IT certification pay continues to drop - but some faster than others

* Database, networking certified skills among those dropping in value

It's been well-known for some time that IT certifications are becoming less useful when it comes to raising your salary. Some certifications are dropping in value much more quickly than others, though.

It's been well-known for some time that IT certifications are becoming less useful when it comes to raising your salary.

Some certifications are dropping in value much more quickly than others, though, reveals a new report from the Foote Partners

The value of certifications related to applications development and programming languages has dropped 11.9% over the past two years. Database certifications dropped 10.2%, while a drop in value of more than 9% was seen for Web development, and systems administration and engineering.

Networking certifications dropped in value by 8.3%, while project management and architecture fell 6.1%. All in all it was a bleak picture for IT certifications. Overall, the value of 164 IT certifications measured by Foote dropped 4.9% the past two years and 1.6% in the six-month period ending April 1.

“In general, when you talk to people who are hiring IT workers, they don’t mention technology as the first, second or even the third most important thing,” says David Foote, co-founder, CEO and chief research officer. Knowledge of Oracle’s database used to be the key to getting many jobs. Now, companies want experience in specific vertical industries as well as technical skills, Foote says.

The biggest decline was seen in beginner-level certifications, the value of which dropped 16% over the last two years, according to Foote’s research. Companies tend to pay extra for employees with intermediate and advanced skills but not for those trained only on beginner courses, Foote says.

Foote’s survey of 78,000 employees focuses both on salaries and the average value of a particular skill or certification, paid to employees as bonuses or salary adjustments. Foote normalizes the skill and cert pay as a percentage of salary for the purposes of its reports. Let’s say a particular skill or certification is worth a 10% boost in pay over a comparable person who lacks that skill. If, six months later, that same skill is worth a 15% boost in salary, then the value of that skill has increased 50%. That’s what Foote measures.

Some certifications are bucking the trend and rising in value. IT security certifications rose 3.1% in value over the past two years and 1.2% in value in the last six months. Certain types of security skills are seeing dramatic growth. A 27% rise in value was measured for the Certified Information Security Manager designation, just in the past six months. In second place with a 25% rise in the last six months was the GIAC Security Expert cert.

Security experts are in a good position because companies are worried about the risk of data breaches following numerous high-profile leaks of customer information. Relatively new regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley are making skills in governance, risk management and compliance more valuable as well (Compare Network Auditing and Compliance products). “Regulation alone is never going to keep any kind of skill high,” Foote says. “[But pay] will be high until people feel they have met the basic compliance requirements.”

In addition to tracking 164 IT certifications, Foote monitors the value of 166 noncertified IT skills. The value of noncertified skills surpassed the value of certifications last year, and continues to rise, another 2% in the last six months.

The value of SAP skills has risen dramatically, as Network World’s Amy Schurr notes in a recent newsletter.

Other noncertified skills on the rise include network security management, up 25% in the last six months and 37% in the last year; wireless network management, up 22.2% in the last six months; and business intelligence and PHP, both up 20% in the last six months.

Interestingly, some noncertified skills rose in value while their certified counterparts declined. While the value of database certifications dropped, the value of noncertified database skills rose 9% in the last two years. Noncertified network skills rose 8.1%. Noncertified skills in enterprise business applications are highly prized, having risen 25.8% in value over the past two years.

I’m likely to write more on the value of skills and certifications in future newsletters and would like to hear from you. What types of questions do you want to see answered? Are there any certifications or skills that have greatly helped or hindered your career advancement? What about Windows Vista certifications, are they worth getting? Post a comment below or send me an e-mail.

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