Do Some Tech Jobs Really Pay $12 an Hour? Yes

Horror stories of low-ball offers abound on the Dice message boards, though we have to admit we think some smack of embellished truths. But after some investigation we found that, indeed, there are some jobs out there with pay scales that are stunningly low.

Typically, they’re for entry level help-desk and tech support positions, not for someone like a seasoned software developer. Another factor in the equation is the job’s location. In Huntsville, Ala., for example, one company’s seeking a technology aide for $12 an hour.

“Help desk Tier 1 support and PC tech support pays about $25,000 on average in rural locations,” says David Knapp, San Francisco Metro Market Manager of Robert Half Technology. In non-rural areas, of course, the rate is higher.

For software developers, the RHT sees the average national salary in 2013 as running between $74,500 and $118,250. Here’s its Salary Guide’s comparison this year’s and next year’s pay:

Robert Half Salary GuideHowever, “if an employer hires a help desk professional at $12 an hour and later wants them to do some updates to their website, they are asking for additional skill sets,” says Knapp. “You should negotiate a pay increase because your responsibilities have increased.”

A Web developer, by the way, makes substantially more than someone on the help desk. The national average for them ranges between $65,750 to $106,500, according to the salary guide’s 2013 figures. Realistically, of course, it will be hard to get an employer to jump from the roughly $31,750 Tier 1 help desk salary to a Web designer’s pay scale, but the situation could give you a talking point to open a salary discussion.

What’s your experience with pay rates today? Tell us your experiences in the comments below.

Comments

  1. BY Michelle says:

    Some positions pay even less for supporting multiple systems, client website development, technical writing, technical support, copy writing/editing, content marketing, and general IT helpdesk support when the main guy is out (all for one position). @Dawn should someone doing all this look elsewhere or negotiate upward?

    • BY Dawn Kawamoto says:

      Hi Michelle,

      Wow, that’s quite of list. I would definitely raise the issue for an upward increase and factor in the frequency that these added duties are suddenly piled on. Depending on where those talks lead, looking elsewhere is always a viable alternative – especially given the added skill set that is amassed.

      My humble 2 cents, Dawn

      • BY Michelle says:

        Will you consider posting a follow up on how best to showcase all these extra skills on a resume for those moving away from such low-paying jobs? It’s easy to enumerate for a depressing list, how can these folks better showcase these talents on a resume?

        Thanks for your 2 cents :)

    • BY BurnedOut says:

      My most recent job was exactly what Michelle described. – my position included all the tasks she listed, I negotiated “up” to $12.50, was worked to death and treated like crap. And yes, there was an army of desparate IT techs waiting to take my exhausted, burned-out place for even less money. I work in Las Vegas, not the heartland, and IT wages are terrible here and workers treated like pond scum.

      • @Burnedout I was talking about a job I had — unfortunately. Did you move on to a better position elsewhere? All the experience gained from the overloaded position can be good for another job. However, I think worst part of doing so many different tasks is that you don’t have time to get really good at any of it because you’re constantly interrupted or switching from one project to another to get things done. It’s incredibly frustrating.

  2. BY Proud Paulbot says:

    Problem is, if that $12.00/hour employee asks–even if they do it nicely–for additional money for the additional tasks, they will be immediately fired. Then what? This country is in a Depression. So the $12.00/hour employee will keep quiet, keep their head down and do work that should pay twice as much so they can hold onto their $12.00/hour.

    • BY Michelle says:

      This is true of many places willing to pay such low wages, unfortunately.

    • BY Glen Smith says:

      A huge problem is that the $12.00 an hour increase will likely add about $20-25 an hour to your managers personnel costs and a lot of that is not directly on your manager (regulations, taxes and company policy). Further, back in the day when I sold employee benefits, one of the selling points was that the better benefits could allow you to increase an employee’s compensation by more than you actually paid (for example, by paying for things with dollars not accounted for in the employee’s income). The biggest ones of these has become really expensive to the point where the benefit to the company mentioned above no longer exists and will likely become even more expensive in the future. Several others have proven to be somewhat bogus and are now “nice-to-haves” at best.

      • BY Jay says:

        The big issue I see here is that with more and more companies resorting to temp that do not get benefits, vacation, sick time, or any time off at all for that matter, and the companies are still paying low wages to the actual worker, why do more companies not eat the overhead of temping out directly, and saving the fees on the middle man that do nothing more than eat into the workers compensation?

  3. BY DrSteve says:

    I am seeing this getting cloudier as employers play with job titles. I have been afforded two positions as Director of IT – one in WA and the other in GA – both told me they were paying $14-$17/hr. Recently I was asked by a contract company if I would take on a role as a Snr. Project Manager, but they would give me the title CIO. Checking their website everyone was going to be a CIO. This distorts the job related pay scales completely and is going to make recruiting more of an automated system rather than a talent search.

    At one point I also took a position as a contractor where the work was well below my level. My client manager realized this and I was rapidly given development tasks and then made the product’s program manager. As stated above – as soon as I pointed out they were using my skill set but not the skill set they were paying for – my contract was terminated because I talked about a pay rise.

    As far as I can see, much of this can be attributed to the new breed of off-shore contract agencies who also expect you to have no vacation or benefit package and younger employees who value the title over the compensation.

  4. BY Craig Morrison says:

    Yeah, Well I live in Central California where the cost of living exceeds that of rural areas by very large factors and companies here think that they can hire and are offering 10-13 per hour for
    desktop and network IT jobs not entry level those are 9-11 an hour. I have 25 plus years experience
    and frankly I would rather flip burgers for 9.00 an hour than give these companies the satisfaction of
    ripping off the IT experienced workforce because the economy is bad right per them than actually
    work for them. It is a downright insult to those of us that are looking for work right now.

  5. BY Pablo Mojica says:

    Really? Just now you guys find out about this AND are surprised? In DE, NJ, lower PA there does not exist a true entry level Network Admin position for someone like me with 6 years of desktop/application support. I have Network experience (plenty off and on) in my resume, project management. But at the end of the day the most these places offer me is “driving tech 15/hr you provide car, laptop, tools, etc etc etc. Common. Plus the entire state of DE might as well be outsourced at this point. I am considering a change of careers. I can’t even land an entry network position and here soon my certs,experience etc will either be outdated or forgotten.

  6. BY mark says:

    You’re shocked? Shows how out of it your thinking and your advice is. BTW, most minimum wage burger joint jobs are around $6 or $7 an hour not, $9 as in California. Anyway, this has been going on in the heart of the country for years, so get out of silicon valley once in a while and get your facts straight.

  7. BY Clinton Staley says:

    As a professor of computer science who is privy to salary offers made to a number of students, I’m having a hard time reconciling all that’s being said here with what I know to be true: good student software *interns* are going for $30-$40/hr for summer jobs, and new grads in software are getting offers between $60K low end and $120K high end.

    The usual reflex answer “they hire the kids because they’re cheap” clearly doesn’t hold — the kids aren’t cheap. The answer “they hire them because they’ll work long hours” doesn’t quite cut it either. The ones I know who are out in the field work longish hours, but have plenty of time for social life, marriages, and athletics as well.

    “The field is self-destructively age-biased” is somewhat more interesting, but again, doesn’t bear close examination. Companies are begging for highly talented devs, with sometimes hundreds or thousands of open positions. If there is a pool of available older devs who are as productive as the “kids” and willing to work for the same low-six-figure salaries as the kids, wouldn’t tapping into that pool give a huge competitive advantage to firms willing to do so? All it would take is one or two reaping the benefits to get everyone’s attention. Besides, I keep track of my best students from across the last two decades via a LinkedIn group, and I don’t know of *any* of them who are out of work.

    I don’t deny the evidence that some people in the field are hurting for work. But, what’s the explanation?

    • BY DrSteve says:

      Clinton, I am an ex-Professor of Computer Science and my response to you is – stay in your ivory tower. Your two decades of students may soon start to find out your current students will see them as out of date, overqualified and overpaid. Once past 40 the IT profession appears to turn on you. This is funny because they are taught by Professors such as yourself who are now of an age which clearly no longer respected by the newer graduates. Smacks of a lack of critical thinking and produced a rather volatile reacting from an interviewer who questioned my academic credentials and professional ability when I pointed out I was probably younger than his professors who taught him.

      Clinton – the other reason to stay as a tenured professor – I was told recently by an interviewer that because I had been a Professor of Computer Science I was not hirable because “those that can do and those that can’t teach.” My guess they did not express this view when seeking their grades.

      One of the explanations can be found in the clever way Microsoft laid-off many senior staff. It was financial. The logic being that as employees get older, married and have children the cost of medical benefits rises. Thus younger single employees cost them less.

      • BY Clinton Staley says:

        Interesting reply :). I have actually spent at least half my time doing industrial software dev in the last decade, though I have to admit I find myself working hard to keep up with my own top students. I don’t teach theory; I’m at a pretty practical school, and my courses are all about massive coding to prep students for industry. I actually agree with you about the dangers of the “ivory tower”; the only reason I’m in academia at all is because I like teaching younger people.

        You have a point, though, about the younger devs viewing older devs as out of date. I do see this too. It’s partly bias, but it’s also because some older devs don’t stay up to date, I think.

  8. BY Harold Stein says:

    Under H1-B employers have hired foreign nationals to work entry level positions, not only the high skilled positions that H1-B is supposed to be for. Or they hire foreign nationals on student visas to work illegally under the guise of “training”. This came to light when they caught Faisal Shahzad. http://www.cis.org/faisal-shahzad
    This is the Walmart syndrome to drive down costs by any means. I work with foreign nationals and I admire them. They are the best and brightest from their countries and are here legally. But some employers will use H1-B to illegally get cheap labor and artificially drive down their costs. Recently Compucom made all of their Field Techs take at least a 25% cut in pay or take a severence package. This is the trend. The veteran techs at Compucom are leaving, guess who will replace them? That right, the young techs who will work for less. The problem is they don’t stay young forever and they could be replaced in fifteen years for the same reasons.

  9. BY J says:

    The demographics and experience mean nothing. I live in Seattle which is close to San Francisco cost of living and still get calls for $15 an hour jobs. I have an MCSE, A+, N+ and over 5 years experience. To ad insult to injury these jobs are an hour away from Seattle. It doesn’t cover the gas to drive there. When I tell employers I seek $25.00 an hour, they treat me like I asked for $1 million dollars an hour. I have a hard time justifying staying in this field. In IT you have to speacialize or get used to the $15 an hour phone calls from employers.

  10. BY Steve Tabler says:

    Gee, I’d LOVE to get that $12 an hour job doing IT work. I graduated in 2006, receiving an MS in Computer Science….and since then, the ONLY thing I got hired for was a 60-month temp position doing data entry for the state unemplyment office. I can’t get a lousy help-desk position, or a lousy fast-food or convienance store position. The other latest excuse I hear is that my degree is “too old”.

    By the way, how does one go from being an “Help desk Tier 1 support” to a “seasoned software developer” ? Do companies typically raid some pool of “Help desk Tier 1 support” personnel?

    • BY DrSteve says:

      Steve, I am really sorry. I also hear such comments about ability and skills, but the comments come from people who have not really looked or asked about things since then. I have done training and I have taught things such as PM certification and Linux administration plus have taken certification classes. For some reason interviewers focus on when you completed your original degree.

      I was interviewed by someone who made such comments about my background and even said I was lying about my academic background. When I asked where in India he got his degree, what his subject was and when he graduated he refused to answer and became very upset. If you check the Indian press you can find many articles about the poor levels of standards for their degrees as well as their PhD programs. It seems interviewers are becoming unprofessional and companies seem to consider this appropriate behavior.

      The sad thing is – if Bill Gates applied to Microsoft or for any IT position in the US, including on a Help Desk, he wouldn’t even get an interview. He has no degree because he dropped out of Harvard in his first year. Add to that he is 57 which equate to him having absolutely no IT knowledge worth a damn.

      Steve – Good luck and keep searching

    • BY Bernita says:

      Steve I feel your pain! I received my BS in Info Systems in 2002 and have worked in admin for the past 10 years. I am trying to transition to the IT field and so far it is next to impossible. Every company I contact is not willing to train. I have offered to volunteer to gain the experience, and they still said no. I’m still searching; keeping my fingers crossed that someone will say yes.

    • BY trothaar says:

      This is why I gave up on tech within about six months of getting my degree, in 2011. At that point, I’d searched for a position for about a year; I began long before graduation.

      Sure, there were people who told me I shouldn’t “give up so quickly,” but then again, those were the SAME PEOPLE who told me that a Math/CIS degree was a path to a solid income and career.

      Yeah, I gave up, and I’m not ashamed of it. I say this even though, at this point, I’m still not 100% certain what else I can do. I know what I WON’T be doing: sitting here in 2017, perpetually unemployed because I insisted on chasing rainbows instead of living in the real world.

      Our culture discourages it, but sometimes giving up is a GOOD thing. If you’re about to go over a cliff, you SHOULD give up, and put all of the energy you’re wasting on a fruitless endeavor with 0% chance of success into something you actually might succeed at.

      Do something else. Anything else. If you don’t know what else to do, take whatever kind of contract work you can get (even if it’s not in tech) so you can make money while you figure it out. You handed this horrid industry the past six YEARS of your life. For the love of god, don’t hand it the remainder.

      • BY Steve Tabler says:

        Doing something else is not an option. I am not suited to work in any kind of a retail environment. I’m a vegetarian, I have been all my life, and putting me in the same room with raw meat absolutely starts me puking, so asking me to flip burgers is just plain nonsense. I don’t want to work in a casino, as I am the klutz that makes cards fly in everyone’s face while trying to shuffle them. My previous field was as an electronics engineer and bench technician. I also sat a lot of hours at the drafting board doing the drafting on my own designs before I’d go and wire-wrap it together. Or hand-etch a single circuit board at my workbench.

    • BY trothaar says:

      Oh, and I, too, would have taken a $10-$12/hour job. I would have even taken a minimum wage job, provided that (1) it wasn’t located so far from my home that I’d be spending more in gas and wear and tear on my car than I’d be making (please don’t say, “Just mooooooooove” – people don’t relocate for jobs that pay $12/hour or less; that’s NUTS) and (2) it offered a promise of advancement if I applied myself and worked hard.

      I couldn’t find any such jobs. And I looked for them. My limits on the commute weren’t what sunk me, either. Even if I had been willing to [stupidly] spend more on gas and car repairs than I was bringing home, I’d still not have been able to get a job. There aren’t any entry-level tech jobs.

  11. BY Steve Tabler says:

    Correction: that was a 6-month position, not 60-month LOL.

    • BY Chuck Wagon says:

      Has anyone here ever heard of a GUILD, or maybe something called a UNION? Maybe it’s time we organize for better wages. Stop complaining and fight for what we deserve.

      • BY Computer Science Grad says:

        I do not care for unions but I do believe anyone who has spent thousands of dollars earning a degree should have a serious meeting of the minds and voice our opinoins to all politicians wasting our tax dollars while they blow smoke up our butts. And another thing, what in the world is a technology aide?

        • BY HADITUPTOHERE says:

          Technology Aide jobs are typically min wage up to $12/hr and usually found in public libraries and college campus computer labs. Essentially act as a babysitter to the facility and it’s shared resources. Change the toner cartridge, reboot the computers, assist with minimal troubleshooting, and act as an assistant or mentor to whomever uses the lab. Generally part time only work with no benefits and unless your a recent grad or still a student little chances of being hired.

      • BY larry says:

        @ Computer Science Grad – What is the best way to get a politician to listen to what you have to say? A: To be part of a well funded business or organization. If this organization isn’t a union, then what is it? How will it be run? Or will we just complain ineffectually while the smoke is blown?

  12. BY HADITUPTOHERE says:

    I recently had a experience being contacted by a recruiter for a Network Administration job in a major metropolitan city. This person could not speak proper english and in turn had to hand the phone off to another person who also could not speak proper english to try and communicate with me. Took hours of my time playing phone tag and emailing them back and forth for the most part because they could not speak proper english! The more I asked them to repeat, the lower the volume of their voice got to the point where it was just mumbling and squeaks spitting out of their mouths. Finally, once I got wind that it was a $12/hr position and having to work with these jokers I laughed and told them there was no way I could accept such a position. This isn’t the first time, and probably will not be the last. This appears to be the norm, not the exception. Previous experience with non-english speaking tech recruiters has been pretty dismal as well. More times then I care to count, I’ve had non-english speaking recruiters simply hang up on me when I try to get them to repeat themselves or to be more clear. They simply give up and hang up. How anyone can conduct real honest to god business with these jokers running the place is beyond me, and if it was up to me I’d fire the first person who would want to even bring such an individual into my place of business to work. Can we please get more real Americans? Can we please stop making excuses for this terrible behavior? Can we get a real American business owner to own up to a situation like this? I hope when your in dire need of real tech support you get one these jokers to show you the way. Good luck, you’ll need LOTS of it. Oh yea, and this is coming from someone who once upon a time worked in a call center and all of the non-english speakers were redirected my way because no one else could understand them to help them. We got problems America, and none of this is fixing it.
    Frustrated doesn’t even begin to describe this.

  13. BY Fred Nance says:

    I used to make $12.50 per hour back in 1998 when i worked for Earthlink as a level 2 support.

    I the position paid $11.00 and i got a raise after that. Since then, it’s been $25 or more. I try to negoitiate more because i’m doing more(i.e. servers, network).

  14. BY COMPUTER SCIENCE GRAD says:

    @HADITUPTOHERE Thanks for explaining that. A Technology Aide job sounds like something I would do if I wanted to work as a Federal Work-Study employee while earning my degree. There is no way in hell I am working for $12/hr in the tech field after earning a degree and having thousands of dollars of debt. I can make more than that driving a delivery truck for UPS or something else.

    @LARRY Tech workers may be organized on Dice blog because we share a common complaint/interest, but there is no meeting of the minds to put our complaints/interests in writing as a group before elected officials. I have been called a jack-of-all-trades, but establishing a well funded organization is something I never learned. Do you have any ideas on how to begin?

  15. BY Eric W says:

    Contracted with a major lighting/shades company in 2008. I low-balled to get the position: 67K a year. Upon being offered a much better position elsewhere, I came across their recruiting ad. They required a masters degree with an hourly wage of 30.00 per hour. I have no masters degree and I made more. I’m not sure why they suddenly required a masters degree and at so little pay. I suppose they thought it was a good starting point for negotiations.

    • BY JM says:

      Companies and executives forgot about competition. It is all about how big their bonus is and how they can get as much as possible for the least pay. Unfortunately they find the suckers, and if you don’t fall for it they try and make you feel like a bad person on something.

  16. BY C Frank says:

    In a world more and more about social networks and putting on positive impressions (often at the detriment of productive attitudes and behaviors, and competence): Similar to the petition to add a thumbs-down button on Facebook… Employees should have a way to rate employers, post reviews, etc… Companies that “take advantage” and have high requirements for such low pay grades are of similar classification as an undesirable candidate. People with skills should just ignore companies with bad attitudes. Let companies that don’t respect employees and their contributions burn and fizzle out by having to scrape the bottom of the barrel until they die. Often what is reborn from ashes after learning lessons is better :)

    • BY DrSteve says:

      Is this not what Glassdoor is attempting to do? I know I have checked out companies’ reviews before considering an application. Interview feedback, salary levels and ratings are provided by current and past employees. Of course all should be considered carefully – especially the past employee’s comments :-)

    • BY JM says:

      It will continue, companies no longer look at IT skills as an asset they look as it nothing more than a needed cost and how can I save the bottom dollar. As long as a system halfway works that is all the executives care about. They lost the grip on reality. A lot of it is to blame on the contract recruiter and companies that make the employee look so invaluable and gut you up and steal half your salary while they keep lying to the other masses. I am so ready for a new career.

  17. BY Comical says:

    As a 28 year old Junior PC Technician, back in 1997, I had a hard, fast rule of thumb. “I don’t roll out of bed for less than $15.00 an hour.” For any reason. I moved into Systems Administration, and then into I.T. management. These stories of $12.50 an hour tech jobs, is a sign of the times, I guess. Technical aptitude, and a run of the mill CompTIA cert are no longer considered “specialized” skills. Almost every kid graduating Vo-Tech high school, possesses the tech skills of a Junior Technician, and the market is flooded. With all of these online diploma mills touting their Network Admin degrees, I guess we are bound to see an army of under-trained, zero experience drones that will work for peanuts. Kids, if you are listening……DON’T GO HARDWARE!!!! Get into software engineering or mobile app development. I can’t get good developers that will work for under $100K, these days.

    • BY JM says:

      That is terrible advice as developer jobs are the first job to be outsourced in IT to India and China. These jobs can also be the most unstable, who cares what they pay a year when you might just be working a few months out of the year.

  18. BY Anonymous underpaid Worker says:

    Recent college graduate with a degree is CIS and not a whole lot of professional experience. I’m contracted out to HP doing IT tech work for a large oil company and I get paid $12/hr. Supposedly I was hired on at a higher rate than other contracters??!!!??

  19. BY trothaar says:

    I hear you. I make far more than $12.00/hour doing clerical contract work, from home, on oDesk. Why in the world would I stop doing this to take a job that paid $12.00/hour or less? And before anyone crows about benefits, jobs that pay that low don’t even offer paid holidays, let alone benefits of any kind. Nor are those types of jobs stable. They’re generally revolving doors.

    I have no desire to organize into a guild or union. I’d rather put all of that time and energy into figuring out something else I can do. Perhaps this is because I didn’t get a STEM degree because I wuvved tech. I got it because I was told it was a path to a good job with benefits. Since it’s obviously not, I need to do something else. In the meantime, I’ve got the oDesk work.

  20. BY GIJOE says:

    Straight from the Department of labor $12.00 per hour is the new $8.00 dollars an hr.

  21. BY Ray says:

    I worked for CompuCom on a contract job once. It paid $14 a hour. Their trainer was unprofessional.

  22. BY Robert says:

    Hey Steve, I hear on that. These days its good to have several sources of income streams. If you’re interested in making some extra money doing tech support/customer service from home, let me know. It’s a nice part-time gig.

  23. BY Steve Tabler says:

    Robert,

    I’d be ok with that.

    Steve

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