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Study: Non-certified IT worker pay gaining ground

Apr 27, 20064 mins
Data CenterIT Leadership

Eighteen months ago, if a worker was seeking a specialized IT job, critical job-related certifications were probably needed just to get in the door of a prospective employer.

That’s not necessarily true now, according to a study released this week on IT pay and hiring, by management consultancy and IT workforce research firm Foote Partners of New Canaan, Conn.

The Q1 2006 Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index found that the growth in pay for non-certified skills was three times the growth of pay for certified skills in the last six months — and 68% higher than one year ago. “This is unprecedented since our firm began surveying tech skills pay in 2000,” David Foote, president and chief research officer of Foote Partners said in a statement.

The data, compiled from responses by 52,000 IT professionals in 1,820 North American companies, signals a shift in employers’ acceptance of the value of workers who lack certifications in key IT positions, according to the study.

For the last six months, premium pay for 103 non-certified skills surveyed averaged 7.1% of base salary, up from 6.8% for the same period a year earlier and 6.6% in 2004. Those numbers are down from the late 1990s during the Internet boom years, when skills without certification averaged more than 10% according to previous studies. “They were hammered during the recession, losing about a third of their value as a whole while pay for IT certifications held remarkably steady in our survey, with no worse than a 10% to 11% dip from 2001 to 2004,” Foote said.

Back then, employers demanded worker skills certifications as a way of resisting pressure from CFOs to cut budgets and reduce overhead, while helping companies to retain trained workers. “But that resistance has virtually evaporated,” he said. “Now employers are on the hunt for IT professionals with demonstrated expertise in specific technical skills, and whether or not a certification has been earned may be inconsequential when that person also has experience in their industry or with their type of customer. The irony of this new development is that so many exceptionally talented but certification-less workers caught in workforce reductions during the recession couldn’t even get job interviews because of resume-scanning software that filtered out resumes without specific certification identifiers. I think a lot of employers are kicking themselves for not having hired this type of worker when their prices were lower, or for firing them in the first place.”

According to the study, overall average pay for 103 non-certified skills surveyed grew 4.4% for the year ending April 1. That compares favorably to the past six years of a down IT economy, when the average pay for a technical skill without formal certification declined 30%.

Foote could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

The latest data shows that for the first time since Foote’s maiden quarterly study in 2000 there is positive annual growth for every category of non-certified skills tracked.

The non-certified tech skills that have been gaining ground over the last year include operating systems; applications development tools and languages; networking/Internetworking; Web/e-commerce development; and enterprise applications development.

Other hot non-certified skills include Active Server Pages, Java/J2EE, JBoss applications server, Linux, MySQL, RAD/Extreme Programming, Visual Basic, Microsoft .Net, Visual J++, IBM WebSphere and WML.

Non-certified skills that have been losing their value in the last year include Baan, Lawson, Lotus Notes/Domino, Siebel and voice over Internet Protocol, according to the study.

For certified technical skills, overall average pay for 109 IT certifications surveyed grew 2.6% for the year ending April 1. That means that while pay has grown faster in recent months for non-certified skills, workers with certified skills still earn more than uncertified workers, according to the study. The data shows a 4% growth overall in certified skills values between 2000 and 2006, compared to a 30% decline for non-certified technical skills pay. But if the current trend continues for the next few years, the gap between what an employer will pay for workers with certified skills versus those without certification will narrow considerably, according to the study.

The tech skills certifications that have been growing in value in the last year include applications development/programming languages; project management; training/general; Webmaster/Internet; and security.

Other hot skills certifications include Security Certified Network Professional, Certified Information Security Manager, Cisco Certified Security Professional, IBM Certified Solutions Developer: WebSphere, HP/Compaq Master Accredited Systems Engineer, Sun Certified Programmer for Java 2 Platform, Check Point Certified Security Administrator, Microsoft Certified Applications Developer and Cisco Wireless LAN Support Specialist.

The following certifications have been losing value in the last 12 months: Citrix Certified Administrator, Cisco Certified Network Professional, Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician, Novell Certified Directory Engineer, Novell Master Certified Network Engineer, Novell Certified Network Administrator, SANS/GIAC Firewall Analyst, Certified Information Systems Auditor and IBM DB2 Universal Database Certified Solutions Expert.


Todd R. Weiss is an award-winning technology journalist and freelance writer who worked as a staff reporter for Computerworld from 2000 to 2008. Weiss covers enterprise IT from cloud computing to Hadoop to virtualization, enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM and BI, Linux and open source, and more. He spends his spare time working on a book about an unheralded member of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and watching classic Humphrey Bogart movies.

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