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Integrators’ Payroll Ticks Up 3.13% in 2023

If the CE Pro Wage and Salary Study is anything to go by, everyone who talks about the custom integration industry as a great career path is right on the money. Not only is it a fun way to make a living as clearly exemplified by all the eye and ear candy at CEDIA Expo and stunning projects, working for a custom integrator also provides appealing opportunities to garner a solid salary and achieve wage growth as they gain experience and promotions with additional responsibilities.

It’s easy to see why so many employees carve out a lifelong journey within the custom integration channel — of course, the biggest challenge anecdotally is simply spreading the word about it!

But if the annual CE Pro Wage and Salary Study is any indication, every integrator should be shouting from the mountaintops to high school, technical school, and college graduates about the prospects and perks.

Integrators were pretty spot on in increasing their employee pay last year. Heading into 2023, as noted in our previous survey, integrators predicted they would have to bump wages and salaries up 3.8% and in fact the 2024 poll found they actually did so by 3.13%.

Inflation was likely a leading driver of this again, as well as the ongoing challenge of attracting and retaining talented technicians, project managers, and other roles.

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One thing to note about CE Pro’s reporting on this year’s wage and salary survey results, we did the number crunching of medians instead of averages. Because the median calculates the figure at which half of respondents fall below and half fall above, it removes the skewing of data affected by companies that pay way above the norm (or those that are far below) to paint a more accurate picture. 

Also keep in mind that while we did not break down rates by region of the country, we can say that the roughly 200 integrators who filled out the wage and salary survey — which was conducted in December and January — represented all areas fairly equally.

About 12% operate in the Northeast; 18% in the Southeast; 18% in the North Midwest; 12% in the South Midwest; 15% in the Rockies; and 14% in the Pacific Coast (plus 11% internationally).

Prominent Integrator Personnel Draw Salaries Well North of $70K

With those median figures in mind, let’s get this out of the way — essentially every wage and salary figure is down year-over-year compared with the 2023 study’s averages, for the reasons outlined previously. Therefore, it’s not really reflective that the numbers don’t match up with last year’s and we will consider this year’s data on its own merits, and make more apples-to-apples comparisons next year.

However, as stated the median payroll increase across the board was 3.13% for integrators, and like in past years’ CE Pro reports the wages and salaries correspond well with the job responsibilities.

Like basically every other industry, those in executive positions are indeed at the top of the financial food chain. The median salary for a CFO/CEO/GM/owner is in the six figures, just over $113K.

As far as how owners earn their keep, more are getting onboard with paying themselves with a combination of salary and company profits. In all, 86% of owners pay themselves a salary, a 4-point uptick from last year but that includes an increase by 9% in the “Both salary and portion of profits” response.

Also like many industries, top salespeople who know how to bring in the dough are next among the ranks who earn the dough. Experienced salespeople took in a median $85,000 in 2023, and only a few years of strong performance can equate to much more cash as entry-level sales staff made around $62K. 

A bit more than half (55%) of integrators pay salespeople a combination of salary plus commission. Median sales commissions were 6.3% in 2023, and 59% of integrators dole out between 5%-10%.

Those in managerial and specialist roles are compensated in the $70K to $80K range. This is led by sales managers, followed by programmers and project managers in the mid-$70s, and system designers and IT in the low $70s.

Competitive Hourly Wages & Benefits

In terms of hourly wages, again a little experience goes a long way. Entry-level technicians earned $20.52/hour last year, but pass the two-year mark and that figure jumps to a median of $27.09/hour for more experienced installers.

Service technicians make $26/hour and that figure is likely to only go up as more companies (and manufacturers) focus on improving service contract attachment rates and the customer service experience. Toward that end, integrators pay $23.60/hour for staff whose duties include office management, customer service, and other administrative work.

Of course, there’s still room for the industry to grow and provide some more incentives to their sales, installation, and service personnel. Only about 30% of integrators offer commissions on service contract renewals, for instance, while 64% either do not allow or do not pay commissions on upselling customers on solutions and services in the field.

On the brighter side, more than three-quarters (77%) say they offer bonuses, and the median remained the same as last year’s strong amount of just under $1,500.

When it comes to benefits, paid vacation/holidays are by far the most popular provided to employees, while arguably the biggest gripe may be that only 56% offer 401(k) retirement plans. 

Company Vehicle Allowance (up 10%) and Trade Show Travel (up 7%) were the chief gainers, perhaps as companies work on streamlining their efficiencies to have more techs go straight to a job site in the morning, and to give more access to education and trainings, respectively.

Labor Margins Remain Strong

Last year’s survey included a breakdown of the industry’s labor rates. As that is data compiled by CE Pro on a biannual basis, we plan on going in-depth with that information in next year’s study.

That being said, we did poll survey takers again on their expected labor profitability in 2023. The median profit margin from labor was a healthy 35.7% last year, and more than one-quarter (28%) of respondents indicated labor profitability of greater than 51%. Almost every integrator earns some profits on labor; only 7% say they expected to lose money or break even.

That’s a good sign that companies continued to maintain or slightly raised their rates in 2023; based on last year’s results, owners had anticipated boosting labor rates by 3.8% heading into 2023. Recalling last year’s figures, integrators were charging $106.67 nationally for average hourly labor rate for installation and $114.28 for service.

Meanwhile, when it comes to using independent or part-time contractors, half of integrators (51%) enlisted third-party personnel for at least some work based on project needs. Of that, the percentage used for installations notched up slightly, while more programming was done in-house last year — the latter perhaps reflecting the increasingly dealer-friendly features and design attributes of today’s home automation systems.

Integrator Wage and Salary Rates Fast Facts

3.13% — Overall payroll wage increase in 2023 across all positions

$20.52 — Median hourly wage for an Installation Technician with less than 2 years of experience

$27.09/hour — Median hourly wage for a Lead Technician 

$25.99/hour — Median hourly wage for a Service Technician

$77,000 — Median annual salary for a Sales Manager

$74,783 — Median annual salary for a Project Manager

$113,214 — Median annual salary for Executive Management position (Owner/VP/GM)

6.28% — Median commission paid to sales staff in 2023

77% — Percentage of integration companies that offer employee bonuses

$1,442 — Median annual bonus amount earned by employees in 2023

35.7% — Median profit margins earned on labor in 2023

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