Salary Survey 2016: The efficacy and impact of certification

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This feature first appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

Is your IT certification effective?You don’t have to have a certification to work in IT. And not every worker who has a certification is inarguably better equipped to do his or her job than folks with no professional credentials. Unless your job description is literally “Sit down and relax,” however — not likely, given the exceedingly low demand at technology firms for qualified armchair testers — then you are going to need tech skills.

And there does seem to be broad agreement that certification can both teach and sharpen tech skills. A substantial 50.1 percent of all Salary Survey respondents report that they use skills “learned or enhanced through certification” several times a day at their current jobs. A further 37.4 percent rely on their certified skills either several times a week (26. 2 percent) or several times a month (11.2 percent).

That leaves just 12.5 percent of respondents who reap a direct workplace benefit from certification only occasionally (9.3 percent) or rarely (3.2. percent).

The boon to certification holders isn’t strictly limited to IT skills entrenchment, either. There’s an efficacy argument as well. A solid 65.5 percent of those surveyed either agree (42.3 percent) or strongly agree (23.2 percent) that getting certified has increased their ability to solve problems, while 61.8 percent either agree (40.4 percent) or strongly agree (21.4 percent) that getting certified has improved their workplace productivity.

Certification can also make you more attractive to potential employers. More than 75 percent of survey respondents either agree (40.9 percent) or strongly agree (35.5 percent) that they’ve experienced greater demand for their skills since becoming certified.

So what does it take to make some of that magic rub off on your résumé? There’s time, energy and study required, of course — but maybe not at much money as you might think. A little less than 30 percent of Salary Survey respondents did not purchase training and study materials while completing their most recent certification, while 58 percent did not incur any costs from workshops, seminars, or other instructor-led training.

And as illustrated in the pie chart that accompanies this article, while some IT professionals pay the total cost of certification themselves, there are a lot of different sources of financial assistance available. Some of them (namely your employer) may not even require you to kick in out of your own wallet at all.

Certification can have a positive impact on salary, of course — you may have read about that somewhere. As indicated by the annual income figures given at the start of this section, IT is probably a pretty good place to be whether or not you have a list of credentials as long as your forearm. Even having just one certification, however, can make a big difference.

Who paid for your most recent cert?According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly income for a U.S. “information” worker at the end of 2016 was $1,323.96. Among salary survey respondents who hold just one active certification, however, the comparable figure derived from our data is $1,979.74. The comparison isn’t exact, but it does give a sense of the extent to which certification can increase earning power.

Whatever its impact on salary, certification isn’t only about short-term gains. More than 42 percent of those surveyed have been working in a job role that directly utilizes one or more of their certified skills for longer than 10 years. That kind of longevity suggests that earning and maintaining a certification can keep you moving forward in your career perhaps indefinitely.

And while bias is certainly a factor, who better than certified IT professionals to look around at the IT certification landscape and assess its ongoing potential? There are naysayers among the total survey population who think that the overall worth and impact of IT certifications will either diminish (8.8 percent) or disappear (1.3 percent) over the next five years.

The vast majority of those surveyed, on the other hand, think the glass is half-full: 39.5 percent feel that worth and impact of certifications will remain the same over the next five years, while 50.4 percent predict that certifications will become more valuable and impactful. We like the optimism. As Humphrey Bogart once put it, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

 TABLE TALK What are the “hot” certs for 2017? We asked survey respondents to tell us what’s next on their certification radar.

What's next on your IT certification radar?

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CertMag Staff

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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