This feature originally appeared in the Winter 2014 edition of Certification Magazine.
Let’s talk about the most important part of the salary survey: salary. In a world where just about everything involves technology — whether it’s ranchers using wireless transmitters to remotely herd cattle, or a toddler playing Temple Run on her parents’ tablet — IT professionals are in demand everywhere. Employers have money to spend on skilled tech workers, and there’s an excellent chance you’ll get more of that money if you have a certification that verifies your abilities.
It’s hard to quantify exactly what portion of an individual’s salary is directly attributable to certification, but we can make at least one strong correlation: Roughly 90 percent of those who participated in the salary survey hold one or more active certifications. So whether its impact is large or small, certification is a factor in what most of you are being paid. As we comb through the numbers, please remember that all salary amounts are given in U.S. dollars, meaning that some of you had to do a little math before reporting your income. Let’s begin by hopping in our salary survey time machine to go back to 2012.
In keeping with past salary surveys, there was a small crowd at the bottom of the ladder, where 15 percent of those who had an income in 2012 made less than $20,000. Moving up a few rungs, we found 18 percent of respondents in moderately better shape, landing somewhere between $20,000 and $45,000. And roughly 17 percent of those who had an income checked in between $45,000 and $70,000, putting a neat dividing line at $70,000 base salary — half of those surveyed came in below that figure in 2012, and the other half landed above it.
Moving up the ladder — still in 2012 — 18 percent of those surveyed landed between $70,000 and $100,000, while 30 percent checked in between $100,000 and $200,000. At the top of the heap, we found a 2 percent sliver whose 2012 base salary was more than $200,000.
Now let’s see how that compares to 2013. The group at the bottom is smaller, with only 12 percent of those who had an income in 2013 landing below $20,000. A fair number of those who moved up from that realm in 2013, appear to have landed in the next income bracket, which found roughly 20 percent of respondents reporting a base salary of between $20,000 and $45,000, up from 18 percent in 2012. With 16 percent of respondents pegging their 2013 base salary between $45,000 and $70,000, we find that a lucky 2 percent of those surveyed moved above the 2012 dividing line of $70,000. In 2013, only 48 percent of those surveyed had a base salary below $70,000, while 52 percent came in above it.
Among the 52 percent of IT professionals making more than $70,000 in 2013 base salary, 18 percent landed between $70,000 and $100,000, while 28 percent checked in between $100,000 and $200,000. The group at the top, meanwhile, grew notably, with 6 percent of those surveyed reporting a 2013 base salary of more than $200,000, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year.
For comparison’s sake, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income in the United State in each of the last two years for which statistics are available, 2011 and 2012, was a shade more than $51,000. With 62 percent of salary survey respondents making at least $55,000 in base salary each of the last two years, it’s clear that IT is a pretty good place to be.
Bonuses and incentives are often linked to certification, and a fair number of respondents made a mark in that department. In 2013, 45 percent of respondents got bonus or incentive pay, up from 41 percent in 2012. The golden question, of course, is whether certification helps the average IT professional get an increase in salary.
Almost exactly 80 percent of salary survey respondents earned at least one new certification in the past year. Quite a few of those we surveyed — 66 percent — also got a raise in 2013. The salary bump was minimal for most —
roughly two-thirds of those who got a raise saw their pay increase by no more than 5 percent. About a fifth of all those who got a raise logged a pay increase of somewhere between 6 percent and 14 percent. At the top of the pile, a select group of a little less than one-fifth of all those to get a raise saw they pay jump by 15 percent or better.
Certification can also play a role in getting promoted, and the salary survey provides some evidence of that effect as well. Roughly 22 percent of respondents report receiving a promotion in the first year after their most recent certification, and about half of those promoted believe that certification played a role in receiving that promotion.
The bottom line seems to be that quite a few people in IT made at least little bit more money in 2013 than in 2012. And many of those we surveyed are convinced that certification was a difference maker.
Money for Something
What are the best-salaried certs? There’s not a one-to-one correlation. Many IT professionals have more than one certification, so there’s not always a clear line to be drawn in terms of which cert is influencing earning power the most. And certification is far from the only factor taken into account when hiring.
Experience and education, for example, are two of the biggest determiners in hiring and salary. Certification shows a commitment to ongoing education and usually reflects some level of work experience, but it generally doesn’t carry nearly as much weight as either of those factors by itself. So it’s hard to say definitively that any IT worker who has certification X will automatically make Y salary.
People do make lists, on the other hand, and in that spirit, the following are the top 10 highest-paying certs, ranked by average annual salary of the certification holder, as listed in the 2013 IT Skills & Salary Report compiled by Global Knowledge and Microsoft.
1) Project Management Professional (PMP) by Project Management Institute — $105,750
2) Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) by (ISC)2 — $103,299
3) Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) by Microsoft — $97,849
4) Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) by Microsoft — $95,950
5) Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) by Cisco — $94,799
6) Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) by Microsoft — $93,349
7) VMware Certified Professional (VCP) by VMware — $92,400
8) Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) by Novell — $91,350
9) ITIL v3 Foundation by ITIL — $90,900
10) Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) Database Administrator 2008 by Microsoft — $90,200
The rest of our report is broken down into the following sections:
INTRODUCTION What’s going on here?
WORKPLACE Where do IT pros go to work?
CERTIFICATION How do IT pros get certified?
DEMOGRAPHICS Who did we survey to find out all this stuff?