What Should We Change About the Data Professional Salary Survey for 2019?


Every year, we publish an open Data Professional Salary Survey. Last year, 3,113 folks from 73 countries answered, so we’re doing it again this year.

Here are the questions we asked last year. If there’s any changes you want to make, leave a comment and we’ll talk through it as a community. I want to make sure it’s as valuable as possible for y’all.

1. What’s your total salary in US dollars, ANNUAL BEFORE TAXES?

2. Your country: (dropdown list with countries)
Optional: Postal/zip code

3. Primary database you work with: (dropdown list populated with the top 10 from DB-Engines.com (plus a couple of niche Microsoft products.)

4. Years that you’ve worked with this database: (open)

We pay Richie in query bucks

5. Other databases you worked with in 2018: (mark all that apply)

6. Job type: (pick one):

  • Full time employee
  • Full time employee of a consulting/contracting company
  • Independent consultant, contractor, freelancer, or company owner
  • Part time

7. Job title (primary area of focus – pick one):

  • Analyst
  • Architect
  • Data Scientist
  • DBA (Development Focus – tunes queries, indexes, does deployments)
  • DBA (Production Focus – build & troubleshoot servers, HA/DR)
  • DBA (General – splits time evenly between writing & tuning queries, building & troubleshooting servers)
  • Developer: App code (C#, JS, etc)
  • Developer: BI (SSRS, Power BI, etc)
  • Developer: T-SQL
  • Engineer
  • Manager
  • Other

Optional: Other job duties (same list as above, but check boxes for things you spend at least 4 hours per week doing)

8. Do you manage other staff? (yes/no)

9. Years of doing this job: (open)

10. How many other people on your team do the same job as you? 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, >5

If only our real currency was this awesome

11. How many database servers does your team work with? (open)

12. Highest level of higher education completed? (None, 2 years, 4 years, Masters, Doctorate/PhD)

13. If you have a college degree, is it computer-related? (yes/no)

14. Do you hold industry certifications? (No, yes but expired, yes and currently valid)

15. How many hours do you work per week, on average? (open)

16. How many days per week do you work from home? 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, >=5

17. What kinds of work do you do? Mark all that apply:

  • Build scripts & automation tools
  • Manual tasks
  • Meetings & management
  • On-call as part of a rotation
  • On-call 24/7/365
  • Projects
  • R&D
  • Training/teaching

18. Employer sector (pick one)

  • Private business
  • Education (K-12, college, university, etc)
  • Local government
  • State/province government
  • Federal government
  • Non-profit
  • Student

19. Are you looking for another job right now? (No, yes but only passively, yes actively)

20. What are your career plans for the year 2019?

  • Stay with the same employer, same role
  • Stay with the same employer, but change roles
  • Stay with the same role, but change employers
  • Change both employers and roles
Erik launders his query bucks

21. To which gender do you most identify? (female, male, non-binary/third gender, prefer not to say, other)

Discuss changes you want in the comments below.

If you want to add a question, keep in mind that we’ll cap this at 25 questions max – the longer surveys get, the less likely people are to fill the whole thing out. You need to make a really compelling case about why it would be useful for the entire population, not just a small subset. If you want to add a question, you also need to tell us which question you’d like to remove.

If you want a fancy user interface, especially to pick a geographic location, remember that we’re doing this with Google Forms in order to keep costs down (free.) Don’t say something like, “You should build a web app that lets me point and click on a map to define where I am.” Find us something free or cheap that we can use as-is with zero development time, and I’m definitely interested.

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37 Comments. Leave new

  • 14. Do you hold industry certifications?
    Add “No, but planning to “, “Yes, and planning to add another in the next year” or similar

    I also think that it might be worth trying to gauge how “happy” people are with their role / either salary or generally… is the population deliriously happy with their lot, or are we all grumpy ol’ dbas?
    Are you happy with your current salary? Why?
    Is your salary at, higher or lower than your current expectation?
    Do you enjoy/how happy are you at your current position? 1 – 5
    Do you feel valued in your role?

  • 18. Employee Sector
    I would add “Healthcare” since that’s a huge field for data these days.

    • Lisa – we’re not really getting into verticals. If we did, we’d need to say automotive, banking, engineering, oil & gas, etc. I could see that being a separate question, though – the list might be staggeringly long.

  • Michellea David
    October 18, 2018 11:15 am

    I would like to see gender. I wonder if women really make less then men. I am going to guess not anymore.

  • During last year’s discussion on wage disparity, someone theorized that higher salaries were a result of people changing jobs more often during their career. Maybe a question like “How many times during your IT career have you left your job to move to one at a new company or external organization?”

    • Lynn – that’s really interesting. It’d be interesting to correlate it to length of career, too, like to see how often people have changed companies.

      To nit-pick – should we say “How many times during your IT career have you joined a new company?” Just because sometimes people don’t leave the job, they get laid off.

      • It would be interesting to break out how many times a person changed jobs proactively vs. how many times they found themselves unemployed and had to find a new job. Would we want to count changes between any IT jobs, or only when at least one was a “data professional” role?

        • I like the idea of trying to determine how many times a person chose to move companies or moved proactively for higher salary, better benefits or better job in general. I’m not sure the best way to wordsmith that question though.

  • Instead of only allowing a “pick one” for #7 Job Title, maybe allow multiple dba positions to be selected? For example, what if you are an Operational Dba and do some of all the 3 Dba titles?

    • Rob – that’s where “primary area of focus” and “other job duties” comes in. It’s two separate questions. Read through that again carefully – it’s a little tricky.

  • How about if you work in a major metropolis, a little out of the way, in the sticks or 100% remote. That can make a big difference in pay.

    • Becky – OH I LOVE THAT. In the past we’ve struggled with whether to identify cities, but asking if they work in a major metropolis is a great way of putting it. Now, how do we word the question and answer….

      • Yay! I may have earned a :party_parrot: if this was slack!
        Most likely you would have to put a population range out there but because of “sprawling” cities like Atlanta, GA I would also qualify it with a mileage range. Marietta, GA only has a population of 61K and it is 20 miles from downtown Atlanta but it is still within the crazy city commute and most likely still has the city pay because of the proximity to Atlanta.
        Q: What is the population of the largest city within 20 miles of your office?
        1) > 500,000
        2) 100,000 – 500,000
        3) 25,000 – 99,999
        4) < 25,000
        5) 100% remote

        • Or, “What is the population of the largest city within a reasonable commute from your office?”. Some people won’t drive 20 minutes to their job, others routinely do 1.5 hours each way every day. And time != distance, especially in Southern California.

          • Yeah, I understand that but it is not so much commute time as some cities that sprawl into the surrounding towns. I would consider Marietta as part of Atlanta but if you go by the official population they would be in two different categories. Charlotte, NC has the same type of sprawl where your office may not be in an official Charlotte zip code but the company is still competitive with Charlotte wages because the talent in the area can just as easily work in the downtown area. Whereas if an office is over the river and through the woods and in a city of 40,000 population generally the pay is reduced due to cost of living in that area verses the city area. Of course I believe those positions are more competitive in a way too because they are so few and far between it’s hard to find them because most companies want to be in the big cities.

  • Since ZIP Code can be a hot mess, maybe add a question about the respondent’s/company’s city size or cost of living? I have no idea what a reasonable list is to cover any possible country, but maybe something like:
    1) Large/expensive city
    2) Smaller city
    3) Town/village
    4) Rural

    • We do have countries on there, but yeah, we can’t include city names (and we can’t trust users to put in city names.) I like the 1/2/3/4 approach, but might need to include population size ranges to give people a rough idea. I think this will work.

  • I would add company size

    • Brett – we talked about this earlier, too, but people had a lot of questions around divisions. For example, “I work in a division of 400 people, but I’m owned by a company with 10,000 people,” that kind of thing. Plus, I’m not sure what we’d find useful out of that.

      • It’s easier for worthless people to hide in big companies, sucking down huge salaries while wallowing in incompetence. I’m working for a company under 100 people and it’s a completely different world than the 20 years I spent in a 15k+ employee company. In a small company, your incompetence can’t hide as well. 😉

  • Maybe add planning on retiring to the career plans for 2019? Some of us are getting older now or want to retire early.

  • I’d love to see something like these:

    Percentage of your day spent accomplishing primary work objectives (instead of sitting in unnecessary meetings, responding to emails, etc…)? 0%, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100%.

    What is your office layout? Open office, short cube walls, tall cube walls, private office, home – shared space (eg. computer in kitchen), home – dedicated office.

  • I’d like to see a question on bonus amount – How much money did you receive in bonuses in the last year?

    My annual bonus is over 10% of my salary, and has been since I started at my current position…but it is not guaranteed and I don’t want to just add it to salary.

  • Something around other benefits in addition to salary? e.g. Health Insurance, mobile phone, car parks, free massages etc. Could be interesting in relation to salary.

  • Brendan Morgan
    October 18, 2018 1:45 pm

    I think asking about how many vacation days each person has would be interesting. I am not sure if there is one question to gauge expense/quality of health care but that obviously has a big impact on job compensation.

    Could we include a Full Stack Developer? I was a DBA for a year then changed jobs to a Developer but I use my knowledge of databases and indexes to do query tuning and set up new data structures.

  • Cyndi Johnson
    October 18, 2018 2:06 pm

    Can you ask how many similar jobs people have held throughout their career? I’d like to analyze the effect of hopping. I’ve read that in tech job jobbing helps to increase salary.

  • I would like clarification on question #9 Years of doing this job: (open). I think there should be two questions: Years of doing this job (over your employment career), and Years at your current position. I have been in IT for over 30 years, I’ve been a DBA for over 20 years, but I’ve only been in my current position at this company for 4 years. 20 years of DBA experience vs 4 years DBA at this company produce different data points.

    • Something similar. I have been an IT developer for 30 years and a BI Developer for only 5 years. I would like to think that my salary should reflect my years in IT development. So I would like to see “How many years in IT” or something similar.

  • Do you participate on this survey for the first time?
    If not, has your salary changed since your last participation?
    Why has your salary changed? New company | new job | salary bonus

  • Maybe a question about community involvement. Something like “have you participated in any of the following community activieites: 1. SQL Server Conferences, 2. Local User Groups, 3. Online Conferences, 4. SQL Server Slack channel etc

  • A few items:
    – Salary and bonus can be an important part of some roles as noted earlier. Separating that out is tricky. Some bonuses are very much an incentive vs. others that are paid in full nearly every year. Plus you get into questions like, is it a profit sharing bonus vs. performance-based or anywhere in between. I would start with, “What is your current base salary, excluding any non-guaranteed incentive amount?”

    – Similar to a previous comment, I’d want to know not just how long you’ve been at your current job but at your current employer. The old saying, “the best way to get a raise is to get a new job” has some truth to it.

    – Along those lines, “How many employers have you worked for during the last seven years? Do not count acquisitions or mergers.” Why seven years? Hey, if it’s long enough to remove a bankruptcy…

    – When was your last raise? (Might flesh out timing differences.)

    – How many total years as a full-time working professional (subtract time for graduate school, child-raising, sabbaticals, elder care, failed family businesses or any other long-term absence) . I’ve seen instances of each of those reasons and for both men and women.

    – I support a company size question, because I think larger companies have had diversity and equity programs for longer, and we should expect to see much less of a gap (hopefully none) in pay as a result. I’m skeptical you’ll get the results necessary to support that conclusion, but that would be my hypothesis for including company size.

    – If you wanted to use zip code for more analysis, maybe there’s an option out there to link zip codes to the metropolitan statistical areas used by the BLS. I do know that it’s not a quick cross-reference. Also, maybe clarify, zip code of home vs. zip code of your assigned office, even if you work remotely.

    Other important and influential factors likely can’t reliably be gleaned. Benefits is an area you’d never really be able to narrow down (coverage options, employer/employee contributions, 401(k) differences, etc.). Likewise, performance ratings play a huge role in pay. The difference year-over-year between a top performer and an average performer can really add up over just a couple of cycles, even if two people started on the same day at exactly the same salary.

    Always interesting to see these results…

  • You could ask for disabilities, which could be interesting to find out, if they earn more or lesser than usual people (when the data basis is broad enough)

    BTW: I watched recently a report that SAP is explicit hiring persons with autism (particularly Asperger), because of their “special abilities” and IT is a field which fits good for those people.

  • I would like to see distance from home is from work so commuter distance. I have heard that men are willing to travel further for more money and it would be interesting to see if this coincides with the women having lower salaries. Also method of commute, train car etc or if they work from home or are at least able to work from home a certain number of days a week.

    • Charles – that’s a tough one. Given the relatively low fill-out numbers, combined with different geographic areas, and the large number of people doing remote work, I don’t think you’d get enough actionable data here to mean anything. Your better bet would be to pursue those kinds of questions on a more general survey (like developers, IT workers, etc) with a wider market. It’s not like database work would be unique in that regard.


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