By Ryan Day
The debate on the value of certification is over. Certifications matter—now more than ever.
Training builds skills, and certifications validate those skills. It proves to employers and organizations that an IT professional invested time and energy to advance their knowledge and achieve something truly valuable in the industry.
Aside from the commitment it takes to achieve certification, in what ways do certified personnel outshine their non-certified peers? Are they paid more? Is there proof that they’re better at their job? And how do certifications impact the hiring process?
Let’s examine five truths of IT certifications and how the value of certification training extends well beyond salary and skill validation.
Certified personnel earn more
The numbers do not lie—according to the Global Knowledge 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report, certified IT professionals in North America earn 22% more than non-certified peers. In terms of dollars, that’s equivalent to just under $16,000. (Who doesn’t want an extra 16 grand in their annual paycheck?)
IT professionals who achieved a new certification also reported raises of 9 to 16%. The U.S. average among all survey respondents, both certified and non-certified, was four percent.
Certification increases pay. That’s the simplified version.
But when we dig deeper, it’s apparent that the salary bump isn’t so much about the credential itself, as it is about the knowledge gained from study and preparation. It’s about the skills.
Looking to boost your salary? Find out which certifications pay the most in our list of 15 Top-Paying IT Certifications for 2018.
Certified personnel improve IT operations and close skills gaps
According to our report, professionals who hold at least one certification are indisputably more productive than their counterparts. IT decision-makers insist that certified personnel are better at:
- Meeting client requirements
- Closing organizational skills gaps
- Troubleshooting issues
- Providing an edge over the competition
- Completing projects quickly
Of course individuals who can deliver on these organizational benefits are paid more. They should be. This level of productivity enables staff and department efficiencies, improves IT operations and inevitably saves the company money.
In the IDC white paper, sponsored by Microsoft, “The Business Value of IT Certification” (2015), the International Data Corporation (IDC) interviewed IT managers at eight organizations with a minimum of 25 staff members who have earned IT-related certifications. These managers profess that certified employees enable the organization to be more agile and better meet business goals.
According to the white paper:
- Certified application developers are nearly 90% more productive and 60% more efficient than those without certifications.
- Certified IT professionals contribute to a 56% reduction of unplanned server downtime on users.
- Certified IT professionals responsible for core IT activities are 17% more productive than non-certified teams.
The knowledge gained through certification also helps to eliminate damaging skills gaps that are plaguing IT departments worldwide. It’s no coincidence that a majority (78%) of respondents to our IT Skills and Salary Survey said the main reason they train is to build new skills.
Skills gaps delay deployments, increase operating costs and make it difficult to meet quality objectives. Certified IT professionals provide a clear skills advantage for departments that are limited by a shortage of expertise.
Certified personnel are more likely to be promoted
Working toward and ultimately achieving a new certification is a strong indication of a desire for career advancement, at least according to IT managers.
In the IDC white paper, surveyed decision-makers said they have more confidence in certified employees when it comes to handling challenging issues and supervising the work of staff members. They also appreciate the effort that goes into certification prep—it’s something they certainly keep top of mind when promotions become available.
And in IT, promotions can mean huge salary bumps, especially for individuals advancing into supervisory roles. In North America, entry-level professionals earn an average salary of $55,275, while mid-level employees (managers and team leads) make $83,072 annually.
Certified personnel save the business money
Ninety-five percent of IT decision-makers in the IT Skills and Salary Report believe that certifications provide added value to an organization. Of those decision-makers, over 50% estimate that the additional skills gained by certified employees exceed $10,000 per year. That estimate would indicate that certification training pays for itself—and then some.
It’s also cheaper to train existing personnel than it is to hire new employees. Training often causes less headaches than hiring too, as IT decision-makers are struggling to find qualified job candidates in key tech areas such as cybersecurity and cloud computing.
Often, saving money is equivalent to saving time. Certified employees are more productive and efficient, which allows for “saved time” to be reinvested into the organization in key areas such as brainstorming, product development and additional skills-based training.
Certified personnel are less likely to change jobs
Ultimately, when a position needs to be filled by an outside applicant, decision-makers are overwhelmingly zeroing in on candidates who hold IT certifications.
According to IDC, certified personnel reach full productivity faster—up to a month earlier—than non-certified hires. Certified professionals also tend to have a 15% longer tenure with an organization.
Not only do certified job candidates contribute more quickly, but they reduce hiring costs too—there’s no need to hire if current employees don’t leave. This also leads to minimal disruption of operations caused by employee turnover.
Our IT Skills and Salary Report also indicates that satisfied employees are less likely to seek alternative employment. And training is positively associated with job satisfaction, as 30% of IT professionals who trained last year were more fulfilled in their roles than those who didn’t train.
When decision-makers approve certification training for employees, it indicates that management, and the organization, are invested in the skills and the potential of their people. When a proper training budget isn’t allocated, employees will view this as a slight and a clear message from the organization. Don’t expect employees to be invested in the business if the business doesn’t actively invest in its employees.
How have certifications impacted your career or organization?
In what other ways have certifications shaped your career? What particular certification have you found the most beneficial? If you could make one certification suggestion to a newbie in the industry, what would it be? Share your certification story with us.