How Much Will Certifications and Skills Boost Your Pay?

We all know that learning new skills and earning certifications can result in a significant pay bump. But just how big is that bump? In its upcoming IT Skills and Salary Report, training firm Global Knowledge crunched some data and produced a number that technologists might appreciate.

Specifically, for those technologists who attributed their latest salary raise to learning new skills, that raise was worth $12,000. For those who attributed their raise to new certification(s), the raise was $13,000. Compare that to the average IT professional raise of $5,000, and you can see how putting some effort into training can translate into significant compensation. 

“Employees who add value to the organization are often rewarded for their performance,” Global Knowledge wrote in a note announcing the report. “That’s why adding new skills, especially in much-needed areas like cybersecurity and cloud computing, has major benefits. IT decision-makers are overwhelmed with skills gaps again this year, so any employee who is proactive in their skill development will be noticed and likely rewarded.”

The firm also believes that the more certifications, the merrier: “In North America, someone with six or more certifications earns $13,000 more than someone with one certification.”

As you can see in the below chart (generated using Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country), the percentage of tech jobs that request certifications is often rather small—for example, it’s 1.1 percent with software developers/engineers. But those who have certifications can stand out in a crowded job market—or make a better case for that big raise or promotion. 

It’s also vital to note that not all certifications are created equal; a recent analysis by research firm Foote Partners showed that, while the average market value for hundreds of skills climbed in the first quarter of 2020, the market value of around 505 certifications actually declined during the same period. 

Foote Partners hypothesized that the popularity of certain certifications, by flooding the market, also drove down values. In addition, “there remains a lingering bias that taking a proctored exam does not confer expertise in a subject on the test taker, especially when the pass rate is 70 percent correct answers,” its report added. “The certification industry has fought back against this bias by adding laboratory requirements and even peer review panels that decide if the candidate has qualified to receive designation.” 

But again, as this data from Global Knowledge makes clear, there’s a strong case to be made that certifications assures employers that you indeed know the necessary skills, which in turn can open the right doors. This is especially applicable when it comes to highly specialized roles such as machine learning and data science.

3 Responses to “How Much Will Certifications and Skills Boost Your Pay?”

  1. david ouellette

    Recently passed Azure Fundamentals and Adminstrator exams – hoping this will help me get involved in Cloud computing. I’ve been an IT Systems engineer for several years. Looking to branch into some other aspects of IT.

    • Good luck David. I always like it when someone is certified if that certification is mentioned ‘in the background’ and not as most important reason to be hired. I think the fact that you take time and effort to get certified is confirmation for me that you want to put time in professional development. For me is experience with certification as a good meal (experience) with a steel knife and fork (certification). If you only have a great meal, but plastic knife and fork, the food is still good, but why not spend some money for real knife and fork. On the other hand if you have a steel knife and fork and a terrible junk food meal, that knife and fork doesn’t make it better.