Tech salaries in Canada show cybersecurity focus

March 23, 20184 Minute Read

How do you know what’s shaking in the technology sector? Follow the money. Global recruitment company Robert Half has published its 2017 guide to tech salaries in Canada, and it should be a wake-up call to ITDMs in Canada. It shows which skills businesses are investing in north of the border, and highlights some clear recruitment trends.

The biggest salary spikes happened in security and compliance, which tells us what’s top of mind for hiring managers this year—which should be no surprise, considering the extreme hacks we’ve seen this year.

  • Systems security administrators can expect to earn 5.8 percent more in Canada than they did last year, pulling down between CAD$96,750 and CAD$135,250 on average, according to the report.
  • Network engineers came in a close second with a 5.1 percent pay bump, while an information systems security manager got a more modest (but still healthy) 4.9 percent spike in salary, earning up to CAD$160,500 in the year.
  • The average pay for a chief security officer (CSO) may only have moved 3.1 percent in Canada, but that still gives them a healthy ceiling salary of CAD$241,750.

That outstrips the highest salaries for the CTO and the CIO, each of whom saw average pay rise by far less over the year. It pays to be in the C-suite, but it pays more to be the cybersecurity guy in the boardroom.

Basically, tech salaries in Canada are booming

The high rewards for professionals in the cybersecurity field of IT is unsurprising, given the number of headline breaches that we’ve seen in the last 12 months. The latest at the time of writing, WannaCry, made headlines the world over and will have caused board-level executives to ask questions about their company’s security stance. The looming prospect of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe—which affects any company in the world handling EU citizens’ data—will also be of concern to companies, which will largely be playing catch up this year.

Perhaps that focus on compliance is what caused such a large pay bump for box-tickers and bean counters: A senior IT auditor can expect to earn 5.4 percent more this year than last in Canada—up to CAD$194,000—while a non-senior IT auditor gets a very respectable 4.8 percent average increase.

Crunching the numbers

Cybersecurity isn’t the only hot area for tech salaries in Canada this year, though. Analytics is another key focus. A big data engineer will earn 5 percent more on average in 2017, starting at CAD$123,000 and maxing out at CAD$158,000. Add Hadoop skills into the mix, and you can expect another 8 percent on top of that salary (sign me up, am I right?). Analytics is creating competitive advantage for companies in 2017, and it’s worth the investment in expertise to get it.

Also high on the job demand ladder are software developers, with a 4 percent rise in average pay between 2016 and 2017. A lead application developer will also take home 3.6 percent more this year than last. To quote venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, software is eating the world. These salary increases stand out from many others, and teach us valuable lessons about where companies are investing in their IT development. But which areas of the country are investing the most?

Employment hot spots and pitfalls

As you might expect given its status as a financial hub, Toronto companies are among those prepared to stump up the highest tech salaries in Canada. The city’s variance number—a modifier used in adjusting average salaries to suit a particular geographic area—is 104.9. It is higher than all other cities except Vancouver, which shares that number. Clearly, things are highly active out on the west coast, too.

Surprisingly, Kitchener-Waterloo, traditionally Canada’s technology corridor, is a relatively low-paying region when it comes to tech skills, with a variance of just 96.3. This might be because the university there generates so many solid tech graduates, flooding the market with talent. A variance number lower than 100 revises average salaries down, so Kitchener-Waterloo’s will be a depressing figure for tech job candidates there. Not as depressing as Saskatoon’s 95.5 or Winnipeg’s 91, though. The lowest-paying of all is Quebec city, with a mere 90.0.

Who’s missing on your team?

In 2017, the figures show that the tech industry is all about security, data, and software. Do you have these bases covered in terms of quality personnel? The positions listed above aren’t the only parts of the puzzle, either. A quality technology team takes all sorts, and watching where the money does nationally can help inform where your team can stand to evolve or innovate.

There were some other interesting pay bumps, though. Both technical writers and trainers got a 4.6 percent pay bump. Although they’re paid far less than many hardcore technology pros, there’s a message here: Companies understand the need not just to develop technology systems, but to educate their users about them. That’s a good sign for the closer integration of business and technology, and the IT department’s ongoing intent to deliver real value to business users.

Who knows what 2018 will bring? If technology continues developing at its current breakneck pace, there may will be entirely new job categories altogether on next year’s Robert Half list. Here’s a shout-out to the Chief DevOps Wranglers and Cloud Cat Herders of tomorrow.

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