Salary Survey 2021: Certification keeps skills sharp, adds salary oomph

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This feature first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

Certification can improve or entrench your IT skills and help you increase the size of your paycheck.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 “Elevate social and cultural consciousness by dressing in cerulean body paint and giving voiceless performances onstage,” however — not likely, given the exceedingly low demand at technology firms for qualified members of Blue Man Group — 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 49.4 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 40 percent rely on their certified skills either several times a week (28.9 percent) or several times a month (11.1 percent).

That leaves just 10.6 percent of respondents who reap a direct workplace benefit from certification only occasionally (8.8 percent) or rarely (1.8 percent).

The boon to certification holders isn’t strictly limited to IT skills entrenchment, either. A strong 71.6 percent of those surveyed either agree (43.9 percent) or strongly agree (27.7 percent) that getting certified has increased their ability to solve problems, while 67 percent either agree (41 percent) or strongly agree (26 percent) that getting certified has improved their workplace productivity.

Certification can also make you more attractive to potential employers. More than 77 percent of survey respondents either agree (40.9 percent) or strongly agree (36.9 percent) that they’ve experienced greater demand for their skills since becoming certified.

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. (Incidentally, some survey respondents do indeed have a list of credentials that might even exceed forearm length: 5.7 percent of those surveyed have 16 or more current IT certifications.)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly income for a U.S. “computer occupations” worker, per the most recent data, is $1,696. Among salary survey respondents who hold just one active certification, however, the comparable figure derived from our data for U.S. professionals is $2,105. The comparison isn’t exact, but it does give a sense of the extent to which certification can increase earning power.

Certification can improve or entrench your IT skills and help you increase the size of your paycheck.

Whatever its impact on salary, certification isn’t only about short-term gains. More than 48 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 your 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 (8.3 percent) or disappear (1 percent) over the next five years.

The vast majority of those surveyed, on the other hand, think the glass is half-full: 35.9 percent feel that worth and impact of certifications will remain the same over the next five years, while 54.8 percent predict that certifications will become more valuable and impactful. We like the positive outlook. As legendary jazz pianist and orchestra leader Duke Ellington once said, “Gray skies are just clouds passing over.”

 TABLE TALK Which certifications are on the to-do list of certified professionals?

Certification can improve or entrench your IT skills and help you increase the size of your paycheck.

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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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