Why CSO pay is too low in San Francisco, New York

Among six major U.S. cities, CSOs are paid the most in San Francisco and New York, but factoring in the cost of living makes Denver and Chicago the best bang-for-the-buck places.

The median income for CSOs between April 2013 and April 2014 was $184,000 in San Francisco and New York, while Denver was $162,500 and Chicago $144,500, IT placement company Mondo reported Thursday.

However, the higher salary paid in San Francisco and New York was offset by the much higher cost of living.

According to the site Sperling's Best Places, which gives a rating of 100 to the average cost of living in the U.S., the San Francisco and New York metro areas rated 197 and 146, respectively, while the Denver metro area was 115 and Chicago 103,

What this means, for example, is that while Chicago CSOs were paid 21 percent less than their counterparts in San Francisco, they were getting more for their money, since the cost of living is 48 percent less.

The remaining two cities in Mondo's study, Boston and Washington, D.C., had a median CSO salary of $172,500, while the cost of living in the two metro areas were 148 and 137, respectively.

New York was a better deal for CSOs than Boston, given the latter's lower cost of living and higher salary.

Cost of living, which includes food, health, housing, utilities and transportation, has had an impact on CSO hiring trends, Laura McGarrity, vice president of digital marketing strategy for Mondo, said.

Companies in expensive cities are often willing to let executives continue living in lower cost areas and telecommute or fly in during the workweek.

If the person is needed in the company's headquarters, then businesses are willing to negotiate relocation expenses.

"(Companies) are much more open minded, much more innovative and creative in the way that they hire these executives," McGarrity said.

Such accommodations are also evident in the hiring of chief risk officers, a new executive position that is in high demand, McGarrity said. Companies in healthcare and financial services are hot markets for CROs who can apply security expertise to help with regulatory compliance and assess an organization's risk of a data breach.

"There's a talent shortage with how fast and quickly this area is growing," she said. "Demand is up, but talent cannot keep up with the demand."

Mondo based its findings on 4,000 placements across financial services, healthcare, media/advertising, retail and high tech/software. The findings are meant as a sketch on CSO hiring. The six cities highlighted were chosen because the company has offices there.

CSO salaries in the cities have risen much faster than the average rate of inflation for the country. Income for the execs grew between 4 percent and 6 percent, while the rate of inflation in 2013 was roughly 1.5 percent, according to the site InflationData.com.

Compared with other IT executives, CSOs' median income was surpassed only by CIOs. CSOs were paid more than vice presidents of cloud services, engineering, information technology and infrastructure, Mondo reported.

Outside of the executive suite, the highest paid security pros were Information security analysts, system/network security administrators, network security engineers and IS security managers.

Only financial services paid security professionals enough to make them one of the industry's five highest paid IT pros. In the top five were IS security managers, along with network security engineer, application architect, project manager and mobile developer.

Over the study's timeframe, 12 percent of Mondo's IT placements were in security. IT pros most in demand were in application and software development, which comprised 20 percent of placements.

Second were Web/interactive/e-commerce pros at 15 percent, followed by database administrators, 14 percent. Security pros were fourth.

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