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 These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
At some point during the American Civil War, the expression "heard it through the grapevine" began to circulate in American English, spurred by the wartime proliferation of telegraph lines as a means of communication and news transmission. The metaphor picked up steam across the early 20th century, and got a big boost from two Motown songwriters in 1966.
Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," which quickly became a hit for two titans of R&B, Gladys Knight (who released a recording in 1967) and Marvin Gaye (who recorded the song in 1967 and released it in 1968). Today most English speakers think of "the grapevine" as being synonymous with the phrase "word of mouth."
Word of mouth is how a lot of people hear about a lot of things, even when they're hearing about this or that item of breaking news that did not originate with whoever is passing it along. There are other, more reliable sources of information about things and stuff, of course, but we often hear about something from the grapevine, and then verify it after that.
Certification is an item of interest for many in the IT industry, and there are various sources for finding out about new credentials, or changes to existing certification programs, or various other developments of IT certification import. Certification programs often take the lead themselves in communicating new or otherwise relevant information to interested parties.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of people looking for information about IT certification. Those who already have at least one credential, and those who have taken an interest in getting a certification for the first time. Either way, there are lot of different places to either explicitly look for such information, or to be informed about it by someone else.
We asked the certified IT professionals who participated in the 2023 Salary Survey where they tend to get such information from. Here's what we learned:
Q: How have you most often been made aware of certification opportunities in the past? Please select the two or three most common sources of information.
Internet search — 49.6 percent
Industry publication or website — 31.3 percent
Referred by friend or acquaintance — 33.8 percent
Referred by employer — 31 percent
Industry convention or conference — 31 percent
Vendor promotional materials — 17.4 percent
High school or college course — 7.6 percent
Career counseling — 8.2 percent
Note that this is a question that lets survey respondents choose more than one answer option. So seeing "internet search" at the top of the list doesn't necessarily mean that googling certification information is the top option for many (or even most) certified IT professionals. It does mean that a lot of people do look for certification information that way, whether or not as a starting point.
IT industry websites and/or publications are also a place where many certified IT professionals look for certification information. Magazines and newsletters have a long and proud history in the IT realm, so it's not surprising that many people still rely on them for IT certification news and updates.
There's also a strong indication here that many people are still tethered to, if not dependent on, the grapevine. Word-of-mouth discourse does apparently have an impact on how certified IT professionals make decisions, or at least get new information, regarding IT certification. Friends, coworkers, employers, and others in the immediate orbit of the average IT professional are a steady conduit if IT certification awareness.
It's a little surprising that certification vendors are so far down the list. Some certified IT professionals do get information from IT certification providers, but it would seem that not very many consider that a key source. Also of decidedly lesser influence are trusted advisors like educators or career and workforce placement counselors.