CIAT Resource Library

What Impacts Your I.T. Starting Salary?

Discover What Goes Into an I.T. Starting Salary Offer….

Salary is one of the first things that a job seeker considers, but have you ever wondered what determines that number? Some of it is set in advance by the company, based on their budget, appropriate compensation for the job, and industry standards across the nation. But that information usually results in a range of possible starting salaries, or a maximum amount that they are willing to pay. 
The important question, then, is how do you improve your odds of getting that maximum amount? Read on to learn more about what impacts starting salary in the tech sector, and what you can do to get the best possible offer.


Tech certifications are one of the best options you have for boosting your earning potential. Each is associated with a certificate program, which usually emphasizes hands-on learning and practical, real world skills that will directly apply to the job you’re interested in. 
CIAT offers a range of certificate programs, and many of them are included within our degree programs. So, if you pursue your networking degree, you will also earn 13 certifications by the time you graduate. 
Some careers require certifications just to apply. This is the case for many Department of Defense related positions, which require information assurance personnel to be certified (per DoD Directive 8570.01). 
Other job openings, such as those for computer technicians and web designers, don’t expect candidates to have any certifications. Those applicants who have certifications, though, are immediately set apart from the competition! 


Tech is an interesting industry, because a traditional four year degree isn’t always expected of job candidates. Some positions, though, will expect a college degree. Many employers consider a two year, focused program resulting in an AA or AAS degree as comparable to a four year BA or BS degree. 
This is partially because some colleges – like CIAT – skip all the “fluff” classes that are required for more advanced degree courses. General education classes are included in our programs, but for the most part you’re able to dive right into the good stuff!  
If you look at job openings, you might notice a trend where many of them say “degree required”. Your information technology AAS degree meets that qualification, and may even be considered preferable. Our tech degrees (and certifications) show employers that you are dedicated to the subject matter, willing to put in time and energy to master it, and proven to be proficient. Plus, you can often earn them in significantly less time than it takes to earn a traditional degree.

Prior Experience

There’s no way around it – prior experience in the field is always going to help sell you as a job candidate. But it’s not the only thing, and it’s actually a requirement that you can work with. Prior experience means that you should earn more money, so if you don’t have it, you might have an edge over a more expensive candidate. 
If you’re trying to get the highest offer, though, you need to spin this in your favor. If you have the aforementioned degree or certification, by the way, you do have prior experience! 
What if you’re still in school, though? This is where you can get a little creative, and find the best ways to explain your relevant experience. You might not have been employed as an ethical hacker, for example, but maybe you hacked a local system to alert them of potential security breaches. Or you haven’t been on payroll as a software developer, but you’ve created some 8-bit gaming apps in your spare time. 
Consider clubs you have been a part of and passion projects that you took on for fun. Sometimes this can be even more compelling than job experience, because it shows that you do this work because you love it, and not just for the money.

Military Experience

It doesn’t matter what kind of military experience you have – your time in the service is an extremely valuable asset as you search for a job. Employers will look at you and see a person who has discipline, a strong work ethic, and a sense of personal responsibility. 
They know that you know how to take orders, make logical decisions, and thrive when working independently or as part of a team. Not to mention that you’re probably healthy, mature, and resourceful!
The list is nearly endless, but your ability to handle stressful situations will be of particular value. If you’re transitioning to civilian work, you’re not likely to face the same kinds of pressure that you did in the military. The skill set that allows you to stay calm and make informed decisions, though, will be extremely helpful no matter what kind of career you move on to. 
Finally, your communication skills are likely to exceed those of your non-military peers. All of these qualities can help you to stand out from the competition and garner a solid I.T. starting salary.

Military Clearance

As you look for jobs, you will see that many Department of Defense (DoD) contractors and defense companies want employees who have or can get military clearances. If you possess Secret or Top Secret government security clearances, you’ve already crossed a huge barrier that will eliminate many others in the running. Having these clearances means that you’re already vetted and approved at the highest level. 
A potential employer can look at your security clearances and know that you don’t have any drug abuse issues, volatile personal relationships, criminal background, questionable financial activity, or otherwise concerning traits that might give them pause. 
The other benefit, of course, is that the company won’t have to spend their own time or money to get you a security clearance. If you already have clearance, you’re already a bargain to them! This is an important point that you may want to mention during salary negotiations.

Who You Know

The old cliche is true – it’s not always about what you know, but who you know. If you know someone on the inside, you’re in a better position to get a job, and a higher salary. This can feel intimidating to the average person, though, who might not have access to a professional network. 
Luckily, you probably have more connections than you realize! Find them on Facebook and LinkedIn, or look into joining industry organizations in your area. You might be surprised at who you encounter – and who you already know. 
CIAT students have a special advantage here, because they can work with Charles Beasley, our Job Placement Coordinator. He has industry and company connections, so he’s formed relationships with recruiters and HR people in the tech sector. He can help you refine your resume, practice for interviews, and apply for jobs. If he thinks you’re a great fit for a position, he can advocate on your behalf, encouraging the company to meet with you or give you a chance. 
Charles doesn’t negotiate salary for you, but he does provide a ton of assistance that will ensure that potential employers see you in absolutely the best light. See our Job Placement Services for more information.
Are you ready to apply to become a student at CIAT? Contact us today to get started!
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