Salary Survey Extra: Will you earn more money if you get more IT certifications?
Posted on
January 5, 2023

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 These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.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 you earn more money if you get more IT certifications?

In the classic Disney animated romance The Little Mermaid, an early scene reveals that the title character has collected and stashed, in an undersea grotto, a large assortment of trinkets, tools, and other tarnished tchotchkes of the human world looted from shipwrecks. Ariel gets a tongue-lashing about her "collection" from exasperated court composer Sebastian.

What follows, however, is not some sort of repentant renunciation of the trenchant teen's accumulated array of above-water appurtenances. Rather, Ariel belts out a full-throated manifesto of magnitude, letting Sebastian know that she's not about to back down. She wants more. More stuff, more adventure, more exposure to the mysterious world above.

The "more is better" mindset can be pervasive and, for a variety of reasons, this pattern of thinking is often applied to IT certifications: If it's good to have one IT certification, then it must be better to have more than one IT certifications. Better because having more certs demonstrates a certified IT worker's self-motivation and commitment to professional development. Better because having more certs keeps certified professionals abreast of evolving technologies.

Better, most would say, because having more certs adds directly to the stockpile of knowledge and skills that any IT pro uses to approach his or her job. Better, many might suggest, because having more certs helps to maintain a learning mindset and sharpen one's ability to assimilate new information and turn it to productive use.

How about better because having more certs contributes to earning a higher salary?

That's the sort of thing 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 2021 Salary Survey respondents who have multiple tech credentials.

About 78 percent of the more than 14,000 respondents to our 2021 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 (15.4 percent of those surveyed), two (18.5 percent), three (16.5 percent), four (11 percent), five (10.2 percent), or six (6.8 percent) current IT credentials.

There's a comparative trickle of respondents thereafter, with relatively small numbers of folks who have seven (3.5 percent of respondents), eight (3.3 percent), nine (2.3 percent), 10 (4.1 percent), 11 (1 percent), 12 (1.3 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 4.1 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 $95,040 $58,550
2 $100,840 $55,890
3 $110,490 $59,880
4 $109,860 $62,710
5 $110,820 $64,110
6 $109,590 $63,840
7 $113,180 $69,560
8 $134,530 $76,220
9 $106,430 $66,670
10 $107,840 $63,320
11 $123,470 $60,100
12 $114,880 $71,020
13 N/A N/A
14 N/A N/A
15 N/A N/A
16 or more $135,120 $71,360

2022 Salary Data

n 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 more clearly in the United States, although the overall pattern is there in the numbers for countries outside the United States as well.

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. Even if you have just one IT certification, like the individuals represented on the first line of the table above, there's a strong likelihood that you can command a comfortable salary.

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. Those at the very bottom, who probably spend a considerable amount of time on recertification, are well compensated for their plenitude of credentials, but not so well compensated as to suggest that everyone in IT should immediately start adding credentials to their résumés.

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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