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Pay for in-demand IT skills rises fastest in 14 years

Pay for in-demand IT skills rises fastest in 14 years

In the first quarter of 2022, the pay premium for non-certified tech skills saw a record rise, while IT certifications continued to fall in value.

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CIOs seeking to hire or retain skilled IT workers should continue to budget generously for payroll. Pay premiums for non-certified tech skills rose by the largest amount in 14 years in the first quarter of 2022, according to the latest edition of the IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index, compiled by Foote Partners.

The quarterly index also covers pay premiums for IT certifications, which — in a bit of good news for cash-strapped CIOs — have resumed a long decline begun more than three years ago with their largest quarterly drop since late 2020.

Still, the analyst firm stands by its mid-2020 pandemic prediction that “employers won’t be feeling a true sense of normalcy or find comfort in predicting their future until the fourth quarter, despite recent relieve in various restrictions.”

The average premium paid for non-certified skills rose by 1.6 per cent in the quarter, lifting the pay premium for one skill from around 9.35 per cent to around 9.5 per cent of base salary. To put things in perspective, that would mean an increase of around $150 on a salary of $100,000 versus the previous quarter, bringing the average premium back to where it was two years ago.

The pay premium value of IT certifications, however, declined by 1.2 per cent over the quarter (and 11 per cent over the past three years), to around 6.5 per cent of base salary.

Money-making methodology

The size of the premiums paid varied widely by skill, Foote’s analysts found.

In the first quarter of 2022, skills centred around “management, methodology, and process” were the most richly-rewarded, buoyed by demand for skills such as AIops, Azure Key Vault, big data analytics, complex event processing/event correlation, deep learning, DevSecOps, Google TensorFlow, MLOps, prescriptive analytics, PyTorch, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), security architecture and models, and site reliability engineering (SRE), almost all of which continued to grow in value. Among them, only TensorFlow and SRE fell.

The only other skills as richly rewarded were smart contracts (commanding a bonus of a whopping 20 per cent of base pay) and blockchain, both of which Foote classifies as “data/database” (the second-best-paying category overall), and Ethereum, which it lumps in with programming languages, the rest of the Azure stack, and a bunch of Apache projects under “applications development tools/platforms” (the third-best-paying category).

It is not always the newest technologies that pay the best. Some of the fastest-rising pay premiums during the quarter were for knowledge of the venerable DB2 and Apache Sqoop, a command-line interface for loading Hadoop databases that ceased development last year.

Other skills with fast-rising premiums included WebSphere MQ, Apache Ant, Azure Cosmos DB, DataRobot enterprise AI platform, Tibco BusinessWorks, RedHat OpenShift, Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager and SharePoint Server, mobile operating systems, and a clutch of SAP technologies.

Foote does not report on any SAP certifications, but among the 579 certifications it does report on, architecture, project management, process and information security certifications remain the most valuable, commanding a pay premium of just over eight per cent. They are in long-term decline, though, while over the past year or two database certifications have been rising fast to meet them (and are now offer a pay premium of over seven per cent.

Cisco Certified Architect remains the most lucrative certification, followed by Certified ScrumMaster, Zachman Certified Enterprise Architect, and a bunch of cybersecurity qualifications: Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP), EC-Council Certified Encryption Specialist (ECES), GIAC Security Expert (GSE), and GIAC Security Leadership (GSLC).

The fastest-gaining certifications included the Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge, Certified Healthcare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner (ISC2), and vendor-specific certifications such as Juniper Networks Certified Professional (JNCIP), AWS Certified Data Analytics, IBM Certified Systems Administrator, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Certified Architect Professional, and Tibco Certified Architect.

Certified profits

Much as there was profit to be made selling pick-axes during the gold-rush, there’s also money to be made in the certification process itself, with pay premiums rising fast for CompTIA Certified Technical Trainers and Microsoft Certified Trainers.

Foote reminded CIOs that demand is not the only thing affecting the pay premium commanded by these skills: There may also be changes in supply, as more workers pick up the skills they see paying the biggest premiums or are encouraged by aggressive vendor marketing to pursue particular training programs.

There is also a great deal of volatility in the rankings, making it difficult to base long-term career or IT strategy decisions on one quarter’s numbers. 

Over one-third of the non-certified skills surveyed changed in value over the quarter, 12.6 per cent of them rising and 21 per cent falling. The data and databases segment was the most volatile, with more than half the skills surveyed changing in value, 39.7 per cent of them downward.


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