Those gains belie a more difficult year for lower-level hedge fund employees.
"It was a definitely a grind to make money this year," said Michael Goodman, managing partner at recruiting firm Long Ridge Partners.
Goodman said most compensation will be about the same or slightly down from 2013 overall given mediocre industry-wide performance.
The Absolute Return Composite Index, which tracks hedge funds across strategies in North and South America, gained 4.6 percent through November, on pace to be the third-worst year since tracking began in 1998 (the index fell 0.79 percent in 2011 and 6.95 percent in 2008).
The largest gains in pay will come at funds that focus on credit funds who invest in bonds and debt, according to Goodman. He estimated that pay there would increase between 10 percent and 20 percent, depending on the size of the firm and the performance.
The Absolute Return Credit Index is up 5.71 percent in 2014 through November, the second-best performing mainstream strategy outside of managed futures funds.
Managed futures investors — who trade contracts that predict the price of commodities, stocks and other securities and often use pre-set computer models — are up an average of 6.08 percent, according to Absolute Return. Goodman said they could see pay increase by 10 percent or more from 2013.
Pay at hedge funds that focus on stocks will be roughly the same or down from 2013, according to Goodman, while compensation will fall at so-called macro funds, which bet on broad macroeconomic trends using various types of securities. Both strategies have gained between 3 percent and 4 percent in 2014, according to Absolute Return data, and some prominent funds have posted losses for the year.
Read MoreYear-end bonuses are up, but don't rely on getting one
Hedge fund pay for investment staff usually pairs a base salary of between $150,000 and $300,000 with a wide-ranging bonus. Usually that bonus is discretionary; it's given by the head of the firm based on their assessment of the person's contribution to the fund's profit that year. Large firms that employ multiple teams of traders also use a formula to determine pay, such as 20 percent of profits on their portfolio.
Hedge funds make money in two ways. One is a charge for simply managing the assets, typically between 1.5 percent and 2 percent. The other is a performance fee, usually 20 percent of gains on client assets in the fund. Firms that manage billions of dollars can make substantial money from fees even when performance is poor.
Adam Herz, a partner at recruiting firm Westwood Partners, gave the example of a portfolio manager at a multibillion dollar multi-strategy hedge fund that earned high single-digit returns in 2014, unexceptional performance that fell from double-digits in 2013. He said the person will likely see their overall compensation cut from $4 million last year to $2 million this year when cash bonuses are given out in January.
"This is not a good year to be an average player at a hedge fund," said Herz. "Firms don't feel a lot of pressure to pay people who don't perform. Other shops are hurting, too, so there's less chance they poach."
Last year, senior portfolio manager pay hit an average of $1.46 million, according to the 2014 Hedge Fund Compensation Report by Alpha. Junior-level PMs got mean pay of slightly more than $887,000. And non-investment staffers earned a mean of about $575,000. All figures were up from 2012.
Others emphasized the inherent difficulty in estimating industrywide pay.
"It's difficult to generalize about changes in hedge fund compensation as it can vary dramatically from firm to firm, regardless of strategy or fund size," said Carlos Mejia, managing partner of executive search firm Options Group. "If a fund does well, a portfolio manager might get paid a seven-figure bonus, but if it does poorly, he or she may receive no bonus or may be out of a job."