Focus on Acquiring Skills, Not Necessarily Certifications

Susan Hall
Slide Show

IT Certifications Around the World - Differences in Numbers and Popularity

Open your global mind, so you can make a smarter decision toward your next certification.

My colleague Don Tennant and I have been slicing and dicing reports from analyst firm Foote Partners and trade group CompTIA on IT certifications.


Don has written before that many IT pros consider them not worth the paper on which they're written. At first glance, the two reports appear to be in conflict on the importance of certifications. But I suggested they might be your foot in the door, the way past the HR gatekeepers, even though they might not boost your salary. The IT hiring managers in the CompTIA report said HR folks don't seem to have a clear understanding of certifications and tend to value them.


Don wrote that noncertified skills seem more apt to boost your salary. Meanwhile, this post at CIO.com, slices the Foote Partners report yet another way. It looks at certifications offered by vendor.


Across 225 IT certifications, the industry average pay boost is 7.3 percent. But IT workers with any of Microsoft's 19 certifications average just 5.9 percent more, down from 6.1 percent six months ago.


It quotes David Foote of his namesake company, saying:

So many people have Microsoft certifications that the gap between supply and demand is not that great, like it is with other certifications.

The stats on other vendors:


  • Cisco, 8.1 percent average pay boost (31 certifications)
  • Oracle, 7.5 percent boost (six certifications)
  • IBM, a 7.1 percent boost (15 certs)
  • Red Hat certs average a 7.8 percent boost (five)
  • EMC certs average an 8.4 percent boost (nine)
  • VMware certs average an 8.5 percent boost (two)


Meanwhile, of 18 Microsoft noncertified skills followed by Foote Partners, only two-Exchange Server and BizTalk Server-have grown in value in the past three months. While the value for .NET has been on the decline, it's still the highest-paying Microsoft skill with a 12 percent pay premium. Foote attributes the decline to supply catching up with demand, a good thing for employers, not for IT workers.


Foote Partners' Bill Reynolds, meanwhile, chimed in on Don's post, saying that many of the 241 noncertified skills the company tracks do not have certifications associated with them:

That is, there is no dominant vendor who "owns" them, therefore there is no marketing muscle behind promoting them in the marketplace. If they have value, it's because people using these skills in the workplace have created value for them. And that's why track record, accomplishments, and experience are generally more highly valued compared to certifications in recruiting and retaining workers.
This is sometimes also the case when noncertified and certified skills do exist for the same skills. For example, we're reporting pay for 76 SAP skills in our survey and zero SAP certifications because we haven't found very many employers willing to pay for SAP certifications.

Then Don made another good point:

I think what needs to be clear is that readers should not necessarily focus on acquiring a certified skill over a noncertified skill in the hopes that it will necessarily be more highly-valued and profitable.

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