IT Skills Paying More, but Salaries for Some Certifications Decline

A new report suggests that many non-certified IT skills are enjoying a notable uptick in salaries, even as some IT certifications are seeing a dip in average pay.

How much are your IT skills worth on the open market?

While that depends on any number of factors-for starters, the salary for a particular skillset can vary wildly from company to company-it appears that certain specializations are on the rise when it comes to average pay. At least, that's according to research firm Foote Partners LLC's IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index, updated for the first quarter of 2011.

However, the firm also noted something interesting in its data: Even as salaries for certain non-certified IT skills are on the rise, the pay premiums for certain certifications have hit their lowest point in years.

"Our survey is showing the lowest average pay for an IT certification since our firm began formally surveying and publishing skills pay benchmarks back in 1999," David Foote, Foote Partners' co-founder and CEO, wrote in an introduction to the report. "But we're also at the highest average premium pay for a noncertified skill since September 2001, so this is the largest gap in pay for skills and certifications in ten years."

During the quarter, average premium pay for 252 noncertified skills increased 1.4 percent in value. Meanwhile, pay for 231 individual IT certifications declined some 1.9 percent.

"The fact is that employers still think highly enough of the 231 certifications we do survey to be willing to pay a cash premium to workers who have earned them," Foote added. At the same time, though, "what I think we're seeing is that there are hundreds of skills that may not have certifications that are being valued more highly by employers."

In the Foote Partners' study, non-certified IT skill areas that enjoyed the greatest gains in pay included methodology/process/management (whose skill segments include project management and CRM), systems/networking, messaging and communications, Web/e-commerce, applications development, and operating systems.

Meanwhile, individual IT certifications with notable declines in pay included entry-level and training certifications (including Microsoft Certified Profession and CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer), networking and communications certifications, database certifications, and IT security certifications.

"We believe that ... demand for a variety of skills combinations in a single individual-business, tech, process, subject matter expertise-that has been most responsible for the diminishing value of certifications in the marketplace," Foote wrote. "Growth in the IT workforce is being defined more by the mashup of a wide variety of technical and nontechnical skills than the depth in any one technical element."

IT skills are backstopping jobs in a number of the fastest-growing fields. In a report titled, "Hot Careers For College Graduates 2011: A Special Report for Recent and Mid-Career College Graduates," researchers at the University of California, San Diego cited health care systems support staff, financial investigations and corporate data-mining as job-market hotspots-many of which lean heavily on IT infrastructure.