Salary Survey 2020: IT certification loses some salary sizzle

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This feature first appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

The bloom is off the IT salary rose in 2020, both in the United States and elsewhere around the world.Near the end of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers, as Frodo and Sam creep closer to Mordor with the crushing dark magic of the One Ring slowly but certainly eroding Frodo’s resilient will, the two friends discover a defiled statue at an ancient crossroads. Frodo takes heart when a chance ray of the setting sun briefly reveals that the discarded and forgotten head of the statue has been “recrowned” by the green leaves and tiny flowers of a sprig of hardy stonecrop.

Sometimes you have to tune out the urgent clamor of life’s problems and focus on small victories. Problems may be on the minds of many in IT given that, for the second year in a row (at least in the United States), salaries are trending sharply down. IT workers are still benefitting from high salaries, to be sure, but the numbers don’t look as gaudy as they did a few years ago. It’s not a positive development for tech recruiters focused on capturing the attention of IT’s next generation.

In the United States, the average annual salary for certified IT professionals dipped by 4 percent in 2019, a year after taking a 7 percent nosedive. That’s a soft landing, however, compared to the situation abroad. After hitting a six-year peak in 2018, the average annual salary of certified IT professionals in non-U.S. countries came crashing back to earth last year, roller-coastering into a breathtaking 20 percent slump.

The good news is that while many certified IT professionals may be getting smaller paychecks, most of them still are getting paychecks. Of the more than 5,000 certified IT professionals who responded to this year’s survey, 93.6 percent are employed full-time, versus just 1.5 percent who don’t presently hold employment of any kind. (Part-time employment, sabbaticals, retirement, and school enrollment accounts for the rest of our IT crowd.)

Salary trends come and go in the IT certification world.Those numbers aren’t as rosy as they were a year ago, when 94.7 percent of respondents claimed full-time employment, including 95.2 percent in the United States and 94.2 percent in all non-U.S. countries. This time around, full-time employment is at 92.3 percent among U.S. survey respondents, and 95.2 percent elsewhere in the world.

Despite the falloff, it’s clear that plenty of employers still have a healthy interest in hiring and retaining skilled tech workers. The boom in data storage and analysis, the urgent and ever-present need to secure and protect sensitive information, and exploding demand for connectivity and IT infrastructure are just some of the pressing reasons why the world needs more certified professionals.

Steady demand for IT professionals also manifested in other survey readings. A healthy 51.1 percent of those surveyed got some level of bonus or incentive pay in 2019, while 70 percent of those surveyed got a raise. (A bit more than 40 percent double-dipped at the well of prosperity, both getting a raise and taking home bonus or incentive pay.) That’s compared to just 5.6 percent who took a pay cut.

If you’re of a mind to worry, then it’s worth noting that all three readings fell off a bit from where they were a year ago. In 2018, 71.2 percent of survey respondents got a raise, while 55.1 percent were given bonuses or incentive pay. There was also a minor uptick in pay cuts which nicked just 4.5 percent of those surveyed in 2018. It could be a largely meaningless hiccup — or it could be a sign of stormy weather to come.

One other item of interest: Bonuses and incentive pay were a bit more common in 2019 among U.S. tech workers than among their peers in other countries — about 52 percent of U.S. respondents were given additional compensation, compared to just 50 percent in non-U.S. countries. Pay raises were also more common among U.S. workers, with about 72 percent getting a salary bump, compared to just 68 percent among workers from all other countries.

Even with all of those generally positive indicators, however, there are some certified IT professionals who want more. A solid 67.6 percent of all survey respondents are either completely satisfied (6 percent), very satisfied (16.9 percent), or satisfied (41.4 percent) with their current salary. On the other hand, 27.2 percent of all respondents are not very satisfied with their current salary, while 8.5 percent are not at all satisfied.

There’s much more to tell than we have room for in print, and we’re not stopping here. Keep your eyes glued to CertMag.com in the months ahead, and we’ll check in there with new survey data every week.

 TABLE TALK Compensation rises for some certifications faster than others.

Pay for certain certs is shooting up.

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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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