The Hottest IT Skills are Noncertified

The hottest IT skills are noncertified

IT professionals who spend hours cramming to earn shiny new IT certifications, such MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) and CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), are seeing a decline in the extra pay boost they reap for their achievements. Meanwhile, employees with tech skills for which certifications don't exist, such as Tcl and SAS development, VOIP, and business performance management, are seeing increasingly fatter premiums according to Foote Partners' most recent IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index

Foote Partners has tracked the premiums employers have been paying for 483 different certified and noncertified IT skills. Since 2004, pay for the noncertified skills have risen in 21 of the past 26 quarters. Meanwhile, certification pay premiums have dropped in 17 of the part 18 quarters.

The findings don't mean that certifications have no value, Foote notes; employees that have earned a new acronym are seeing some extra paycheck padding for their efforts. Rather, the trend signifies that certification programs aren't always keeping pace with the hot IT skills employers are seeking.

Noncertified skills added to the list in the past three month include virtualization-related proficiencies in Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Virtual Server, and VMware Server. Meanwhile, a host of Oracle-related certifications have made the list of late, including Oracle Certified Expert for Solaris 10 for both network and systems admins, as well as developer expertise in Oracle WebLogic Server and Portal 10g.

Employers tend to value real on-the-job experience over lessons learned in the classroom. "[If] an employer is facing a choice between a worker with demonstrated experience in [a] skill or a person who is less experienced by holds a certification in the same skill, I think employers will choose the experienced person and pay a higher premium for that experience," said David Foote, CEO and chief research officer of Foote Partners. "Ideally, they'd probably like to have both because certification does imply a dedication and commitment."

Certifications with less juice
According to Foote, the average premium pay for IT certifications has dropped 4.6 percent over the past two years. Certifications that fall under the category of "beginner and training" have seen the biggest drop in that period, 32 percent. IT pros with certifications in networking and communication have seen the second most significant decrease at 10.4 percent. Pay premiums for database certifications have dropped 6.4 percent over the past two years. Further, certifications in skills pertaining to architecture, project management, and process saw a 6.1 percent drop in premium pay.

The good news for the latter group is, pay premiums increased by 1.9 percent over the past year. Beyond that, only certifications in app dev and programming languages have seen any kind of rise in the past three months, a mere 1.2 percent jump.

The IT certifications that have seen the largest drop in pay premiums include:

  • Novell/Certified Novell Administration (CAN)
  • IBM Certified Administration - SOA Solutions: WebSphere Process Server
  • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (all)
  • Various Avaya, SNIA, and EMC networking and communications certifications
  • GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)
  • Several Oracle database certifications, including Oracle Certified Professional MySQL 5.0, Oracle Certified Expert MySQL 5.1 Cluster, and OCA (Oracle DB Administrator Certified Associate)
  • Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA)

Noncertified skills rise in value
Meanwhile, pay premiums for noncertified IT skills have mostly risen across the board over the past two years, with an average pay-premium boost of 2.88 percent. Over the past year, the increase has been 4.17 percent.

The skill category with the biggest annual gain is management, methodology, and process at 9 percent. Noncertified skills in OSes increased in value by 5.8 percent year over year; app dev tools and platform skills have seen their premium value jump 5.1 percent.

Noncertified IT skills that fall under messaging and communication aren't quite so hot: They've dropped in value 14.3 percent over the past two years, though their value remained stable in the past year and has even jumped by 2.8 percent in the past three months. Database skills didn't see quite as significant a two-year drop, just 7.4 percent, but their value has dwindled by 3.5 percent in the past 3 months.

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