Dear CertMag: Why didn’t I get a raise?

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 Dear CertMag  is a weekly feature that addresses common questions about certification and related IT issues. Have a question? Send an e-mail to editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

Dear CertMag: I have a stable job at a large regional hospital managing payment processing. I’ve been in my current position for five years, but my salary has been fairly flat. Last summer, I completed a long process to get an RHIA certification. I learned a lot and I feel like my job performance improved steadily, if incrementally over a couple of years while I was completing the required prerequisites and getting my cert. But at my last annual review, all that really came of it was an enthusiastic pat on the back. No salary bump. I was never promised anything, but I’m frankly feeling a little burned. What do I do from here?

Susan Brandon, Los Angeles, CA

Boss talkCertMag responds:

As frustrating as this situation can be, it is an all-too-familiar experience for many of us! One of the key things that I suggest people do when considering a certification is find out what the organizational support for the credential is. Sometimes, you may find after hours and hours of sweat and stress, that you receive little more than a congratulatory email at first.

I would ask, “Why did you get the credential?” Was it for yourself? Will the credential help you have a “leg up” in the next promotion cycle? Are there others who have the credential?

In healthcare, my experience is that there is a dynamic where the provider certifications are seen as essential to the base function. That is, you don’t get a raise and a bump and whatever else just because you are a registered nurse who gets XYZ certification. Often you get that cert because you NEED to have it to bill for certain procedures, or to be able to fulfill what the hospital/clinic/etc. is paying you to do in the first place. The mindset sometimes translates to IT (not always, but sometimes) where you certify what you are doing, and it is lost on those reviewing the employee that an RHIA or similar is not merely a “base capability” cert but is an “extra.”

Have you done any work to help the organization understand how the RHIA saves them money, improves service in the organization, or otherwise has a monetary impact that could drive them to compensate you in a different way?

How is your risk tolerance? Would you consider making a move to another organization that might recognize the value of the credential at a higher level? Are you comfortable getting an offer elsewhere and seeing if your organization is willing to match that offer?

You know far more than I do about your organization’s dynamics, and willingness to compete to hold on to existing talent versus going into the marketplace. Is your employer willing to incur the expense of recruiting, hiring and onboarding a new person, as well as the productivity loss until that person is comfortable in the role? For some organizations, this discussion can be had, for others, it will simply not drive the compensation discussion because of larger strategic programs to limit cost/raises, et al.

In the end, you may reach a point where the only way to expand the value of your RHIA is to seek an organization willing to compensate you for it. In order for that to be effective, you will need to be able to express in your resume, your interviews, and so forth, how you are a better candidate than others, and why a prospective employer should consider your certification as part of your total package of experience and qualifications.

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Wayne Anderson


Wayne Anderson (@NoCo_Architect) is a Service Management Architect with Avanade, a company that helps customers realize results in a digital world through business technology solutions and managed services that combine insight, innovation and expertise focused on Microsoft® technologies. He holds the Certified IT Architect – Professional credential from IASA and has completed more than 30 Microsoft certifications in his career alongside credentials from CompTIA and other industry vendors.

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