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CertMag's Salary Survey: Show Me the Money!

Does certification bring with it more money? CertMag's salary survey of certified IT professionals shows that it does. What's more, some certifications tend to result in a more significant pay raise than others. Gary Gabelhouse presents these results and others in this article reprinted by permission from Certification Magazine.

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In the "Certification and IT Professionals" research study conducted by Fairfield Research, Inc., and Certification Magazine, 10,000 subscribers were contacted via e-mail and invited to complete an in-depth questionnaire on their certifications and their behaviors in pursuing certification. Of those contacted, 2,158 CertMag readers completed the questionnaire.

One of the key elements of the study was the analysis of the economic impact of IT certification enjoyed by certification-holders. This readership study has a maximum error range of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Certification-is it about the money? Yeah, mostly the money. Granted, there may be more virtuous and less secular reasons to pursue a technical certification. But the expectation of certification candidates is very much centered on the dollar and making more of them.

IT professionals pursue certifications so they can contribute to mission-critical functions of the business enterprise. Through the certification process, they bring to the table a set of acquired skills that can help the business enterprise grow and/or have higher earnings. Since certificants contribute directly to company growth and profits, it is reasonable they expect a payday and a significant return on their certification training and testing investment.

According to "The IT Certification Training and Testing Market, 1998-2003," a study conducted by International Data Corp. (IDC), the IT training and testing industries reached $2.5 billion in 1999 and is expected to reach $4.1 billion by 2003, representing a 15 percent growth rate.

As those numbers show, both IT professionals and the companies that employ them invest heavily in gaining better capabilities and resources. The vast majority of IT certification holders (75 percent) shoulder at least some of the burden of investment into technical certification. Only one-quarter of those readers studied had the entire cost of certification covered by their companies, while 45 percent picked up the entire certification tab, including study materials, books and fees.

So, with their own skins in the game and their own money at stake, certification candidates do have an expectation their certification will provide a return on the investment.

Sizable Investment

In order to understand the size of investment required by certificants and/or their companies, one can analyze what types of vendor-approved and third-party materials these professionals utilize in the certification process. Certification candidates purchase self-study books, product documentation and practice exams, in addition to flash cards and videos. They pay for the instructors and invest time in on-the-job training, as well as CBT programs and community college tuition. Their investment can be considerable.

Certificants have good ideas about how they will invest in certification in the future. The future purchase and usage intent among IT professionals with regard to certification materials was measured in the study. Conceptually, hard-copy materials show the highest levels of purchase and usage intent. In-person instructors and trainers, however, exhibited signs of becoming less and less important as an element in the certification process. Summing it up with regard to future investment, self-study books, CBT programs and documentation show the most projected growth as instructor-led training, vendor boot camps and college courses show little or no growth with regard to investment and usage.

According to the research study, the average Certification Magazine reader has already invested in 3.3 technical certifications-evidence that technical certification does pay tangible benefits. Also, nearly all (85 percent) of the certification holders surveyed were anticipating they would add at least one other certification to their vitae within the coming year. Would these IT professionals lay out their own good money for certification if they thought it would not provide an economic return? Doubtful. Consider this: Through statistical analysis of the survey data, the average technical certification contributed to an average increase in income equivalent to 12 percent (after earning the certification).

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