IT Pros Must Go Beyond Certification, Expert Says

Although the overall pay for IT practitioners who have earned professional credentials is increasing at a faster rate than income of non-certified IT workers, individuals in the former group should not rely solely on their certifications to distinguish themselves in the employment market, said David Foote, president and chief research officer of research firm Foote Partners. The organization just released its quarterly Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index, a report that examines compensation trends for 170 IT niches based on input from approximately 48,000 IT professionals.


According to the most recent Foote Partners’ report on IT professionals’ pay, income for certified skills rose 6 percent in the first quarter of 2005, bringing yearly gains in this category up to 4 percent. Earnings for all non-certified skills grew by 2.8 percent, and posted a 12-month increase of 3.6 percent. While this demonstrates that certified IT professionals can expect larger gains in pay, Foote said that many job candidates sell themselves too much on their certifications.


“There are more important things than certification,” Foote said. “When companies look at skills, they’re looking at other factors as well. (Employers) want to know a lot more about the industry experience and knowledge they have of products.”


Experience in and of itself is not enough either, he added. Many companies are looking for IT professionals that have experience in a particular business sector or with a certain solutions. “They’ll really drill down,” Foote said. “Sometimes they want to know if they’ve worked in particular solutions like patient record systems in health care, or bond- or stock-trading systems in financial services. They’re risk-averse; they want people who’ve worked with these applications, because more and more of these jobs are about understanding what business is like within those industries. It’s tougher now for an IT professional to operate without some kind of umbilical cord to the customer or the market.”


Part of the problem lies with the certification programs themselves, he said. Many IT credentials have gotten so deeply technical that they’ve completely neglected areas like soft skills, and Foote cited information security certifications in general as one group that needed to incorporate other components. “Do they understand the political minefield of doing security?” he said of security certification candidates. “When you look at the risks that you’ve got for breaches, it’s not so much people from the outside. It’s people inside doing dumb things.”


Foote applauded the efforts on the part of organizations like Microsoft, which started including soft skills elements in their certifications a couple of years ago. “They saw that a good certification had to go beyond just the technical skills.”


For more information, see http://www.footepartners.com.

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