This feature first appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
In the first quarter of 2016, analysts started throwing around the word "zettabyte" as a measure of global internet traffic. That is to say, the number crunchers figured we'd be able to look back at the end of the year and verify that a zettabyte's worth of data had gone zipping to and fro along the information superhighway between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31.
A zettabyte is the equivalent of 1 billion terabytes, which is the equivalent 1 trillion gigabytes, which is the equivalent of 1 sextillion ordinary garden-variety bytes, which is about as much traffic as you'd see if everyone got together and shared the Dramatic Chipmunk GIF on Twitter roughly 765.1 quadrillion times. We've come a long way, baby.
Not nearly all of that data is stored, or organized, or catalogued, or meticulously picked over to warehouse individual details, or discern tantalizing correlations and patterns that could be worth — well, what, exactly? Personal data, information that describes and categorizes individuals, is perhaps most highly prized above all other types.
Many different kinds of data, however, could yield what researchers James Short and Steve Todd described in a recent article for MIT Sloan Management Review as being the three key classes of data value: asset value, activity value, and future value. And while computers may do the heavy lifting when it comes to searching and sorting, human brains and human training are still needed to make choices about what to look for (and how to look for it), as well as to analyze and interpret findings.
That's why anyone who has certified Big Data skills can expect to find a thriving and competitive market for their gifts. Data scientists are consistently listed as being among the most sought-after professionals in the entire IT realm, but there's plenty of opportunity in Big Data outside that particular hiring niche. Programmers, developers, architects, and more are also hotly demanded.
As with many IT fields, Big Data professionals are both highly educated and adaptable, eagerly keeping pace with the explosive growth of their field. Nearly 40 percent of the more than 730 certified professionals who responded to our survey have two or more active Big Data certifications, and more than half of those surveyed pursued certification within their first two years of taking work in Big Data.
The salary landscape for Big Data professionals comes with fairly typical peaks and valleys. The highest-paid workers can get comfortable six-figure incomes, while some at the bottom are bound to question, at least initially, whether they'd have been better off bagging groceries for minimum wage. Maybe not inside the United States, where the median annual income for 2017 among all Big Data professionals is an eye-popping $109,990. Outside the United States, there's a steep drop all the way down to $34,500.
Income for IT workers is often supplemented by bonuses and incentive pay, and Big Data professionals in the United States are definitely reaping those rewards. In 2016, 76 percent of U.S. survey respondents earned some sort of premium pay, a number that inched up to 78 percent this year. Elsewhere in the world, 58 percent of workers got a boost in 2016, and 60 percent are in that group this year.
Certification can definitely impact salary apart from bonuses. In the United States, 52 percent of those surveyed report receiving a raise in the first year after completing their most recent Big Data certification, while the same holds true for 35 percent of non-U.S. workers.
Among those who did get a salary bump, the reward for certification can be substantial. In the United States, 62 percent of those who got a raise had their pay increase by 4 percent or more. Among non-U.S. workers, 38 percent of those collecting a raise got an impressive increase of 10 percent or better.
TABLE TALK : Which Big Data certs have big salary potential?