions you make, so
consider your options carefully. But whatever decision you make, you’ll make
the most of your position by becoming the best you can be for whatever you try
to do. So go for it – the pot is still out there; it’s just that some pots
have more gold in them than others.