Salary Survey 2021: Moving on (?) from COVID-19
Posted on
January 5, 2021

This feature first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

The 2021 Salary Survey catches its breath after a year's worth of COVID-19 pandemonium.

The Biblical monarch Solomon is alleged to have written that "there is no new thing under the sun" nearly a thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ. It's sometimes comforting to reflect that humanity has simmered in the crucible of Very Bad Things before without melting down completely. The Black Death killed possibly as many as 200 million people centuries before the word pandemic even entered the lexicon.

Alongside every other calamitous outcome of the global outbreak of COVID-19, workers in countries around the world were furloughed or laid off. In the United States alone, employers cut more than 30 million jobs, with an unknown number of certified IT professionals among those suddenly scrambling to replace lost income and, perhaps more crucially, suspended access to healthcare benefits.

Recoveries, whether from disease or economic devastation, are difficult to predict and rarely either smooth or uninterrupted. It may be that we've already seen the worst COVID-19 has to offer, but there's no telling when or even whether the "back to normal" that everyone craves will come peeking over the horizon. It probably feels to many like we've been living in the ream of Further Bulletins as Events Warrant forever.

What is fairly certain, on the other hand, is that recovery, whatever the shape of it, is on the way. We're here to write these words, and you're here to read them, because other people figured out the last massively disruptive catastrophe, and future generations are certain to be buffeted by their own seemingly unique challenges. If you need a silver lining, well, the IT jobs that didn't go away seem to be paying more than the last time that we checked. Yay?

In the United States, the average annual salary for certified IT professionals bounced back after two years of declines. When's the last time you got a 16 percent raise? That's roughly how far above last year's watermark we've risen. There's equally good news abroad. After taking a nosedive in 2019, the average annual salary of certified IT professionals in non-U.S. countries is also soaring.

You do have to be in a boat to benefit from the proverbial rising tide, but there's good news on that front as well. Despite the havoc wreaked by the pandemic, overall employment is strong. Of the more than 4,000 certified IT professionals who responded to this year's survey, 94.5 percent are employed full-time, versus just 2 percent who don't hold employment of any kind. (That number, alas, is up a half-percent from January 2020, when just 1.5 percent of respondents were out of work.)

The picture is actually a little bit better than it was a year ago, when 93.6 percent of respondents claimed full-time employment, including 92.3 percent in the United States and 95.2 percent in all non-U.S. countries. This time around, full-time employment is at 94 percent among U.S. survey respondents, and 94.9 percent elsewhere in the world.

Salary Survey 2021 Skyrocketing Salaries

Economic uncertainty notwithstanding, it's clear that plenty of employers still have a healthy interest in hiring and retaining skilled tech workers. The boom in cloud everything, 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 healthy 47.8 percent of those surveyed got some level of bonus or incentive pay in 2020, while 61.9 percent of those surveyed got a raise. (A bit more than 33 percent double-dipped at the well of prosperity, both getting a raise and taking home bonus or incentive pay.) That's compared to just 9.3 percent who took a pay cut.

If you're of a mind to worry, or you're just wondering where the pandemic actually did do some damage, then it's worth noting that all three readings took a largish hit from where they were a year ago. In 2019, 70 percent of survey respondents got a raise, while 51.1 percent were given bonuses or incentive pay, and 40 percent got both. There was also a noticeable uptick in pay cuts which nicked just 5.6 percent of those surveyed in 2019.

One other item of interest: Bonuses and incentive pay were a bit more common in 2020 among U.S. tech workers than among their peers in other countries — about 50 percent of U.S. respondents were given additional compensation, compared to just 45 percent in non-U.S. countries. Pay raises were also more common among U.S. workers, with about 66 percent getting a salary bump, compared to just 57 percent among workers from all other countries.

As typically happens, there are some certified IT professionals who want more. A solid 70 percent of all survey respondents are either completely satisfied (9.2 percent), very satisfied (20.7 percent), or satisfied (40.5 percent) with their current salary. On the other hand, 23.5 percent of all respondents are not very satisfied with their current salary, while 6.1 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 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.

The 2021 Salary Survey catches its breath after a year's worth of COVID-19 pandemonium.
About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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