Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of both our annual Salary Survey and our smaller Salary Survey PLUS polls. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
One of the questions that comes up fairly often here at Certification Magazine in response to our ongoing and relentless salary surveying goes something like this: "Why didn't you report a salary for (Name of certification)?" The answer is always the same: "We didn't have enough data regarding (Name of certification) to compile a reasonable estimate."
(Yes, we just described ourselves as being "relentless" about gathering data from surveys. We are the Terminator of salary surveying. "It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop — ever!" Yeah, in the movie that line ends with "until you are dead," but we're really not out to kill anyone here, so creative license.)
For our most recent Salary Survey PLUS, however, we got a massive turnout from Cisco certification holders. It makes sense: The focus of the survey was networking certifications, and Cisco is essentially the first name in networking certifications — in more ways than one, really. Given the proliferation of the Cisco Networking Academy since its introduction almost 20 years ago, there are now numerous schools where Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): Routing & Switching is one of the first certifications of any kind that many students encounter.
Thanks to the aforementioned strong participation by Cisco certificants, we have the freedom to try some things we haven't done before. Speaking, as we were, of the CCNA Routing & Switching credential, which is sort of the trunk of the entire Cisco certification tree, we took a closer look as some of the salary results that pertain to that particular certification.
Among all CCNA R&S-certified professionals in the United States, the average annual salary is a tidy $80,310. One complaint we often hear about such numbers, however, boils down to, "I have a CCNA R&S, and I don't make 80 Gs. How about that, geniuses?!" The nature of an average, of course, is that it doesn't represent the actual experience of everyone in the group it describes. But, yeah, fine, fair point. We said X, and you think X is a crock of (something smelly). Let's take a look at some of the other factors in play.
If $80,310 is the average annual salary of someone living and working in the United States who has a CCNA R&S on their résumé, then where or, perhaps more importantly, when can the average CCNA R&S-certified professional expect to encounter it? We ask a couple of questions about career timing in the survey, and one of them may be helpful here. Respondents tell us how long they have worked professionally in IT networking. When we cross reference those answers (drawing, again, from all U.S.-based CCNA R&S credential holders) to salary across the first 10 years of involvement in IT networking, an interesting (if predictable) trend emerges.
Here's what we came up with:
The First 10 Years of CCNA: Routing & Switching
The trend that emerges here is probably what most people would have expected to see. The more an individual accrues experience from professional involvement in IT networking, the correspondingly higher their salary is likely to be. There are hiccups: Year 3 is clearly a bit of a statistical outlier in terms of average annual salary, for example. The overall tendency, however, is pretty fixed.
For each year of professional involvement in IT networking, we've also marked out the lowest bracket for which incomes were reported. In other words, there were no CCNA R&S holders with one year of professional involvement in IT networking, for example, who reported an income below the $20,000-$24,999 bracket. You'll note that, despite a few regressions, the salary floor also tends to rise in relation to the length of professional involvement in IT networking. There's an especially notable gain in Year 9 and Year 10.
The overall message for CCNA R&S-certified individuals who are just getting started on a career in IT networking would seem to be: Hang in there. As happens in most professions, you start at the bottom and work your way up. And take hope: There aren't many professions outside the IT realm where you can have a reasonable expectation of closing in on six figures after just 10 years in the biz. Be patient — and don't stop certifying.