This feature first appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
When it comes to actual mountaineering, you don't often have to wonder whether you've reached a summit. If you have an unobstructed view to all points of the compass and nothing in your immediate vicinity is higher than you are, then congratulations — you're on the peak.
Peaks and valleys are harder to identify when they're of the metaphorical sort used to characterize financial trends. You typically can't tell you were at the summit until you've pressed on past the highest point and suddenly realize that you're heading down. The terrain becomes clear only in hindsight: We can't tell where we are without making reference to ground recently covered.
As some readers may have guessed by now, the average annual salary of certified IT professionals in the United States lost some ground in 2016. The figure we're reporting this year — $108,790 — is still impressive. It's just not as big as it was ($113,350) at the end of 2015.
Looking outside the United States, on the other hand, the peak is still somewhere ahead. While average U.S. earnings lost some ground, the average annual salary figure for non-U.S. countries continued to rise, spiking up by almost $4,000 from $55,310 (in 2015) to $59,000.
We started to calculate the salaries of U.S. respondents and international respondents separately when doing the math for our 2015 Salary Survey, and it made sense to continue that practice this year. Out of our entire survey population, 66 percent of respondents could claim both a postal ZIP code and an Uncle named Sam. Drawing a geographic distinction makes data from both pools more accurate.
The four-year trend in overall salaries, as shown in the graphic on this page, is that IT compensation lost a bit of ground in the United States, while continuing to pick up steam everywhere else. In a perhaps corresponding development, overall employment also took a small hit in 2016.
Of the more than 6,100 IT professionals who responded to this year's survey, 93.4 percent are employed fulltime, versus just 1.8 percent who don't presently hold employment of any kind. (Part-time employment, sabbaticals, retirement and school enrollment accounts for the rest of our IT crowd.) That's a small decline from last year, when more than 96 percent of respondent claimed full-time employment
Despite a few sour notes, however, the overall outlook is upbeat. If you have IT-certified skills, then there's very little reason to find yourself stewing over employment listings, unless maybe you're looking for a job that's even better than the one you have now. The boom in the Internet of Things, the urgent and ever-present need to secure and protect sensitive data, and exploding demand for IT infrastructure are just some of the pressing reasons why the world needs more certified professionals.
Steady demand for IT professionals also manifested in other survey readings. Roughly 61 percent of those surveyed got a raise in 2016, compared to just 5 percent who took a pay cut.
The pay increase was small for some. Among those reporting a raise, 28 percent saw their pay climb only incrementally (an increase of 3 percent or less). A healthy 29 percent of respondents, on the other hand, got an increase of between 4 and 6 percent, while 13 percent had their pay go up by between 7 and 9 percent. That leaves nearly 30 percent of those surveyed who really rang the bell, getting a larger than 10 percent salary boost.
And while there are many different factors that determine salary, IT certification is certainly playing a role. A strong 39 percent of those surveyed received a raise in the first year after getting their most recent certification. Out of that group, 61 percent report that certification was a key factor in getting a raise, while 10 percent attribute the raise directly to adding a cert to their list of job qualifications.
There's much more to tell than we have room for in print, and we're not stopping here. Keep your eyes glued to CertMag.com in the months ahead, and we'll check in there with new survey data every week.
TABLE TALK : Compensation rises for some certifications faster than others.