This feature first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
Once upon a time in 1966, just four words from the lips of Canadian actor William Shatner fired the imagination of a generation: "Space. The final frontier." Though Shatner and the cast of Star Trek barely managed to stretch their "five-year mission" out to three seasons on NBC, the show's impact resulted in everything from the behind-the-scenes renaming of the first U.S. space shuttle to Qualcomm's current competition to design the first functional medical diagnostic tricorder.
In 2016, we don't even need to leave the planet to explore the final frontier. There's plenty of space here on Earth — you just have to know where to look for it. One technology that has made space essentially limitless is virtualization. The amount of physical space required by a functional computer, of course, has been steadily shrinking for decades.
Virtualization, however, means that some entire computers don't take up any space at all. Computer processing technology has become so powerful, so fast and so fluid that a single physical machine can host an entire network. Given its ability to multiply the functionality and utility of computing resources, virtualization offers wide-open potential for application.
Businesses are recognizing that potential, too. At the end of last year, Computerworld's forecast of the IT employment landscape for 2016 ranked virtualization among the top five categories in which companies planned to increase spending. The same report found that virtualization was, by a wide margin, the No. 1 technology that firms planned to pilot or beta-test in 2016, and virtualization also made the list of 15 skills specifically targeted for hiring.
There's plenty of room for newcomers in the field. Our survey of more than 330 virtualization workers from around the world found that nearly 60 percent of all certified professionals have been plying that trade for nine or fewer years. As business application of virtualization expands, the demand for skilled professionals is poised to skyrocket.
The salary landscape for virtualization professionals comes with the usual 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 mixing concrete or mining coal. Maybe not inside the United States, where the median annual income is a cozy $95,000. Outside the United States, that number drops to a more life-sized, but still potent $63,350.
With a solid base income, workers in the industry won't need to rely on reaping large bonuses or incentive pay, which is helpful, given that the current trend in bonuses indicates a degree of fiscal belt-tightening. In 2015, 44 percent of those surveyed received bonus or incentive pay — a figure that fell to 41 percent this year.
On the other hand, it would seem that virtualization is an area where certification can have a dramatic influence on salary. A strong 42 percent of those surveyed said that they received a raise in the first year after completing their most recent certification. Not only that, but among those collecting that raise, almost exactly two-thirds saw their pay go up by more than 10 percent.
TABLE TALK : Salary isn't the only reason to get a certification, but it is an important piece of the puzzle. And judging by the incomes of Salary Survey respondents, certified professionals can count on a big payday: