This feature first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
There were big stretches of 2021 where the world seemed trapped in a cycle of, in the words of renowned sportsman and social scientist Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again.” A surging pandemic stalled the economy and flooded hospitals. The U.S. political arena witnessed a series of bitter partisan struggles while a sitting president was catcalled by pollsters and pundits.
Out-of-control wildfires choked hazy skies with thick smoke. Pop cultural discourse was dominated by the marvelous misadventures of Marvel Comics characters on screens large and small. Catastrophic weather events wreaked havoc from devastating blizzards in Spain and Texas, to a massive sandstorm in China, to hurricanes and cyclones across the globe.
As we stagger into 2022, a major pandemic surge is looming, a string of tornadoes just tore through the Mideastern United States, and a Marvel Comics movie is once again blowing up the box office — Spider-Man: No Way Home is officially the biggest smash hit movie release since Avengers: Endgame. Welcome to the new year, same as the old year. As Han Solo once put it, “Didn’t we just leave this party?”
Compiling the results of the annual Certification Magazine Salary Survey often reminds us that a lot of things in life are cyclical. It’s more pleasant when the cycles don’t seem to be anchored in system-wide collapse. But calm eventually returns to even the stormiest of seas and the teeth-rattling bumps in the road provide a valuable contrast that makes the good times even more precious.
In that light, here’s hoping that everyone enjoyed the somewhat surprising upswing in IT salaries that we reported in this space last year. Because the salary pendulum turned into a bit of a wrecking ball this year, at least among certified IT professionals in the United States. The good news is that we’re still about the low-water mark from 2019. The bad news is that 2020 appears to have been an impressive outlier.
We have considerably better tidings for IT professionals outside the United States, who built on the standout salary surge from 2020. The upward trend was more modest in 2021, but at least salaries for non-U.S. certified IT professionals didn’t rollercoaster into one of those periodic breathtaking drops. When it seems like the world is on fire everywhere you look, even a small bucket of water feels great.
One of the standout employment trends of 2021 was individuals departing traditional jobs to make their way outside the mainstream workforce. Of the more than 5,400 certified IT professionals who responded to this year’s survey, only 87.5 percent are employed full-time. That’s the first time we’ve registered a number below 90 percent since Certification Magazine resumed publication in 2014.
Where did everybody go? Most are still present, it would seem, they just aren’t spending as much time at work. Part-time employment surged, with 6.5 percent of respondents balancing work with other pursuits, while unemployment rose to 3.7 percent. This time last year, full-time employment was a tick above 94 percent, with just 2.4 percent of those surveyed working part-time and only 2 percent out of work.
In the United States, 89 percent of respondents are employed full-time, with 5.1 percent in part-time jobs, and 3.2 percent out of work. Among respondents from all other countries, 85 percent are employed full-time, 8.4 percent have part-time time jobs, and 4.4 percent are unemployed.
Employers may have to look a little harder for full-time workers, but it seems clear that certified IT professionals are still in demand. 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.
Ongoing interest in hiring — and retaining — IT professionals also manifested in other survey readings. A strong 61.8 percent of those surveyed got some level of bonus or incentive pay in 2021, while 68.5 percent got a raise. (A bit more than 46 percent double-dipped at the well of prosperity, both getting a raise and taking home bonus or incentive pay.)
While there’s clear interest in incentivizing employment, however, the ongoing economic drag of the COVID-19 pandemic is still victimizing workers. Nearly 15 percent of survey respondents saw their pay get cut in 2021, roughly half-again as many as in 2020.
Continuing a trend from past years, bonuses and incentive pay were a bit more common in 2021 among U.S. tech workers than among their peers in other countries — about 65 percent of U.S. respondents were given additional compensation, compared to just 59 percent in non-U.S. countries. Pay raises were also more common among U.S. workers, with a bit more than 70 percent getting a salary bump, compared to just 65 percent among workers from all other countries.
As typically happens, there are some certified IT professionals who want more. A solid 73 percent of all survey respondents are either completely satisfied (11.5 percent), very satisfied (25.3 percent), or satisfied (36.2 percent) with their current salary. On the other hand, 22.4 percent of all respondents are not very satisfied with their current salary, while 4.6 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.