The compensation of computer software professionals is much more equity-weighted for those working near theWest Coast than their contemporaries in the eastern United States, where companies tend to bestow higher cashcompensation to their top programmers.

"The pace of change in software today is astonishing -- updated versions of familiar programs appear in real time,matched by new, cutting-edge solutions," says Edward Speidel, a director in the compensation and performancemanagement practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers, which conducted the survey.

The survey, which focused on senior management, engineering, technical, and sales positions in software, found anindustry in flux, with many traditional software companies' product lines and delivery modes moving to theInternet. That shift is evident in the disparity, often within the same organizations, of compensation for thoseprofessionals whose work is Net-oriented versus those whose work is not.

"The industry is witnessing an 18% rate of turnover in personnel across all positions -- that's significant when youconsider the number of openings these companies have to fill to meet their expansion needs. So it's not surprisingthat the ways in which people working in this business are recruited, paid, and retained are changing at anequally feverish pace."

An examination of the benefits offered by private emerging-growth software companies found that a majority favorpreferred provider organization (PPO) medical plans over health maintenance organization (HMO) plans, withthe medical cost averaging $3,052 per year. The survey also found more software companies moving towardalternative medicines and therapies, such as acupuncture and holistic healing.

"Two sometimes-conflicting forces compound the need for change on the HR front," Speidel notes. "The need toattract and retain talent while maintaining a reasonable cost structure for compensation and benefits. ... However,the market for strong software hires is no longer that different for private versus public companies when cashcompensation and benefits are factored in."

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