In an industry that’s equal parts “who you know” and “who knows you,” any conversation which raises the question “how much should you pay an IT professional” can often run the risk of being a little awkward. In the Southern California tech field, that’s often the case: Many of us are well networked, and we don’t wish to offend or alienate anyone with a conversation about appropriate salaries.

But the truth is that money matters. While it should never be the most important part of the decision to accept a job offer, we can’t simply avoid the fact that candidates for our open IT positions need to maintain their standard of living. Therefore, the salary conversation is essential; it may only be a fraction of the big picture, but it’s often the catalyst to attracting and retaining top IT talent.

So how much should we be paying IT professionals in the Southern California region?

Consider this: cost of living expenses are significantly higher in metropolitan areas of Southern California than the national average – up to 40-50% higher, in fact, according to PayScale, Inc. In these affluent areas, it’s only natural that salaries are also higher.

For example, on a national scale, the typical pay for a software engineer is just shy of $74k, whereas in Los Angeles the average is about $80k – some 8% higher. This difference becomes drastically apparent for a position such as a CIO – at an almost 40% increase from the national average salary.

Another consideration: the Southern California’s IT sector is thriving, recognized as the 2nd most diverse in the US. In fact, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties all reported jobs increases in the scientific and technical services sector in 2014, with a further 4% increase predicted in 2015.

When you make the further realization that national IT wages have grown over 11% in the last 8 years, the highest growth rate of any field, it becomes clear why this conversation is so important. Assessing our compensation structures in light of this increasingly competitive market is key to our success.

So how do we discern the best possible strategy behind our compensation budget? At KORE1 we’ve aggregated the data in our 2015 IT Salary Guide to help you lay the groundwork. However, it’s important to remember that every company and every candidate is different. It would be a mistake to rely on either your company’s or a candidate’s previous salary history as a marker for how to move forward.

Instead, evaluate the data, assess a candidate’s experience level and education, determine where your company stands on both a local and industry level, and, finally, don’t forget to factor in the non-salary parts of the package, like bonuses, benefits, and workplace perks.

At KORE1 we work closely with our clients to locate the tech talent they need. Reach out today if your IT team is growing, or download our IT Salary Guide for more salary data today.