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SAP Consultants to Continue to See Salaries Rise

by Deborah Perelman

IT professionals with SAP skills have seen their salaries mount and demand soar for two years. Salaries in the US for SAP specializations increased 15.2 percent in 2006, according to research released in February by Foote Partners, a New Canaan, Conn., IT workforce research firm. Data from the first two quarters of 2007 suggests little abatement of this trend.

"Right now, anybody who is working in the SAP world, either with functional or technical skills, is doing great," said Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing for Yoh, a recruiting and outsourcing firm, based in Philadelphia. "The demands are for specialized skills, and if you've got to pick the right market to be a specialist in, the world of SAP is hot."

ERP-related roles accounted for two of the best-paying IT jobs in the second quarter of 2007, according to the second quarter 2007 Yoh Index of Technology Wages, released July 23. SAP technical consultants came in first, with average hourly pay rates of $85.53, and ERP (enterprise resource planning) functional consultants came in eight dollars behind in second place, at $78.40 per hour.

"ERP consultants are the rock stars of the technology space. Companies that have these technologies in place are deeply wedded to them, and they want to get as much value out of them as possible," said Lanzalotto. "That is why having those specialists in place is critical."

But it wasn't just ERP-skilled pros that had an excellent quarter: the Yoh Index evidenced the IT job market at its second highest point since 2001. Wages for highly-skilled technology professionals surpassed pay rates from 2006, according to the report's data, recording the average hourly rate for all high-impact roles at $31.61 at the mid-point of the second quarter of 2007. This was only a slight dip from the first quarter's $31.80, the highest average wage recorded by the Index since 2001.

Lanzalotto argued that both strong wages in the face of widespread offshoring and a well-documented shortage of workers with the most sought-after skills, signal an especially healthy market.

"I think what the talent market is saying right now is that they know they're in control right now. The power is with the talent," said Lanzalotto.

Furthermore, though salaries may not be where they were in the 1990s, Lanzalotto believes their steadier growth this time has a better chance of being sustained for a period of economic growth.

"These are the good old days. The market is better than it was in the late 1990s because it's a rational market. The market was irrational back then. There was such ill-defined hiring and [methods of] putting projects in place. Now there's a defined need and they're looking for rock stars," said Lanzalotto.

Though ERP-related roles dominated the most highly-paid positions, large amounts of activity in the clinical research, product development and engineering space have also driven up salaries for those with the coveted skill sets.

"There are a couple major trends that apply. On the product development side, given that consumer demand is strong, companies are trying to build better mousetraps as fast as they can," said Lanzalotto. "The second piece, because specialization has become so strong and such a key part of the way the market is dividing, talent really has a chance to take advantage and do well with this."

Hardware designers had the third highest hourly wages in the second quarter, according to the report, at $65.63, followed by Project Managers at $58.65.

"Project management is unbelievably strong because with all the application development and infrastructure projects going on, the demand for it is powerful… And, if you're a project manager with CRM and application development experience, and maybe Java or ERP on top of it, the market is incredibly strong. I'd love to know the unemployment rate for this group is, because they must be beyond full employment," said Lanzalotto.

The fifth through 10th highest hourly pay rates were: database administrators ($57.36), java developers ($55.62), SAS programmers ($52.77), aerospace engineers ($49.98) and clinical research associates ($49.42).

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