CertMag’s 2006 Salary Survey

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Experts might say the economy is on the up, news reports might say workers are earning more and your next-door neighbor might have just upgraded from a Honda to a Porsche. Until you see a sizeable impact on your wallet, however, it’s hard to believe we’ve recovered much from the 2001 economic slump. But fortunately for all you certified IT pros, your average salaries are sweet and keep on getting sweeter.

But don’t just take it from us — according to the 35,573 IT professionals in 197 different countries that participated in this year’s Certification Magazine Salary Survey, the average IT salary once again is on the rise. The average base IT salary in 2006 was $76,500, up from last year’s reported $71,100 average base salary.

Although the average salary topped $76,000, a large percentage of respondents worldwide make less than $20,000 a year. According to the survey, 23.3 percent of respondents made less than $20,000 in 2006. The second-highest percentage — 6.4 percent — make between $20,000 and $24,999, and the $50,000-to-$54,999 bracket and $60,000-to-$64,999 bracket tied for third place with 4.8 percent of respondents each.

The top five certification programs saw a bit of a shake-up this year with the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) falling out of the top five to sixth place with an average salary of $105,560. Last year’s top program, International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2’s Certified Information Systems Security Management Professional (CISSP-ISSMP), also dropped this year, coming in fifth with $111,280.

It wasn’t all bad news for (ISC)2 cert holders, though. The program’s Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (CISSP-ISSAP) took this year’s top spot with an average salary of $114,210.

Rounding out the top five was a tight race among Brocade Certified SAN Manager (BCSM) in second place at $112,920, Brocade Certified SAN Designer (BCSD) in third place at $112,890 and ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) in fourth at $112,490.

See Figure 1 for a list of the average salaries of 96 of the top certification programs listed in this year’s survey.

Overall, IT professionals saw their wages increase by 16.7 percent, which is just slightly better than last year’s 16.4 percent increase. In addition, nearly a quarter of respondents received at least a 25 percent increase in pay, which is up from 23.4 percent last year. For the first time since the Certification Magazine Salary Survey was launched in 2000, even the lowest average IT salary (by certification) charted was more than $50,000 annually, further evidence of the increased earning potential IT professionals enjoy.

With 96.4 percent of respondents holding at least one certification, and with their average salary increase this year beating the national average by more than 12 percent, this year’s respondents once again showed how certification affects salary.

Brian Epstein, Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE), said certification can be the key to a higher salary.

“I would definitely say that certification helps in terms of salary the same way that a degree does,” he said. “I’ve worked with many very intelligent, gifted individuals who have nothing more than a high school diploma, but you hit that ceiling where a high school diploma only gets you so far in a salary range, whereas if you have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, it kind of opens up the salary range. The same thing with the certification — I know many people who are very well-versed in Red Hat, and they could go out and get their RHCE, and they don’t, and I feel that that hampers their ability to move forward in their careers.”

For Jason A. Diegmueller, co-owner and senior consulting engineer for E-Velocity Technical Consulting, certifications might not increase your salary right off the bat, but they can help you increase your base pay over the long haul. He said sometimes earning certifications will be worked into an employment offer and potential for an increased salary.

“Say, for example, in an offer letter, ‘You’ve got a CCNP today, we’re offering you this job and you’re starting salary’s going to be X. But after a probationary period and after six months, we’ll do a review, and if you have CCIE, for example, we’ll raise your salary to Y,’” Diegmueller said. “We have written offer letters like that before, and I have a couple of guys like that on the team right now. I don’t think it would affect the starting salary, but we have shown willingness to say, ‘Mr. Potential Employee, this is your offer, this position pays this, but we’ll put an offer letter in writing — this is the path you can go down. If you pass that CCIE by the end of the year, we’ll be ready to immediately raise your salary to this.’ So it gives them incentive right from the get-go. So, I don’t think it affects the starting job offer, but we’re willing to show the path to growth both professionally, of course, with certifications and then for them personally, financially, as well.”

Additional comments and question on the Salary Survey are welcomed at our special Salary Survey forum on the CertMag.com discussion board. Please visit www.certmag.com/salaryforum to share your views.

— Sarah Stone Wunder, sarah@certmag.com

Pleased to Meet You
If your identity as survey respondent could be summed up in a word, it would be this: male. As with years past, men dominated the salary survey, with 89.7 percent of you having both and X and Y chromosomes, and 10.3 percent of you with two X’s.

But beyond the basics, just who exactly who are you? Well, for starters, you probably don’t live in the United States. Of the 35,573 IT professionals who responded to this year’s survey, only 39 percent are from the United States. Although the United States had the highest percentage of respondents from any country, overall, 61 percent of you don’t live there.

For those of you who do live in the United States and Canada, California claimed the highest percentage of IT professionals with 9.3 percent of respondents. Texas had the next highest percentage with 7.8 percent. Virginia came in third with 5.5 percent, Ontario, Canada, came in fourth with 5.3 percent and Florida came in fifth with 5 percent.

According to the survey, about 95 percent of you are certified and often newly certified. About 19 percent of respondents received their first certification in 2006, and about 70 percent of respondents received their first certification within the past five years.

Because so many of you earned your first certification within the past year, it’s not surprising the average number of certifications you hold fell this year, from 3.29 certs in 2005 to 3.04 in 2006. The largest group of respondents, 27.2 percent, has only one certification, 23.2 percent have two certifications, 15.9 percent have three, 9.7 percent have four and 6.8 percent have five. A little more than 5 percent of respondents hold 10 or more certifications.

According to the survey, 40 percent of you did not add a certification in 2006, while 37.4 percent added just one. Fourteen percent added two certifications in 2006, 4.6 percent added three, 1.8 percent added four and 2.2 percent added five or more certifications in the past year.

Despite the large number of you who didn’t add certifications in 2006, 84 percent plan to add a certification within the next year.

As far as your careers go, the majority of you have been in the IT industry for at least 10 years, with just 3 percent of respondents working in the field for one year or less. Another 14.5 percent of respondents have been in the field between one and five years, 36.5 percent have been at it for six to 10 years and 20.6

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