Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
President Josiah Bartlet of television's The West Wing became known, across seven seasons, for his well-worn catchphrase "What's next?" As the character rather acerbically explains in a famous flashback scene, "When I ask, 'What's next?,' it means that I'm ready to move on to other things."
Certified IT professionals frequently live in a "What's next?" kind of world, where your can't spend too much time dwelling on what you just accomplished, because there's always more to do, more to learn, and more to prove. Take IT certification, for example: You barely have a year or two to rest on your laurels before it's time to get certified all over again.
Each year when we conduct the Salary Survey, we ask respondents a couple of questions about their IT certification plans for the coming year. You can click here, for example, to see a list of the 50 certifications named most frequently when we asked survey participants which cert(s) they were intending to chase in 2020 (be sure to scroll down the page).
We also asked survey respondents how many of them were (still are, in other words) planning to get at least one new certification in 2021. Or you might say that we looked them in the eye and said, "What's next?"
Perhaps not surprisingly, given that we directed this inquiry toward a bunch of certified IT professionals, nearly 80 percent of those surveyed (79.5 percent, to be exact) said that at least one new certification was definitely in the cards.
We also asked survey respondents how many of them actually got a new certification (or multiple new certifications) in 2019. Maybe everyone is feeling especially ambitious about 2021 — COVID bounce-back year, etc. — because 42.3 percent of respondents did not get any new certifications in 2020, a stark contrast to the 20.5 percent who admitted that would probably be the case in 2021.
An impressive 45.6 percent of those surveyed got either one (30.4 percent) or two (15.1 percent) new certifications in 2020. Among the remaining slightly more than 11 percent of respondents, 6 percent got three new certs in 2019, 3 percent got four new certs, 1.2 percent got five new certs, and a hard-working 2 percent got six or more new certs.
Now, although we learn from the original Ghostbusters movie that you should never cross the streams, we got a little curious to know what past certification performance suggests about future certification activity. Here's what we learned:
Planning to Get At Least One New Cert in 2021 (79.2 percent of all respondents)
Got no new certs in 2020: 35.8 percent
Got one new cert in 2020: 32 percent
Got two new certs in 2020: 17.8 percent
Got three new certs in 2020: 7 percent
Got four new certs in 2020: 3.7 percent
Got five new certs in 2020: 1.4 percent
Got six or more new certs in 2020: 2.3 percent
Planning to Get No New Certs in 2021 (20.8 percent of all respondents)
Got no new certs in 2020: 67.9 percent
Got one new cert in 2020: 23.2 percent
Got two new certs in 2020: 6 percent
Got three new certs in 2020: 0.9 percent
Got four new certs in 2020: 0.9 percent
Got five new certs in 2020: 0.7 percent
Got six or more new certs in 2020: 0.5 percent
So, among those planning to get no new certs in 2021, that decision represents a continuation of the status quo for roughly two-thirds. And most of those planning on no new certs in 2020 who did actually certify last year only got a single cert.
On the other side of the coin, among those who are planning to get certified in 2020, a notable 36 percent actually took the year off from certification in 2020, while most of the rest (50 percent) got either one (32 percent) or two (17.8 percent) new credentials in 2020.