I was encouraged last week when reading my colleague Ted Samson's post "IT salaries edge up back to 2008 levels." According to Janco's 2012 IT Salary Survey, that puts the average IT salary at around $78,000 (note that Redmond magazine's survey places it a little higher at $84,000).
In my early days as an IT pro -- just as folks were deriding certification -- I was seeing numbers from MCP magazine (the predecessor to Redmond magazine) that indicated I had indeed made the right decision to pursue Windows NT 4.0 MCSE certification. According to MCP, certified IT professionals were making more than noncertified ones.
[ Windows Server 8 is coming, and InfoWorld can help you get ready with the Windows Server 8 Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
Obviously, a survey can tell you only so much, and the pay numbers vary depending on where you live, as Computerworld's annual IT salary survey shows in its region-by-region breakdowns. Regardless of your region's pay stats, the key is to make sure you are not the negative outlier among your peers. In other words, if everyone else is making $100,000 in New York City, why are you making $45,000 in the same location?
Where to focus your cert attention these days? Eric Munn gets that question a lot as a career path consultant at TrainSignal, where he helps students on their IT training. "Whenever newbies call about what they should get certified in, I first ask them what they like about computers. If it's the hardware, then I suggest the A+. If it's networking, I'll mention the Network+ and the CCNA," he says.
"Once they've gotten a foot into the IT world, the training options are endless. If they're already an IT professional and looking for the latest and greatest focus points, I emphasize security and virtualization. These appear to be the biggest trends right now. So I tell them about VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft Virtualization, as well as the Security+ and CCNA Security."