Salary Survey Extra: What's IT worth to you, or why certify?
Posted on
January 21, 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 These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

What is a certification worth to you?

Getting an IT certification requires a considerable investment of time, energy, and resources. For most individuals, careful planning and diligent follow-through is essential. It's a relatively rare IT professional who can glance at an exam overview, head to the testing center, and bang through the exam with a passing score.

If we therefore take it as a given that, in most instances, certification is not a casual undertaking, then what are the rewards that push people to study for and pass an exam? What is the bottom-line rationale that nudges a system administrator or network designer to pick up a study guide, or start combing through online tutorials?

In short, what makes it all worth it? Why certify?

Two questions are often discussed more than any others when it comes to determining whether it's ��worth it�� to get certified. Will the certification add to my knowledge and understanding of a given IT topic? Will the certification help me get more money at work?

For the Salary Survey, we isolated those two items and asked the question directly: Which is the most important benefit of earning a certification? The feedback we got last year was pretty resounding, and this year's response was even a tick more emphatic. An imposing 74 percent of those surveyed say that gaining increased knowledge and skills is the most important benefit of getting a certification.

Money, on the other hand, while it may drive a great many things, is clearly a secondary consideration when it comes to certification. Just 16.6 percent of those surveyed feel that gaining increased earning power is the most important benefit of earning a certification.

There are almost always some people, of course, who choose "none of the above." A contrarian 9.4 percent of those surveyed are of the belief that neither learning nor earning is the most important benefit of certification. For those folks, the most important benefit of getting a certification probably lies somewhere in the follow-up question that we asked.

If we set aside the desire to seek learning and the desire for a better financial outlook, then what are the most important benefits of getting a certification? We asked each respondent to name his or her two top choices. Here are the options, along with the percentage of all survey respondents who chose that option:

Gain qualifications for a future job — 52 percent
Improve or confirm my qualifications for my current job — 47.1 percent
Gain greater confidence in my own skills — 43.1 percent
Become eligible for positions of greater responsibility with my current employer — 36.7 percent
Gain prestige and recognition among colleagues — 26.4 percent
Gain advanced access to technical data — 23.3 percent
My employer requires this certification — 19.6 percent
Enjoy belonging to a community of certified professionals — 19 percent
Enjoy receiving increased support from IT vendors — 5.6 percent

Finally, what about the value of certifications over time? This is a battleground, of sorts. Some people like to argue that certification is less valuable than it used to be. Time and the rapid advance of technology have changed the playing field, certain skills are invalid or outdated, and so forth. So we asked IT professionals that question as well: What will happen to the overall worth and impact of certifications over the next five years?

For the most part, people either don't see the overall picture changing much, or they're optimistic. A considerable 50.4 percent of those surveyed think that certifications will become more valuable and impactful over the next five years, which represents an improved outlook (up nearly 3 percent) from the last time that we asked this question, at the end of 2015.

An additional 39.5 percent of respondents see things remaining about the same, while a little less than 9 percent of those surveyed believe that certifications will become less valuable and impactful. The real hardliners (1.3 percent) think certifications will become irrelevant in the next five years. I guess we know what those people think about whether it's "worth it" to get a certification.

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.

Posted to topic:
Jobs and Salary

Important Update: We have updated our Privacy Policy to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

CompTIA IT Project Management - Project+ - Advance Your IT Career by adding IT Project Manager to your resume - Learn More