Salary Survey Extra: Does having more certs = getting more salary?

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

If you earn more certs will are you likely to have a bigger salary?Some might say that having more is always better. More mashed potatoes, more channels to choose from, more points than the other team, more fresh, deep powder when you’re just gliding off the lift at 8 a.m. on a cold, clear Saturday morning. Outdoor adventure retailer REI used to advertise to Christmas shoppers that, “Your loved one can never have too much gear.”

As a corollary, it’s often put forth that having more of one thing leads to getting more of something else. Get more sleep and you’ll have better health. Get more leads and you’ll have better sales numbers. Eat more cake and you’ll have a bigger waistline. (That’s what you’re after, right? We saw you reaching for that second piece of cake and just assumed.)

What about more certs? There are probably quite a few people for whom one or two IT certifications is an elegant sufficiency of professional credentials. On the other hand, if getting one cert means that you’re likely to be better paid, then does getting more certs just continue to push the salary number higher? And is there an upper limit where it’s no longer helpful to earn more certs?

Nearly 75 percent of the more than 4,000 respondents to our 2018 Salary Survey have five or fewer active certifications. To reiterate, most of the people we heard from have either one (19.7 percent of survey respondents), two (19.9 percent), three (14.7 percent), four (11 percent), or five (9 percent) active credentials.

There’s a comparative trickle of respondents thereafter, with small numbers of folks who have six (7 percent of respondents), seven (3.7 percent), eight (2.2 percent), nine (1.7 percent), 10 (3.6 percent), 11 (0.5 percent), 12 (1 percent), 13 (0.5 percent), 14 (0.7 percent), or 15 (0.4 percent) active IT certifications.

At the very end of the line, however, you can indicate whether you have 16 or more active IT certifications. Think about that: 16 active certifications … or some number that’s more than 16. And in that group, we have 4.2 percent of all survey respondents. You guys are hardcore. We salute you.

We covered some of that ground in the January issue of Certification Magazine, albeit with fewer details. Here’s what we didn’t cover at the time, and what we’re curious about today. Does having a lot of certifications mean that you also earn a lot of money? Is there any degree of correlation? This is what turned up when we crunched the numbers:

Total Number of CertificationsAverage Annual Salary (U.S.)Average Annual Salary (Non-U.S.)
1$108,110$43,530
2$114,700$44,780
3$114,580$52,400
4$112,500$57,620
5$123,500$55,600
6$106,180$72,610
7$127,730$65,403
8$124,730$61,500
9$104,260$60,430
10$133,030$62,650
11N/AN/A
12$119,820N/A
13N/AN/A
14N/AN/A
15N/AN/A
16 or more$133,130$69,080

2017 Salary Data

Taking a broad view, there is a general upward trend in salary, it would seem, that corresponds to the increase in number of active IT certifications held. The trend is much more pronounced overseas than inside the United States, though there’s some evidence for it among U.S. IT professionals as well.

On the other hand, if you’re on a career path that draws heavily on one or two key certifications, and doesn’t require constant renewal of any others, then you can probably still do just fine for yourself. At the bottom of the table, where a large range of certifications is represented by a single data point, there is a strong spike in salary for U.S. professionals.

Deeper down the chart, of course, we ran into the expected problem of not having enough individual respondents who hold a certain specific number of certs to create a reliable average.

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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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