Skills that help bump up your salary

* Latest Foote Partners pay index report

Employers are rewarding IT workers with specific skills by bumping up their base salaries with skills pay, even though those skills may not be certified.

According to the latest skills pay survey from Foote Partners, just over half (51%) of the 54,000 IT workers surveyed said they are receiving some form of additional pay for individual certifications and skills.

"Pay for IT skills without certifications is growing in value at an annual rate of between 70% and 80% greater than that of certified skills," says David Foote, CEO and chief research officer of Foote Partners, in his notes about the researcher's Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index for the second quarter of 2006.

Pay tied to the 120 non-certified skills tracked by Foote Partners grew an average 5.3% in value for the six months ending July 1, more than three times the growth rate of the 122 certified skills surveyed, which saw a 1.7% growth for the same period. Annual pay growth for non-certified skills rose 6.6% vs. 3.7% for certified skills, according to the research.

"Employers are not placing the same emphasis on certifications that they once did. Perhaps more to the point, they are finding other qualities of IT professionals more critical to their business going forward and they are willing to pay more for those," Foote, says, adding that those qualities could be expertise in technical, business and process skills most critical to the employer's business.

In the networking and communications category, pay for non-certified skills increased 3.2% for the year, and 2.5% for the first six months of 2006. Foote cites solid performing networking skills as storage-area networking, RFID, VoIP and routing.

The survey is not bad news for IT pros studying for certifications though as the annual growth rate for certified skills pay grew 3.7%, to average 8.3% of base pay for a single skill. However, the growth rate is 3.5% lower over the past year compared to non-certified skills. "If the current trend continues for the next few years, the gap between what an employer is willing to pay for workers with certified skills vs. those without certification will narrow to near-parity," says the research firm.

The best-performing certified skills category is security, which saw a 4.5% growth in value over the past year, and a 2.2% growth for the first half of 2006. The usual suspects of security certifications that were cited as strong performing certs include Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Information Systems Auditor, and Cisco Certified Security Professional.

Certified networking skills didn't fare so well in this survey as it lost 1% of their average value over the past six months, while certifications for systems administration and engineering/network operating systems rose 1.8% on average for the same period. The survey found that certifications from Cisco, Citrix, Planet3, Red Hat, HP and the Storage Networking Industry Association garnered their certification holders a bump in salary.

The research firm says rather than solely seeking out individuals with technical certifications, employers are keen to attract IT execs who have industry- and solution-specific experience, as well as the tech skills mastery. "Skills pay is being used to both attract and retain the required talent, with skills premium now more often being rolled right into base salary as an adjustment to bring individuals up to (or beyond) market pay benchmarks," says the research firm.

A summary of the report, with tables and graphs, is here (PDF).

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in