With IT salaries dropping, some hard-earned skills still pay

Employers are still willing to pay highly skilled IT staff a premium — but certification is making much less of a difference than it used to, a study shows.

Even with more IT workers looking for jobs in the wake of COVID-19 than were prior to the pandemic, highly skilled staff are able to demand higher pay. Increasingly, however, it’s on-the-job experience and not certifications that employers are valuing the most.

The average premium paid for tech certifications fell to 6.8% of base salary in the third quarter, the lowest in 7 years, according to Foote Partners’ latest IT Skills & Certifications Pay Index, while non-certified skills earned workers an average bonus of 9.6% of base salary, the same as in the previous quarter — and the highest in the past 20 years.

Those bonuses are all the more important to employees when, as Foote Partners found in a separate survey of IT jobs, not yet published, salaries dropped over the past year for 41% of job titles. Among those titles hardest hit are jobs in mobile platform computing, business systems analysis, .NET, digital product development, IT architecture, enterprise messaging, web systems, and SAP. Overall, across the 516 certifications the company tracks, the average premium for certifications declined by 1.5% during the quarter, and by 6.7% over the year to Oct. 1.

In some categories, notably cybersecurity, architecture and project management, the decline accelerated in the third quarter, although there was a slight increase in bonus pay offered for some certifications in networking, communications, app development and programming languages during the same period.

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