Report: Certifications pay succumbs to IT economy

During the first half of this year, IT workers weren't paid the premiums they had received in the past for certifications, according to an IT workforce research firm.

Overall certification pay was down 4.1 percent in the first six months of 2003, and nearly 6 percent over the previous 12 months, said David Foote, president of Foote Partners in New Caanan, Conn. The research firm tracks 35,000 IT professionals in 66 North American cities and nine European countries.

"We're hearing from companies that they're done paying for certifications. They feel that people should be lucky to have jobs," he said.

However, the added training still matters, Foote said. Companies are saying that workers are still more valuable to them if they stay current with their certifications.

"Many managers continue to support the notion that certification is a more meaningful normative measure for comparing IT workers than untested or self-reported skills competency," Foote said.

In addition, managers said they can more successfully argue for money for employee training when they can guarantee certifications in return, he said.

IT workers who keep their skills current through recertification or broaden their knowledge by adding complementary skills, such as security certifications for systems administrators or Unix specialists adding Linux certifications, are more likely to receive pay raises than those who don't, Foote said.

Leading the decline in certifications premium pay in 2003 were webmaster/Internet certifications, down 13 percent in the first six months of 2003 and 21 percent in the past 12 months; database certifications, down 6.5 percent in 2003 and 14.7 percent from mid-2002; and beginner certifications such as Microsoft Certified Professional, Certified Computing Professional and A+, down 13.6 percent so far this year and down 14 percent in the past 12 months, according to Foote.

"Still strong in 2003 are popular project management, security and systems administrations/engineering and network operating systems certs, which have on average increased in value 6.7 percent, 2.3 percent and 1.5 percent respectively in the past 12 months," Foote said.

Leading the certification charge are those related to Linux, security auditing, Unix and Windows administration specialities, and infosecurity management, Foote said.

Foote said skills and certifications showing the strongest growth so far this year include Linux, security, XML and VoiceXML, and voice over IP.

"Database and enterprise application skills continue to pay well above the average for all certs surveyed," he said. "But it's rapid application development and extreme programming skills that have paid the handsomest every quarter for the past two years."

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