Surprise! Certified IT jobs are paying less

Tech employment is on the rise, but the traditional premiums paid to certified techies has reached a 12-year low

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But declines were much more common, with the worst hit being jobs with entry-level and training certs. For these, premium pay (a bonus or extra money for skills that may be embedded in salary) was down 6.4 percent since the previous quarter. Pay for those with Web development certs was off 5.3 percent in the same period. By contrast, pay for operating systems skills, a noncertified category, increased by 9.4 percent in the quarter.

Longer term (as of May 2011), the average premium pay for IT certifications has dropped 4.6 percent over the past two years. Certifications that fall under the category of "beginner and training" have seen the biggest drop in that period: 32 percent. IT pros with certifications in networking and communication have seen the second-most significant decrease, at 10.4 percent. Pay premiums for database certifications have dropped 6.4 percent over the past two years. Furthermore, certifications in skills pertaining to architecture, project management, and process saw a 6.1 percent drop in premium pay.

Experience and business savvy are what count now
Although we all know that age discrimination is an issue in the IT world, David Foote, the firm's CEO, says experience really counts these days: "They have not been highly valuing certified skills as much as they have those that are without certification, where the experience and on-the-job performance of a person account for more 'juice' in hiring and skills acquisition decisions than having an acronym after a name on one's business card. "

Consider Salesforce.com. Although the company is looking for "skills across the board," Woodson Martin, who oversees hiring, raises a point voiced by many technology executives: A grasp of business needs, both the customer's and the employer's, is key to landing and keeping a good job. "People need to be attuned to the use of technology. We're trying to help businesses evolve to a new model where it operates as a social enterprise," he says.

I've heard that refrain over and over again in the last few years. Intuit, for example, values business skills in the IT department so much that its former CIO Ginny Lee (now a senior vice president) did not have a strong tech background -- she holds degrees in economics and business administration -- when she was hired. What's more, IT in that company is responsible for developing new businesses and new revenue streams.

Neither Foote Partners nor anyone else I've interviewed maintain that certifications are dead. Obviously, they are not. But the IT jobs market is changing, and if it's where you make your living, being on top of employment is critical to your success. That means you can't rest on certifications to keep your pay high.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here (Add a comment) so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Surprise! Certified IT jobs are paying less," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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