What's an IT certification worth?

One of the biggest problems in IT, and an issue that perhaps hasn’t been to the fore so much recently as it has in the past, is the skills gap.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  June 30, 2002

One of the biggest problems in IT, and an issue that perhaps hasn’t been to the fore so much recently as it has in the past, is the skills gap.

The gulf between the demand for skilled IT staff and the availability—and affordability—of those staff has long caused a headache to the industry, especially in the Middle East.

Of course, once the bottom fell out of the dot-com market, and the rest of the global economy followed suite, the situation changed somewhat. All of a sudden, there were plenty of skilled staff out of work.

In the US in particular, we were told that there were not enough jobs to go around, numbers of working visas were cut, and so on. Well, that was the impression, anyway. In this region, employers remained as keen as ever to get their hands on qualified staff, although the recruitment market for those without the right certifications has slowed, and the packages are not quite what they were.

More interestingly, it seems that the market for skills in the US may not have slowed as much as it appeared to. CRN US 2001 salary survey showed that the average solution provider employee received a 5.2% raise last year. And for the right people, the rewards are still there, particularly with regard to vendor certifications.

The most valued certification is still the Cisco Certified Internet Engineer (CCIE)—it can be worth up to an extra 37% salary over equivalent non-technical staff. Sun Java Developers are also showing their worth, as are IBM Websphere certified staff. In particular, security and Linux trained staff are coming more and more into demand in the US.

At the other end of the scale are the Microsoft Certified Solutions Engineers (MCSE). All of the fuss recently about the refusal of some test centres to administer MCSE exams to nationals of embargoed countries may be misdirected—MCSEs only receive an average of $1,500 more than their unqualified counterparts.

While the certification is very popular, a mere 2% difference in average salary hardly seems worth it. That said, certification seems to be a better deal than time serving—even with more than ten years in your relevant field, the difference in salary is only around 20%, or the equivalent of somewhere between Oracle DBA and IBM storage certification.

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