It’s no longer good enough for IT professionals to just “know computers”
Certifications are now considered the pinnacle of achievement in the tech industry. That’s a huge change in perspective from a decade ago when many IT professionals still didn’t understand the merit of certification.
Certification Value Has Skyrocketed
When you analyze survey responses from 11 years of our report, the data overwhelmingly illustrates a rise in demand for certification training.
- In 2008, nine percent of respondents said the main reason they train is to prepare for certification. In 2018, that number has risen to 48%.
- In 2008, just 38% of IT professionals held at least one certification. In 2018, 89% are certified.
- In 2008, 42% of respondents said they plan to pursue a certification in the next year. In 2018, 64% will either pursue certification or are already in the process of becoming certified.
Currently, our survey respondents hold an average of nearly three certifications each. There’s a lot of competition in the tech industry, so professionals often have their eyes set on their next certifications years in advance.
Certifications Pay Off
It’s not just the employers who are benefiting from an increase in certification training. In 2018, certified IT professionals in the U.S. and Canada have an average salary of $87,678, which is $15,913 or 22% more than non-certified professionals. As long as the training is career-relevant, it certainly pays to pursue certifications.
There has, however, been a slight shift in the top-paying certifications over the course of our reporting. In 2008, Project Management Professional (PMP®) was the top-paying certification at $101,698. PMP® is still a popular and lucrative certification, ranking third in the U.S. and seventh globally in terms of salary. But security certifications took over the top spot on our highest-paying list in 2014 and has held firm ever since.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) was No. 4 in 2008 and is No. 1 this year, with an average North American salary of $109,965.
ISACA’S Certified in Risk Systems and Control (CRISC) has been the top-paying certification for three of the last five years and comes in at No. 2 this year. CRISC is a certification designed for IT professionals, project managers and others whose job it is to identify and manage IT and business risks through appropriate Information Systems (IS) controls. Currently, North American IT professionals who hold a CRISC certification have an average salary of $107,968.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) certifications have also made a big splash since debuting in 2013. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate was the second highest-paying certification in 2016, the third-highest in 2017 and the fourth-highest in North America this year. And while cloud certifications didn’t appear on our list a decade ago, AWS certifications have the highest North American average ($113,261) in 2018.
Cyber-security, Cisco and Microsoft Are the Most Popular
One thing that hasn’t changed in 10 years is the popularity of certain certifications. In 2008, Microsoft certifications were dominant. Nearly 35% of respondents held a Microsoft certification. The next highest was Project Management at 16.3%.
Ten years and 11 reports later, Microsoft is still popular—21% of respondents hold at least one Microsoft certification. This makes it the third most popular certification category, behind cyber-security and Cisco.
Twenty-three percent of respondents hold a cyber-security certification and the average global salary of those respondents is $82,652. That’s well above the average for all certification professionals ($64,820).
Twenty-three percent of respondents hold a Cisco certification, the most popular of which is CCNA Routing and Switching, which is held by 16% of all respondents.
How Employers View IT
Management’s perspective on IT training has certainly shifted over the course of our reporting. In 2011, only 35% of decision-makers believed certifications led to a more effective staff. Today, managers are nearly unanimous in their support.
The additional skills that certified employees bring to the table are also a welcomed benefit in an industry that’s currently facing ever-widening skills gaps. When asked to estimate the economic benefit of a certified staff member versus a non-certified peer, 27% of IT decision-makers said it exceeds $20,000 annually. The same percentage project the benefit to fall between $10,000 and $19,999, which far exceeds the cost of the certification exam and prep fees.
The advantages of certification seem obvious now, but skepticism of its value and IT in general was rampant a few years ago.
The increased frequency of major security breaches forced employers to take IT departments more seriously. The search for qualified and certified IT professionals became a driving force of many organizations.
Holding a certification may not be enough anymore, certification was once proof of expertise without the need for a full degree, but he’s seen a shift in recent years.
“I’m seeing a trend toward degrees and certifications now, Employers want a four-year bachelor’s degree in a related discipline and expert-level certifications,