Salary Survey Extra: Will you get a bigger salary if you earn more certs?
Posted on
January 6, 2022
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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 These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Will get more salary if you earn more certs? Let's consult the Salary Survey!

There are definitely some areas in life where more is better, at least up to a point. “More is better” thinking generally applies to things that people don’t get, have, or do enough of in the first place. For example, the National Institutes of Health in the United States recently reported that most Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night.

Researchers tend to agree that that’s not enough, though maybe not by as much you might think. The optimal amount of sleep per night for most people tends to hover somewhere between seven hours and eight hours. If you consistently sleep for more than nine hours per night, on the other hand, then you’re overdoing it. Getting a good outcome requires thoughtful consideration.

So what about IT certifications? Is it better to have more certifications? Probably better in the sense of having a more versatile IT skill set. Likely better in the sense of maintaining a learning mindset, or of keeping abreast of changing technology. How about better in the sense of earning more money? Up to a point, perhaps. Sort of like getting the optimal amount of sleep.

That’s the kind of topic that we use our annual Salary Survey to (provisionally) gather data about. Before we get to that, however, let’s establish some larger facts about the pool of 2022 Salary Survey respondents who have multiple tech credentials.

About 72 percent of the more than 5,000 respondents to the 2022 Salary Survey have five or fewer active certifications. To break it down a little further, that’s nearly three-quarters of all survey respondents who have either one (15.4 percent of those surveyed), two (18.8 percent), three (16.2 percent), four (11.8 percent), or five (10 percent) current IT credentials.

There’s a comparative trickle of respondents thereafter, with small numbers of folks who have six (6.2 percent of respondents) seven (4.1 percent), eight (3.5 percent), nine (1.5 percent), 10 (4.1 percent), 11 (0.9 percent), 12 (1.6 percent), 13 (0.7 percent), 14 (0.6 percent) or 15 (0.6 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 4 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 $102,080 $61,010
2 $101,270 $63,500
3 $112,980 $69,380
4 $114,010 $74,300
5 $114,570 $71,060
6 $118,360 $72,780
7 $109,730 $74,780
8 $124,880 $79,050
9 $119,500 $72,250
10 $130,120 $74,190
11 $123,680 $80,870
12 $121,420 $66,430
13 N/A N/A
14 N/A N/A
15 N/A N/A
16 or more $127,970 $88,960

2021 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. The are hiccups to the patter both in the United States, as well as in countries outside the United States. There are also stretches where the increase is relatively minor.

As we’ve seen from drawing up similar tables in previous years, if you’re on a career path that leans 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 solid six-figure salary number for U.S. professionals.

Interestingly, the “16 or more” category is where we found the single biggest average salary for non-U.S. professionals. Perhaps being an overachiever is rewarded more abundantly elsewhere around the world than it is in the United State.

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. Subscriber to CertMag here.

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