Salary Survey Extra: Does holding more certs = getting more salary?
Posted on
February 22, 2019

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 These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Should the average IT professional who wants a bigger salary get more certs? Let's investigate.

In laying out his personal formula for victory in war, General Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War is reported to have said, "I always make it a rule to get there first with the most men." In the same way that winning battles is generally equated with success in war, having a high salary is often equated with success in the workplace.

Now let's think of IT certifications as being analogous to the overwhelming force of Forrest's more soldiers. Earning certifications directly adds to the base of knowledge and skills than any IT pro uses to approach his or her job. Similarly, getting a certification shores up valuable workplace intangibles like goal-setting, patience, and time management.

There's also the importance of maintaining a learning mindset and sharpening one's ability to assimilate new information and turn it to productive use, a valuable element of any IT-driven career. If certification confers all of those benefits, then it would stand to reason that earning and maintaining more certifications, at least up to a point, would lead to greater success in the workplace.

About 79 percent of the more than 4,700 respondents to our 2019 Salary Survey have six or fewer active certifications. To break it down a little further, that's more than three-quarters of all survey respondents who have either one (18.6 percent of those surveyed), two (18 percent), three (15.6 percent), four (11.5 percent), five (8.8 percent), or six (6.2 percent) current IT credentials.

There's a comparative trickle of respondents thereafter, with small numbers of folks who have seven (4.2 percent of respondents), eight (3.5 percent), nine (1.4 percent), 10 (3.6 percent), 11 (0.6 percent), 12 (1.2 percent), 13 (0.6 percent), 14 (0.6 percent) or 15 (0.4 percent) active certifications.

That's not quite everybody, of course. The survey lets you indicate whether you have 16 or more active certifications. Think about that: 16 active IT certifications ... or (gulp) some number that's more than 16. In that group, we find the remaining 5.1 percent of all survey respondents. Those folks are made of something rare and precious. We salute them.

We covered some of that ground in the January issue of Certification Magazine, albeit with fewer details. Here's what we didn't cover at the time, and what we're curious about today. Generally speaking, does having more certs mean that you also earn more money? Is there any degree of correlation? This is what turned up when we crunched the numbers:

Total Number of Certifications Average Annual Salary (U.S.) Average Annual Salary (Non-U.S.)
1 $96,550 $54,600
2 $97,850 $59,690
3 $110,240 $62,950
4 $99,250 $70,110
5 $112,390 $74,110
6 $112,480 $70,650
7 $100,240 $72,080
8 $115,540 $75,180
9 $93,180 $82,940
10 $110,180 $81,550
11 N/A N/A
12 $117,373 $81,860
13 N/A N/A
14 N/A N/A
15 N/A N/A
16 or more $124,450 $87,070

2018 Salary Data

In general terms, there is an overall upward trend in salary that corresponds to the increase in number of active IT certifications held. You can see it much more clearly in countries outside the United States, although the overall pattern is there in the U.S. numbers as well.

As we learned from drawing up a similar table last year, if you're on a career path that draws heavily on one or two key certifications, and doesn't require constant renewal of any others, then you can probably still do just fine for yourself. At the bottom of the table, where a large range of certifications is represented by a single data point, there is a strong spike in salary for U.S. professionals.

Deeper down the chart, of course, we ran into the expected problem of not having enough individual respondents who hold a certain specific number of certs to create a reliable average.

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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