This feature first appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
In the 1983 techno-thriller film WarGames, computer-savvy teen David Lightman (played by actor Matthew Broderick a few years before his big breakout in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) accidentally discovers the U.S. Department of Defense while attempting to hack a game company. Sometimes in life you find what you're hoping to find, and sometimes you encounter an unwelcome surprise.
The last time that we checked in from Salary Survey Central, at the start of 2018, the big headline was an IT salary boom. This year's four-letter B-word, on the other hand, is bust — at least for some. IT employment is still plenty lucrative, it's just not as lucrative (in some regions) as it was a year ago.
It's not what we hoped to find when we launched the good ship Salary Survey 2019 in September, but you have to report the data, even when it doesn't paint the picture you wanted to see. If you check out the graphic further down on this page, then you'll see that U.S. tech workers are now in the fifth year of a cycle that alternates high-flying salary spikes with dizzying slumps.
In the United States, the average salary for certified IT professionals plunged by 7 percent from last year's high tide, falling almost $8,500 to $107,250. By contrast, the average annual salary of certified IT professionals in non-U.S. countries is surging, all the way up to $64,220 from last year's setback figure of $54,360. Sometimes in life you find something that's even better than you imagined.
Some U.S. workers may have lost ground in terms of salary, but almost no one is losing their job. Of the more than 4,700 IT professionals who responded to this year's survey, 95.2 percent are employed full-time, versus just 2 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 virtually identical to last year, when 95.1 percent of respondents claimed full-time employment. And the news from non-U.S. countries is almost as good: 94.2 percent of non-U.S. respondents have regular full-time jobs. 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 data storage and analysis, the urgent and ever-present need to secure and protect sensitive information, and exploding demand for connectivity and 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. A notable 55.1 percent of those surveyed got some level of bonus or incentive pay in 2018, while 71.2 percent of those surveyed got a raise. (A bit more than 43 percent double-dipped at the well of prosperity, both getting a raise and taking home bonus or incentive pay.) That's compared to just 4.5 percent who took a pay cut.
Interestingly, all three readings are almost exactly the same as they were a year ago. In 2017, 71 percent of survey respondents got a raise, while 55 percent were given bonuses or incentive pay. There was a tiny bit less bad news last year, when just 4.1 percent of those surveyed saw their pay cut. On the whole, however, the good times are still rolling.
One other item of interest: Bonuses and incentive pay were a bit less common in 2018 among U.S. tech workers than among their peers in other countries — about 57 percent of international respondents were given additional compensation, compared to just 54 percent in the United States. Pay raises were more common among U.S. workers, however, with about 73 percent getting a salary bump, compared to just 68 percent among workers from all other countries.
Even with all of the good news going around, however, there are some certified IT professionals who want more. A solid 66.3 percent of all survey respondents are either completely satisfied (8 percent), very satisfied (18.8 percent), or satisfied (39.5 percent) with their current salary. On the other hand, 27 percent of all respondents are not very satisfied with their current salary, while 6.7 percent are not at all satisfied.
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.