Pay for non-certified IT skills grew 8 percent in 2006, while pay for certified skills showed flat growth, according to the most recent edition of the Hot Technical Skills and Certification Pay Index released Feb. 12 by New Canaan, Conn., IT workforce research firm Foote Partners.
"Though there was an increase in certified pay in the beginning of 2006, what we find interesting is that in the last six months, theres been a decrease in certification pay," David Foote, CEO and chief research officer of Foote Partners, told eWEEK.
In researching 143 leading IT certifications, the report found that they finished 2006 with a 0.1 percent loss in value, after losing 2 percent of their value in the last six months of 2006. Meanwhile, pay for 127 certified skills gained nearly 8 percent.
"This is obviously a disturbing trend for both independent training companies that focus on certification test preparation and the many vendors who rely on certifications to help maintain a foothold on IT departments for their products," said Foote.
Fifty-two percent of the 60,000 IT professionals surveyed for the report received some form of tech skills pay as part of their overall compensation, the highest in the seven-year tracking history of the report.
Among non-certified IT skills, professionals with SAP specialization raked it in 2006, their salaries increasing 15.2 percent. Other big gainers included Web and e-commerce development, gaining 10.5 percent and messaging, e-mail and group ware and application development platforms, both increasing their base pay by 7.3 percent.
Over the previous two years, average certification pay grew 3.2 percent, while pay for non-certified IT skills grew 13.3 percent. However, one group of certifications—those focused on Web development—showed growth.
Novells CIP (Certified Internet Professional) and Prosoft Master CIW Administrator accounted for 8 percent of the base salaries of these IT professionals, the report found.
Furthermore, gold-standard certifications such as PMP (Project Management Professional), CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) and CISSP (Certified Information System Security Professional) continue to be highly valued by employers, rewarding certificate-holders with pay premiums of worth 10 to 16 percent of their base pay.
Other exceptions to the loss of salary value of IT certifications were consultants, as many companies still expected to see a level of certification in the talent assigned by outsourcers.
"But even there, IT vendors are more apt to develop their own skill certification standards instead of using third party certifications," said Foote.
"For example, Microsoft does not generally accept its own publicly available certifications as sufficient skills standards for its workforce. Other global IT consulting firms report to us that they will stock client teams with consultants who have earned popular certifications to the extent that client expectations dictate."
As in prior releases, the report finds that IT job titles rarely match up with the actual on-the-job responsibilities of IT professionals. Since salaries are generally tied to job titles, workers often end up feeling underpaid, lowering morale.
"When IT professionals are underpaid, there is tension and resentment, and theyre ripe for the picking by recruiters," said Foote.