Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
Last week in this space we took the temperature of certified IT professionals regarding common employment concerns, such as whether they feel like their employment situation is secure. Most of the individuals who participate in the Salary Survey each year are full-time tech workers, so they are likely to have thoughts about the state of the tech workplace.
This week, we're gauging the awareness of certified IT professionals about a different aspect of their careers that they all have in common. One important qualification for participation in the Salary Survey each year is whether or not a given individual is actually certified. We don't set a particularly high bar, but we do ask that all participants have at least one current IT certification.
That means that everyone who participates in the Salary Survey is at least minimally qualified to have an opinion regarding the seriousness — or relative unimportance — of common concerns about IT certification. If you've ever wonder, for example, whether your certified peers are at least talking the talking when it comes to the necessity of recertification, then you may be interested in what we have to report here.
NOTE: This is part two of two, covering the final four of the seven total questions that we asked. (You can check out Part 1 here.) Here's what we learned:
Q: As a certified IT professional, how concerned are you about retirement of credentials?
Very Concerned — 20.3 percent
Concerned — 28.8 percent
Somewhat Concerned — 24.4 percent
Mildly Concerned — 14.9 percent
Not At All Concerned — 11.6 percent
The circle of life is not just a song that Elton John and Tim Rice wrote for The Lion King. Some certifications come and go within a handful of years, while others endure for decades. There's not necessarily always a rhyme or reason, or a predictable rhythm, to the appearance and — more to the point — the disappearance of this, that, or the other IT certification.
Nobody likes to have an important element of their IT résumé vanish altogether (at worst) or be relegated to irrelevancy (at best), which probably explains why more than 70 percent of those surveyed expressed some level of concern. On the other hand, certified IT professionals also know that retirement happens, as well as that some credentials are all but guaranteed to stick around forever.
Q: As a certified IT professional, how concerned are you about recertification and maintaining skills?
Very Concerned — 22.4 percent
Concerned — 33.2 percent
Somewhat Concerned — 23.4 percent
Mildly Concerned — 13.4 percent
Not At All Concerned — 7.6 percent
IT changes constantly. Often the changes are fast and furious, but sometimes a big shift happens gradually: Microsoft still has a Windows product line, but the Azure cloud computing platform is now the company's flagship software solution. Either way, certified IT professionals are expected to keep pace with changing technology. That's just part of the job.
It makes sense then, that only 20 percent of certified IT professionals are either mildly concerned (13.4 percent) or not at all concerned (7.6 percent) about the keeping credentials current and keeping skills sharp. Everyone else is considerably more attuned to — and more concerned about — the importance of continual learning.
Q: As a certified IT professional, how concerned are you about cheating, ethics, or exam security?
Very Concerned — 20.7 percent
Concerned — 24.3 percent
Somewhat Concerned — 19.9 percent
Mildly Concerned — 15.8 percent
Not At All Concerned — 19.3 percent
Any time that exam candidates figure out a way to cheat on an IT certification exam, they are chipping away at the reputation and career impact of that exam. When poorly qualified individuals get certified and take their credential into the job market, any degree of failure or incompetence on their part undermines both the certification provider and legitimate credential holders.
That's probably among the biggest contributing factors to the levels of anxiety expressed by those who are either very concerned or concerned about cheating, ethics, and exam security. It's at least possible, on the other hand, that those who are less concerned trust the value of established credentials to endure occasional slings and arrows.
Also, if you're just a credential holder, then there's only so much you can do to protect the security of a given exam and prevent cheating. On some level, cheating and exam security are not really the direct responsibility of certified individuals. So why worry?
Q: As a certified IT professional, how concerned are you about employer support for certification?
Very Concerned — 24.3 percent
Concerned — 29.8 percent
Somewhat Concerned — 21.7 percent
Mildly Concerned — 13 percent
Not At All Concerned — 11.2 percent
Even a tenured and respected IT certification only carries as much weight at your next hiring interview as the overall view of certification taken by that potential employer. So if IT employers in the aggregate suddenly started to put less stock in certifications, then certified IT professionals would get less impact from their credentials.
There's another aspect in which employer evaluation of certification matters: Employers who value certification will often cover some of all of the cost to the individual of becoming certified. That can make a real impact on the individual.
For those and other reasons, it's not particularly surprising to find that nearly 80 percent of certified IT professionals have a strong (or at least strong-ish) interest in promoting and maintaining an overall positive impression of IT certification among employers.