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Top 5 Things You Need to Know from the 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report

By Ryan Day

Global Knowledge recently released its 10th annual IT Skills and Salary Report. For a decade, we’ve analyzed more than 100 thousand survey responses while measuring the values, opinions, skills, salaries and challenges of IT professionals. The result each year has been an accurate and exhaustive examination of the tech industry in the United States and Canada.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—right?

Well, we decided to up the ante for our 10th report. When you have 10 years under your belt, you need to go big or go home. So we approached our 2017 report with the same goal as the previous nine versions: Learn about IT professionals by examining their skills, salaries and the factors that influence both.

But we did add one major twist: Let’s do all of that, but on a global scale.

Broadening the survey just made sense to us. We’re living in a connected world where businesses are more globally intertwined than ever. Work environments may fluctuate from region to region, but a universal IT ecosystem is certainly evolving. 

And if global IT is evolving, so must our report.

In addition to responses from professionals in the U.S. and Canada, this year we included data from Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.

In doing so, we learned more about worldwide IT departments than we ever had before. We learned that a lot of employee attitudes and workplace anxieties are consistent across all regions, and salaries and highest-paying certifications vary considerably.

We also learned that the U.S. doesn’t always come out on top.

Here are 5 things you have to know—and maybe didn’t expect—from the 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report:

 

1. The biggest reason your manager is losing sleep at night: skills gaps.

IT decision-makers constantly fight for their departments. They fight for bigger budgets. They fight for more training. They fight for quality hires. They aren’t always winning battles.

With all of the challenges facing decision-makers, there is one that presently stands out above the rest—skills gaps.

A whopping 68 percent of IT decision-makers say their teams face a shortage of necessary skills. That percentage rises to 71 percent in the U.S. and Canada.

Percent of respondents reporting a current skills gap (2016 vs. 2017) 

That’s a scary number, and survey respondents don’t expect it to decline any time soon. Seventy-five percent of managers facing skills gaps today anticipate one over the next two years. And 28 percent of those not facing skills gaps expect one to develop in the next 24 months. Talk about a murky outlook.

It’s tough enough meeting organizational objectives when your team doesn’t have the required skills. It’s even tougher to accomplish goals when there’s little hope that conditions will get better.

If you’re thinking that skills gaps have always existed, well, you’re partially correct. But it’s quite clear they’re becoming a much greater issue. In last year’s report, only 31 percent of IT decision-makers reported a present skills shortage. That’s a 38 percent increase in just one year.

According to survey respondents, the top reasons behind skills gaps are:

  • Lack of training investment
  • Difficulty attracting top candidates
  • Difficulty paying what candidates demand

Not all hope is lost however. Thirty-eight percent of decision-makers expect to see a budget increase this year. That would allow for the allocation of more funds for training and paying top job candidates. Still, after analyzing our survey responses, it’s clear that skills gaps are a major issue that will continue to plague IT departments for the foreseeable future.

 

2. Cybersecurity jobs are in highest demand and pay the best. Yet managers can’t find qualified candidates.

If salary is your top motivator, cybersecurity is the field for you. Open positions may not be difficult to find either.

Cybersecurity professionals earn the highest average global salary at $87,580—that’s 6 percent higher than project management. In the U.S. and Canada, cybersecurity jobs top out at $112,764 a year.

And yet IT decision-makers consistently struggle to find qualified security talent. Thirty-one percent of respondents say cybersecurity is the most challenging area to find experienced hires. Cloud computing is second at 28 percent.

Larger companies (more than 250 full-time employees) generally have an easier time finding and acquiring talent. That’s not really a surprise since they typically have a larger budget and can offer better salaries and more benefits.

But the struggle to acquire cybersecurity talent isn’t limited to small companies. Their larger counterparts are having an equally difficult time filling security openings.

An increase in denial-of-service (DoS) and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks in recent years have certainly contributed to the increasing need for gifted cybersecurity professionals. Also, the growing popularity of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has resulted in new ways for hackers to infiltrate your information by using webcams, DVRs and home security systems as weapons against consumers.

You don’t have to be an IT company to be a “tech company” nowadays. Every business needs a strong cybersecurity team to prepare themselves against cyber attacks.

Thus, it’s understandable that managers are feeling the pressure to hire the best cybersecurity personnel. It’s up to organizations to allocate the appropriate budget to meet training and hiring needs. If not, the hiring headaches aren’t going away any time soon for IT decision-makers.

 

3. Business is booming but workloads are dooming.

There’s no denying it. The volume of IT projects is on the upswing.

Eighty-one percent of survey respondents report at least a slight increase in project levels. Forty-eight percent are seeing a moderate or significant increase.

But if business is picking up, why did only 22 percent of respondents characterize business as good?

The answer is simple: Increased projects lead to increased workloads. And IT professionals are feeling the pressure. Forty percent of respondents say their workloads are either challenging or the worst they’ve ever seen. (Silver lining: That number is down from 49 percent in 2016.)

Workloads are a major problem. It’s not helping that decision-makers are struggling to find the right people to fill open positions—nearly two-thirds report that hiring qualified talent is a significant issue.

As IT professionals know, the work doesn’t stop when there’s an open position. Having to pick up the slack can lead to increased stress on existing employees. It can also result in a delay in the development or deployment of company initiatives.

While business may be growing in the short term, the toll taken on employees may have a greater long-term affect.

 

4. The United States and Canada don’t have the highest average salary.

It’s been all about the U.S. and Canada since we started the IT Skills and Salary Report a decade ago. So maybe it’s appropriate that the first year we open it up to the rest of the world, the U.S. and Canada get knocked off the top perch.

Oceania—Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands—is the region with the highest average IT salary at $90,031. That’s 2 percent better than the U.S. and Canada ($88,640).

Rounding out the top five regions, the Middle East is third ($62,757), Europe is fourth ($55,418) and Southern Africa placed fifth ($37,181).

 Mean salaries across 13 global regions

Of course, finishing runner-up in highest salary is far from a loss. In fact, combined average salaries in the U.S. and Canada are on the upswing. After falling by two percentage points in 2016, IT salaries are up 5.7 percent in 2017, which is equivalent to an average of $3,958 per person.

If you want a raise or bonus, the U.S. remains your best bet. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. IT professionals received a raise in the past year.

At the same time, IT staff in Latin America saw the biggest bump in pay. Only 55 percent of survey respondents in Latin America reported receiving a raise—just about the worldwide average—but the percentage of the raise blew away the competition. IT staff received an average raise of 18.5 percent, compared to 6.4 percent in the U.S. and 4.8 percent in Canada. This is important since Latin America’s average base salary is significantly lower than the rest of the world—$30,127 versus $67,810.

 

5. It’s not always about the money. Top-paying certifications aren’t necessarily the most popular.

The highest-paying certifications section is always one of the most popular in our IT Skills and Salary Report. That shouldn’t be a surprise—certifications pay off.

In the U.S. and Canada, the difference in salaries between certified and noncertified IT staff is nearly $8,400, or 11.7 percent. That percentage rises to 12.8 percent in EMEA and 15.3 percent in the Asia-Pacific region.

So it’s fair to expect that the top-paying certifications are also the most popular certifications, right?

Well, that’s not always the case.

The most popular certification, in terms of count, is CCNA: Routing and Switching, which you won’t even find on our list of highest-paying options. In fact, it’s the 19th best certification in terms of salary according to our report. The second most popular is ITIL® v3 Foundation, which is the 8th highest-paying certification.

Both pay well but are considerably lower than our top-paying certifications.

In fact, of the 15 most popular certifications in our report, only nine overlap with the 15 highest-paying. The most popular certifications not included in our top-paying list are:

  • CCNA: Routing and Switching – first
  • Windows Server (MSCA) – third
  • CompTIA Network+ – sixth
  • CompTIA Security+ – ninth
  • Windows 7 (MS Spec) – 15th

This divide shows that money isn’t always the driving factor when it comes to training. Sure, salary will always play a part, but most IT professionals train to build new skills and gain exposure to new topics and techniques.

IT decision-makers see the benefits of having certified team members, including:

  • Performing work faster (44 percent),
  • Having sought-after expertise in the organization (39 percent),
  • Implementing system efficiencies (33 percent) and
  • Deploying products and services more efficiently (23 percent).

While it may pay off financially to pursue a certification, most decision-makers perceive an even greater impact on workflow and productivity.

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By expanding  to a worldwide survey we will continue to provide a more accurate and far-reaching representation of IT departments. In our first year, we’re already seeing many parallels, including a universal concern about skills gaps and a near-unanimous focus on cybersecurity and cloud computing.

It’s somehow more comforting to know that global IT professionals are facing similar challenges (i.e. shrinking budgets) and have similar sentiments (i.e. training is the best antidote to skills gaps).

It’s not all predictable—who knew skills gaps would rise 38 percent in one year? And that’s why we love this report. There is so much useful information, and unexpected statistics give us greater insight in the world of IT. Hopefully, much of it can be used to change the way departments are managed to maximize productivity, job satisfaction and even salaries in the future.

Don’t think these are the five most revealing findings? Check out the full 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report, and let us know your favorite observations.