Salary Survey Extra: Does lots of certs = lots of salary?
Posted on
February 4, 2017

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 These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Does holding more certs = earning more money?

They say that you can never have too much of a good thing. Then again, they also say that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Well, which is it? It hardly makes sense for both to be true. Unless all they really mean is that you can never have a bad thing. (See, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. So if you can never have too much of a good thing ... )

We may never know. (Or we may need to ask the next time that we're writing questions for the Not-So-Serious section of a Certification Magazine salary survey. Because whether or not good things are actually a bad thing, data makes everything better.)

We were starting to make a point before getting sidetracked into the badness and goodness of things, and that point is this: Some people in IT have a lot of certifications. And we do mean a lot of them. More than you could count on two hands and one foot. Now, it's not everyone who is up to his or her ears in active certifications.

Almost 80 percent of the more than 6,000 respondents to our 2016 Salary Survey have five or fewer active IT certifications. To reiterate, most of the people we heard from have either one (20.5 percent of respondents), two (20.3 percent), three (16.1 percent), four (12 percent) or five (9.4 percent) active certs.

There's a comparative trickle of respondents thereafter, with small numbers of folks who have six (5.5 percent of respondents), seven (3.1 percent), eight (3 percent), nine (1.4 percent), 10 (2.9 percent), 11 (0.7 percent), 12 (1 percent), 13 (0.5 percent), 14 (0.4 percent), or 15 (0.2 percent) active IT certifications.

At the very end of the line, however, you can indicate whether you have 16 or more active IT certifications. Think about that: 16 active certifications ... or some number that's more than 16. And in that group, we have 3 percent of all survey respondents. You guys are hardcore. We salute you.

We covered some of that ground in the recent 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. Does having a lot of certifications mean that you also earn a lot of money? Is there any degree of correlation? Here's what turned up when we crunched the numbers:

Total Number of Certifications Average Annual Salary (U.S.) Average Annual Salary (Non-U.S.)
1 $103,360 $45,260
2 $106,180 $43,210
3 $108,970 $57,580
4 $108,690 $64,440
5 $115,410 $67,910
6 $107,052 $80,510
7 $113,750 $64,010
8 $98,604 $75,070
9 $119,860 $N/A
10 $108,390 $85,010
11 $110,860 N/A
12 $121,750/ N/A
13 N/A N/A
14 N/A N/A
15 N/A N/A
16 or more $132,902 $81,150

2016 Salary Data

There is, in many instances, a general upward trend in salary, it would seem, that corresponds to the increase in number of active IT certifications held. The trend is much more pronounced overseas than inside the United States, though there's some evidence for it among U.S. IT professionals as well.

On the other hand, 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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