Survey Suggests Value of IT Certifications is Growing

Don Tennant

Dice Learning has released a list of the top 10 technology certifications it says help IT workers command higher salaries. A survey of 17,000 technology professionals conducted in January yielded the list, but also found that only 30 percent of respondents attributed an increase in salary to obtaining a certification.


Here's the Top 10 list:


  • Project Management Professional
  • Microsoft's Certified Systems Engineers
  • A+ (a vendor-neutral certification from CompTIA for tech support personnel)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associates
  • Microsoft Certified Professionals
  • Network +
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator
  • ITIL
  • Security +


I spoke with Dice Learning Director Evan Lesser about the survey, but he was unable to add much substance to the list. He couldn't say, for example, by what percentage salaries were boosted, on average, for each certification. Lesser did say that the survey results indicate that certifications are gaining ground as a differentiator in the tight IT job market:

What's interesting that came out is the fact that for a number of years, people were trying to debate the value of certifications, but now that the job market is starting to turn around for IT professionals, the competition for the jobs that are coming back is pretty stiff. What we've seen, and what we've heard from job seekers, is that having a certification is an additional check on the resume, something that can help you get your foot in the door for some of these new positions that are finally opening. The competition for those positions is going to be considerable, considering the unemployment in the IT market. So I think the value of a certification is probably changing over time, and heading to be a little bit more positive than it might have been in the past.

When I've written about this topic in the past, I've been deluged with e-mails from readers whose experience is that certifications aren't worth the paper they're written on. I've already gotten an earful about my editorial in which I argued in favor of organizations ensuring that they maintain a commitment to IT certifications.

"Generally, these classes are offered by companies whose interest is gettin' 'em in and turnin' 'em out," with an instructor who's "rarely articulate enough to lecture on the subject and resorts to reading from the book," one reader wrote. "My experience in the workplace has taught me that certifications hanging on an office wall are meaningless."
"It is possible to create [certification] programs that generate workers with applicable skills, but that requires more than a series of book questions to be coughed up from memory," another reader wrote. "Certification needs to verify the ability to think and do," not the ability to successfully eliminate answers to multiple-choice questions. "I test well, but that rarely shows I deeply know a thing."

According to Lesser, all of that is changing. Does your experience support that contention?

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 18, 2010 9:24 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

I think certs would be respected more if the entire process wasn't corrupted.

Certifications are a cash cow - they aren't about proving skill or ability.  It's entirely about building another revenue stream.  As long as the process is corrupt, it amounts to a tax on IT workers.

Fix the integrity of the system and then perhaps certifications will stop being a joke.  Most people in the IT profession joke about how absurd the process is. 

I believe we need professional licensing boards, run by professionals, that would measure experience, education, and other factors like other professions have.

Jul 22, 2010 10:27 AM Bernie Espinosa Bernie Espinosa  says:

I agree wholeheartedly!! Certifications are very important. In many cases they are prerequisites for a job. In others thay can be a discriminator. Regarding R. Lawsons comments, I will agree that it is an issue. This makes the choice of training providers critical. I have found that training providers are like good mechanics. When You find one, make sure you hold on to him.

A few months ago at a Windows launch event, I visited a booth for CED Solutions, They appeared to have their act together. We had just completed a number of disappointing  training courses with another training provider and were looking for a provider to provide good training at a reasonable price. I was impressed by their presentation and with the results of my research about their services. We decided to give them a try and we puchased all of our Microsoft training for 2010 from them. So far we have been very impressed with their services. The instructors are top notch. They are very knowledge and strike a good balance between prepping you for the exam and providing the deep knowledge we were looking for. They are not an exam mill. They offer classes in a boot-camp format and the traditional format that Microsoft Training Centers have been using for the longest time.

For years I have thought about getting my Microsoft Certification, but never really did anything about it. I attended their 8 day boot-camp last month and left with my MCITP: Server 2008 Administration. I highly recommend them for use by individuals as well as IT departments looking to not only stretch their training dollars, but to also get the best training available for the price.

Jan 12, 2011 3:58 AM R.Eal R.Eal  says:

Lets face it, there is and always will be a lack of good teacher not matter the area, IT certification, medicine, piano lessons. The story with the IT certifications and their value is not different than any other fields. Simply having a degree in medicine does not mean you are a good doctor, having a degree in law does not make automatically a good lawyer, having IT certifications or any other academic IT degree does not make you neccessarily a good IT proffesional. Experience and personality is what really matters yet I think certifications will give you a good chance to get to an interview and prove who you are and what you can.

Sep 5, 2012 10:22 AM SecureKat SecureKat  says: in response to R.Eal
One of the reasons for the lack of qualified instructors is the low rate of compensation and the ability of instructors to find sufficient hours to survive. Rates I've been offered as an instructor and adjutant faculty member have been less than 50% of what I receive in standard compensation in my "day" job in IT security, not even taking into account the lack of benefits, yet the educational standards are much higher. My students begged me not to leave the college AAS/BS IT program where I was teaching, but I couldn't survive on 18 hours per week -- I was only paid for classroom face time, and received no compensation for curriculm development, upgrades, lab development, or student assessment. Especially in IT, where advancements seem to come out weekly, curriculum upgrades are crucial. I also could not balance it with my "day" job, as it required about 40 hours per week of prep time for that 18 hours of instruction. Reply

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