This feature originally appeared in the Winter 2014 edition of Certification Magazine.
What’s your dream of the good life? For some it means a nice home and a family, a vacation to Disneyland or Yellowstone National Park, and a workshop with one of every power tool, or twin jet skis behind the garage. For others it means a cozy apartment and a bright red Cadillac convertible, season football tickets or a luxury Mediterranean cruise, and an 80-inch PDP TV in the den, or a flashy gaming rig with nothing on it but the complete release history of Grand Theft Auto or Halo.
For almost everyone, the key to those desires is regular employment and a good salary — two things that haven’t exactly been easy to find in the jumpy aftermath of the Great Recession, with the world economy gradually getting back up to speed. For many in the IT world, certification is a dividing line, a boundary that separates the advanced from the adequate. Your certification says, “I have valuable, verified IT skills and I worked hard to get them.” And your employer recognizes that exceptional effort with exceptional pay.
That’s how it’s supposed to work, at any rate. In practice, compensation hasn’t kept pace with certification, or at least not reliably. Prior to 2013, the last time that extra pay for certifications rose in consecutive quarters was 2006. According to IT salary research firm Foote Partners, the third quarter of 2013 saw average certification bonuses rise by 1.5 percent, which is roughly comparable to second-quarter increases. It’s the first time in seven years that gains in cert-connected bonus pay have followed up gains in cert-connected bonus pay from one quarter to the next, and the biggest single-quarter increase since 2005.
That’s good news for IT certifications in general, and a nice table-setter for Certification Magazine to present our own salary findings. Last fall we conducted our first salary survey since 2009, drawing more than 17,000 responses from IT professionals in 33 different countries around the globe, from Mexico to Mauritius, from Saudi Arabia to Sweden.
One thing our survey revealed is a fair amount of salary stability. Despite lingering economic challenges in many sectors of the workforce, fewer than 12 percent of those surveyed saw their pay cut in 2013, and fewer than 8 percent are anticipating a pay cut in 2014. And on the bright side, 54 percent of those surveyed reported receiving at least a modest raise (10 percent or less), while 12 percent saw their compensation increased substantially (more than 10 percent).
And while IT professionals continue to be in demand — various reporting agencies disagree as to whether that demand is picking up or tapering off — our survey did reveal a degree of unemployment. While 88 percent of those surveyed have full-time jobs, 8 percent are out of work. (The remaining 4 percent are students or part-time employees.)
Certification is often a career-long pursuit, and our survey found that most IT professionals are actively engaged in building their resumes. Exactly 80 percent of those surveyed added at least one new certification to their IT portfolio in 2013, with an impressive 22 percent adding four or more. Providing more evidence that certification is an ongoing concern for most professionals, nearly 90 percent of those surveyed plan to add at least one new certification in 2014.
There’s no doubt about it: Certification takes commitment. We didn’t even ask about that in our survey. Chances are that if IT certification is on your resume, then it’s in your blood as well. Some of you may simply enjoy the challenge of figuring out new technology. Some of you were probably the kid in high school who spent every free hour in the computer lab, or built the desktop rig in your bedroom at home. Maybe you just have a deep desire to be more certified than the next IT pro.
Whatever it is that drives you, certification has rewards in store for everyone. There’s quite a bit more data to report, so you may want to grab a soda or find a comfortable place to sit before diving deeper into our findings. Or just keep right on going. What can certification do for you? We think we’ve found some very cool answers.
The rest of our report is broken down into the following sections:
DOLLARS & CENTS What are IT pros making?
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?