Noncertified IT pros earn more than certified counterparts

Premium pay for noncertified skills rose 8 percent, certified skills declined 3.5 percent.

IT professionals who have acumen in diverse business areas but whose IT skills are noncertified are bringing in bigger salaries on average than their certified counterparts, according to Foote Partners, which attributes the growing imbalance to the melding of corporate and IT goals.

"The corner officially has been turned for IT professionals who choose to market the diversity of their talents, not just their technical skills," according to David Foote, co-founder, CEO and chief research officer at Foote Partners, which this week released the findings of its "IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index." The report monitors the pay of 74,000 IT professionals in the United States and Canada and what they earn for 315 certified and noncertified technical and management skills and certifications.

For instance, Foote Partners research shows the average premium pay for the 156 noncertified skills it tracks grew 8 percent in the past 12 months. On the other hand, the average earnings for 159 certified skills the research firm monitors declined 3.5 percent during the same time.

Foote estimates this trend will continue as the relationship between business and IT evolves. "The truth is that IT jobs have changed substantially in eight years," he writes. "The hurt that has been put on the marketplace reputation of skills certifications is only a drop in the pond of fundamental changes that will reform or destroy dozens of long-held IT industry conventions, beliefs and rituals."

Not all certifications are on the decline, however, Foote reports. IT security certifications have entered a growth phase, and the research firm expects to see that continue at a 5 percent to 7 percent rate for the next three years. Still, the firm contends that the trend to increased compensation for noncertified skills will not subside, and IT professionals will continue to need to have both technical knowledge and business savvy to succeed in the workplace. "IT professionals today have to be routinely knowledgeable about a whole lot of things that have to do with their employers' industry, customers and products, enough to take a strategic as well as tactical role in growing the business," he writes in the report.

The Foote Partners' research results are similar to recent findings from the Society for Information Management (SIM), which reported last week that IT management considered aligning IT and business and building business skills in IT among their top 10 concerns in 2007. In addition, the CIOs and IT executives responding to SIM's survey identified business intelligence and business process management among their top five application and technology developments in 2007. The shift in IT priorities from purely technical skills to business-related experience can be seen from administrators working in the IT trenches all the way up to the executive suites.

"CIOs are recognizing that they are going through a major transition from one of a more technical role to one that is more of a business management role," says Jerry Luftman, SIM's vice president of academic affairs. "We asked CIOs how they spend their time, and two-thirds of their time is spent on nontechnical issues -- just a few years ago, that number hovered around 50 percent.

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