IT certifications no longer sure path to premium pay

Pay hikes from IT certifications hit an all-time low -- you're better off knowing your way around big data and the cloud

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Similarly, "data architects who may have traditional programming background but are also well versed in statistics and data management" and "find new ways to harness data to meet business needs" are in high demand.

There are now 30 or 40 cloud certifications in place or on the horizon, and it will take some time to know if they are rewarded with significant premium pay, says Foote. Although there's not a lot of data yet, cloud-related skills that are gaining value and earning well above-average premiums include Java SE/Java EE programming, and experience with VMware vCloud, EMC Cloud, or HP Cloud.

In big data, pay and demand for noncertified database skills performed the strongest in 2012, gaining 14.8 percent in value overall. Big gains were also seen by those with big data analytics, Hadoop, and Cassandra experience.

Where the jobs are
The IT job market was quite volatile in the last half of 2012, but overall the picture was very good. For the full year, there was a net gain of 113,300 IT jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Foote and other analysts are often critical of how the BLS tracks IT jobs, and some of the categories are not well-defined.

That said, the hottest segment was the one called Management and Technical Consulting Services, which gained 5,800 jobs in December, for a yearly total of 56,700 new jobs in 2012. Computer systems design/related services added 5,600 jobs in December and 74,900 for the year.

Those gains were partially offset by losses in several other BLS-defined segments, which showed a job loss of 18,300 jobs, nearly all coming from telecommunications employers. Even that bad news had a bit of a silver lining; most of the losses came in the first half of the year, leading Foote to think the telecommunications segment may have reached a bottom.

"For IT professionals 2012 certainly ended on a good note, with December exceeding the monthly average for the entire year," says Foote. "In fact, average job growth in the last three months of 2012 by nearly 350 jobs per month. That may seem like a small margin, but there is momentum attached to it, and that's a really good sign of things to come in the next few months."

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