Does certification hurt your salary?

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that according to RedmondMag's annual salary survey, uncertified individuals have an average salary of $84,839 while their Microsoft certified counterparts have an average salary of $77,244.  This unexpected statistic generated several comments and questions, so today I want to drill down a little deeper on this topic.

First of all, it's more than just a statistical anomaly, because this is the fifth straight year that RedmondMag has noted this salary discrepancy between non-certified and certified.  In my opinion, there are two reasons for this discrepancy.

The first reason is that certification has been popular for only the last 15 years, and people in I.T. with more than 15 years experience are often not certified and these same people have typically advanced to manager/director/project lead/architect/CIO positions, which typically command a higher salary than a technician.

The second reason is mostly due to where the Microsoft fits into the Technology stack within the typical I.T. department.   For example, Windows desktop support and I.T. Service Desk are typically the entry level in an I.T. Department.  One step above that is Windows Systems Administration (server side).  Most other types of support staff found in the typical I.T. department, such as Unix Administrators and Network Engineers, are more highly paid than their Windows counterparts.   That's due mostly to supply and demand.

The supply of Windows support staff is always going to be greater, because of Microsoft's market share, and because a GUI interface is easier to learn than a non-GUI interface.    So many of the "non-certified" people in the salary survey that had higher salaries were individuals with different (non-Microsoft) skill sets.  Certification is not as popular in some high paying non-Microsoft technologies, such as open source application development (Java, PHP, XML, Ajax, etc.) and ERP application development.

If you have a Microsoft skill set, certification can definitely help you in the following ways:

  1. It can help you find a job, since many employers require certification (especially at the entry level).
  2. It can help you retain your job, since some employers, such as VAR's and channel partners, are required to keep a certain number of certified individuals on staff in order to maintain their good standing as a channel partner.
  3. An advanced certification, such as MCSE, MCAD, MCT, or one of the MCA (architect) certifications, can help you advance to a mid-level  or senior level position (and corresponding salary increase).
  4. Certification demonstrates your ongoing commitment to learning and keeping up with technology

So does achieving Microsoft certification hurt your salary?

Absolutely Not.

Does choosing a Microsoft-centric career hurt your long term earning power?

Possibly, unless you are also committed to diversify (see previous blog regarding that topic).


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