Salary Survey 2021: IT professionals tend to be older, get certified early
Posted on
January 19, 2021

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

You don't have to be old to work in IT, but many are. Also, tech professionals most get certified soon after entering the field.

A lot can change in five years. In or around 1450, a goldsmith opened a print shop in Mainz, Germany with money borrowed from his brother-in-law. By 1455, novice printer Johannes Gutenberg had introduced movable type to the printing process and completed production of about 180 copies of a new edition of the Bible, attaching his name to one of the world's most consequential inventions and launching a cultural and social revolution that is still impacting human events.

Your average certified IT professional probably won't alter the course of history in the next five years, but he or she may change jobs, quite possibly more than once. There's a core of survey respondents, 11.4 percent of those surveyed, who clearly value stability and have been with their current employer for more than 15 years. Quite a few others, however, are far more nomadic.

A whopping 66.2 percent of survey respondents have worked for their current primary employer for five or fewer years. It's two or fewer years for 41.3 percent of all respondents, and zero years (1 to 11 months) for 15.5 percent of all respondents. With that many folks just settling in, relatively speaking, it seems clear that IT professionals, probably for a variety of reasons, are prone to change jobs.

Some might argue that all of those new and relatively new arrivals are merely the vanguard of a rising generation of IT workers flooding in from colleges and high schools. Weighing rather heavily against that line of reasoning, however, is the fact that most of those who responded to the survey are not spring chickens.

A topic of concern for many in the tech industry is the general aging of the workplace population, and this year's survey, like the last handful we've done, bears out that trend. A sobering 46.4 percent of those who responded to this year's survey are 45 or older, and 33.1 percent are between the ages of 35 and 44. By contrast, just 1.3 percent of respondents are younger than 25.

That's 80 percent of today's certified IT professionals who were either born, coming of age, or (gulp) already in the workforce the year (1985) that a brand-new game called Super Mario Bros. was introduced for the then-new Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

You don't have to be old to work in IT, but many are. Also, tech professionals most get certified soon after entering the field.

Speaking of timing, 18 percent of survey respondents worked in IT for less than a year before getting their first certification. And you don't have to stretch that timetable very far to capture a much larger slice of the pie�� it's quite common to get certified soon after starting one's IT career. A striking 61 percent of those surveyed earned their first certification after working in IT for between 1 year and 5 years.

As we've learned from past surveys, there are IT jobs at every rung of the corporate ladder. We've found pretty consistently, on the other hand, that the highest concentration of skilled tech professionals tends to reside at the senior specialist level.

That was the case this year as well, with 37.6 percent of all survey respondents declaring themselves senior specialists. The next largest group is the one directly above senior specialist on the standard-issue company org chart: 16.8 percent of those surveyed are managers, followed by largish contingents of specialists (13.9 percent) and senior managers (10.6 percent).

No matter what job title accompanies the picture on their I.D. badge, there's a pretty strong degree of confidence and satisfaction among most survey respondents. A sturdy 65 percent of those surveyed have no intention of seeking a different job in 2021. (Given the indicators discussed a few paragraphs above this one, it sounds as though at least some IT workers who are about to change jobs just don't know it yet.)

And though the IT industry as a whole has certainly been subject to employment upheavals in recent years — certainly some jobs were lost to the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19 this year — most workers are feeling secure, at least in the short term. A remarkable 92.8 percent of respondents do not anticipate being laid off in the coming year, while 92.4 percent are confident they won't have to deal with a pay cut.

TABLE TALK: How do you compare to other IT professionals?

You don't have to be old to work in IT, but many are. Also, tech professionals most get certified soon after entering the field.
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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