Foote Partners: bonus disparities reveal tech skills most in demand in Q3

Cash pay premiums for some IT certifications rose as much as 57% in Q3 in the US, highlighting for employees the importance of keeping up to date on training, and for CIOs the cost of running the latest (or oldest) technologies.

On average, though, bonuses for non-certified skills were bigger and faster-growing than those for certifications.

One of the hottest IT qualifications was Okta Certified Professional, attracting an average pay premium of 11%, up 57.1% over the preceding six months, according to the latest edition of Foote Partners’ IT Skills & Certifications Pay Index.

The average pay premium paid for another qualification, Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), rose 37.5%, also hitting 11% of base salary.

While bigger premiums were paid for a handful of other qualifications, those premiums grew more slowly. Certified Professional Scrum Product Owners attracted an average pay premium of 13%, up 18.2% since March.

An average premium of 12% was on offer for PMI Program Management Professional (PgMP), up 20%, and for GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA), InfoSys Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP/CISSP), and Okta Certified Developer, all up 9.1% since Q1.

Other certifications attracting pay premiums of 10% or more included AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional, Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect, Google Cloud DevOps Engineer, Pegasystems Certified Lead System Architect, and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and a clutch of security-related qualifications such as AWS Certified Security – Specialty, Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK), CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP), GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), and Okta Certified Administrator.

No certification, no problem

Bigger premiums were on offer for non-certified technical skills, however.

The top-earning skills were big data analytics and Ethereum, with a pay premium of 20% of base salary, both up 5.3% in the previous six months.

Close behind and rising fast, though, were security auditing and bioinformatics, offering a pay premium of 19%, up 18.8% since March. Other non-certified skills attracting a pay premium of 19% included data engineering, the Zachman Framework, Azure Key Vault and site reliability engineering (SRE).

There were also a host of other non-certified technical skills attracting pay premiums of 17% or more, way above those offered for certifications, and many of them centered on management, methodologies and processes or broad technology categories rather than on particular tools. These included metadata design and development, quantitative analysis, regression analysis, continuous integration, data analytics, data strategy, identity and access management, machine learning, natural language processing, and more.

Security, as ever, made a strong showing, with big premiums paid for experience in cryptography, penetration testing, risk analytics and assessment, and security testing.

Other tools including Informatica, Keras, Splunk and Redis also made the list.

Why certification doesn’t (always) pay

Foote Partners offered a number of explanations for the decline in value of some certifications. Some are no longer relevant or have been superseded by more modern qualifications, while demand for others is quickly saturated by a glut of recently qualified candidates chasing additional pay.

Finally, Foote notes, there’s a hard-to-shake feeling among some employers that book learning, and test results don’t always translate to sufficient real-world expertise to do the job — although certification organizations are working to counter this with laboratory tests and peer reviews for some of the skills they certify.

Whatever the reason, some certifications have lost as much as 44% of their value over the last two years, the most devalued being Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: BI Reporting, Avaya Certified Design Specialist, GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware (GREM) and SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Professional Using SAS 9.

Segments of volatility

Overall, Foote Partners identified 58 certifications that gained in market value and 67 that declined in Q3, showing a little more volatility than in the previous quarter.

When it came to non-certified skills, though, there seems to have been a significant shift, with 60 skills gaining in value and 113 declining; in the prior quarter, there were more gains than losses. The most volatile segment was for management, methodology and process skills, 40% of which changed in value in the quarter — most of them heading down. Despite this, average pay premiums for management, methodology and process skills rose 2.3% during the quarter, and 8% year-on-year, suggesting that one way to get higher pay is to pursue higher levels of abstraction.

Certifications, IT Skills