Leadership

Video: Five technical certifications that earn top dollar

Getting the right skills and certifications can help you win a new job or earn a promotion. In this IT Dojo video, Bill Detwiler discusses several factors that can increase your base salary, including the five most lucrative technical certifications as indicated by our 2009 IT Skills and Salary Report.

Whether you're just starting your IT career, trying to move-up the IT ladder, or looking to reinvent yourself after a layoff, learning the right skills and getting the right certifications can give you an edge on getting the job or the promotion you want. But, which skills and certifications are likely to earn you top dollar?

For the second year in a row, Global Knowledge and TechRepublic partnered to create and distribute a comprehensive IT salary survey. From October 20 to November 11, 2008, over 14,150 U.S. IT professionals answered questions about their overall job satisfaction, base salary, benefits, bonuses, certifications and more. In February, we released the result of this survey in our 2009 IT Skills and Salary Report.

In this IT Dojo video, I examine the survey's results and discuss several factors that can increase your base salary, including the five most lucrative technical certifications.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window. You can also download the full 2009 IT Skills and Salary Report as a PDF document.

You can also sign up to receive the latest IT Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

68 comments
smugboy
smugboy

not representative for software engineering and development... that's where the bucks are.

rb622b
rb622b

video starts and resets to beginning. unable to watch it.

olearydolphin
olearydolphin

check it out....free practice...plus it's kinda fun: www.areyoucertifiable.com Clippy rules!

comments
comments

What previous training is common for supporting these skills? Thank you.

marty
marty

is it me or what??? why can't i find the link to the video?? can you help a brother out?? thanks. inetbogey

TCheung1
TCheung1

While the overall salary numbers appear to be right, the certification list is gearing towards the netowkring roles. Maybe it's because technical management and developement are much harder to gauge based on a test or a peice of framed paper. Do agree with geogroraphical factor, who doesn't want to live in the CA climate?! Supply and demand. And what about PMI??? It's definitely a sought-after certification and also makes a difference when hiring.

multazimimran
multazimimran

I've completed the CCNA course and I'm taking the CCNP now, I was thinking of leaving cisco, but now, I am determind that I will stay on cisco certifications as my career without any hesitaion. Thank you so much, you have saved my career life. Thank you again.

avelazquez
avelazquez

I agree with most of this, but let me say... I work for a small company and I am the ONLY IT person taking care of about 50 users and I would not trade it for any CEO's job, because basically, if you know your stuff and stay friendly and on good terms with everyone and take care of the TOP BOSS (CEO, Presidnet, whatever) then... you can get a small organization in shape quickly, build the infrastructure in such a way that you're the ONLY one who can operate it (even if it takes a few late nights and weekends),.. and then set it on autopilot while you collect a salary. Sure, a bigger company has a larger revenue base to draw from and hence bigger salaries,... but more users mean more problems and more opportunities for failure, more counterproductive policy changes, more faces you have to impress, and (in general) more opportunities to get fired when cutbacks are made. No thanks. Conversely, less users mean less problems and being the only IT guy makes it a little hard (even if someone were to get mad at me) to outright get rid of me. I make about 58K plus bonuses of around 3-4K at my company, (with steady 3.5 - 4 % increases each year since 2 1/2 years ago when I started here) and full benefits,... and quite frankly, I have almost bulletproof job security here because there is NO ONE else to bring in here (if I was to get hit by a truck tomorrow) that knows how we work (all remote users desktop support, data backups, VPNs, database maintenance, web-hosting, landing page designs, secure tunnels between sites, telephone systems maintenance, Exchange admin, domain infrastructure, user profile changes, network security,... ALL OF IT...). So in this tumultuous economy, I think the better equation is... small company + only IT person + take good care of the top dogs in the company = job security for life That is why (in my humble opinion) small companies are much, much better.

melekali
melekali

...a day late and a dollar short for those of us who already read the original report you refer to.

pdgagliardi
pdgagliardi

This has been helpful as I am one looking for the ladder to start climbing. I will keep on working and hopefully weather the storm! PDG

don
don

It would be interesting to see higher education impact on salary as well as certifications

esalkin
esalkin

A critical question to ask is if the respondants were already working in the position and used the cert to enhance their knowledge or if they got a cert then were hired. Along the same lines is how much those with certs earned versus those working the same positions without certs. "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" - Benjamin Disraeli.

ruthie56
ruthie56

You didn't even mention Lotus Notes certifications. Let's see there are: Lotus Notes Developers Lotus Notes Administrators Lotus Notes Instructors If you check Salary.com you will see the averages of ALL certifications you mentioned are lower than the average of a Lotus Notes Administrator. So tell me this wasn't CISCO slanted!

roxroe
roxroe

Yes I too have a difficultly with the idea that virtualization is not in demand here. I expected it to be about number three. It is a huge wave coming at us....

M_J_Davies
M_J_Davies

Does VMWares' VCP really not make the top ten? Top twenty?

steelejedi4
steelejedi4

I live in the UK, I have CompTIA Network+, and the Cisco Certified Entry Netwrork Technician, I am still studying for the CCNA Routing and Switching. But even with these qualification and Certificates, I am finding it hard to secure a career in the IT sector, as I have no practical experience. Where do I get that if no one will give the leg up I require????

philip_doughty
philip_doughty

Thank you, this is perfect timing for my current situation.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In this video, I only covered the list's "purely technical" certifications. PMP and multiple ITIL certs. were among the report's full list of most popular certifications. Jason Hiner will cover these and other "management" certification in this Thursday's Sanity Savers for IT Executives video. http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=590

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

If I were the CEO where you work, the first thing I'd have you do is DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. No company should ever allow themselves to be held hostage to ANY one person. (Like City of San Francisco was to Terry Childs.) Accidents happen both to people and equipment. Good documentation and a disaster recovery plan go hand-in-hand. I've had plenty of cases where I've walked into an environment like that and had to reverse-engineer it -- that's not a fun job for anyone.

russellg2003
russellg2003

In some respects I agree with you. I have worked in both larger and smaller companies. I work for a small company now and could not be happier as I am also the sole IT guy. I also hold the "keys to filing cabinet" but I have to ensure that things can run even if for some reason I am not there. Yes you must keep everyone happy but you must also use the time to hone and update your skills, Streamline processes, document procedures, etc. I don't believe a company should ever just run on auto pilot while the IT gus kick back and collect a salary. My company takes very good care of me and I am cheating myself and them them if I do not do the same. Part of this is detailed procedures so someone can do certain tasks if need be while I am away on vacation, sick or indisposed. Let me throw this out there. Are you really taking care of everyone if for some reason something needs to be done and you can't be found or contacted to do it? Will the CEO be Ok with his new hire not having network access and e-mail because you could not be found? Maybe once but never twice in my opinion. I do not say this to judge just to let everyone think a little. Yes, small companies are great and have their perks and advantages but in my opinion, it is only good if you really are "taking care" of everyone.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I have no idea when Baseline started preparing these certification slideshows, but I can tell you that we've been planning our current salary survey and report since we published our last one in 2008. As my post indicates, our survey was conducted between October and November 2008. When account for the December holiday season and add on a few weeks to analyze the data and write the report, you have a February publication date. The fact that Baseline published these stories a few weeks before our report is purely coincidental. Training and certifications are always a hot topic, and IT publications cover them on a regular basis. It's erroneous to assume, simply because we published this IT Dojo video after a Baseline certification story, that their story somehow caused us to publish this one.

MarketingTutor
MarketingTutor

Can I see a show of hands? We have like 15000 notes clients. Of all of the people that I speak to, EVERYONE of the them despises Notes. Ah, let me get that out of my system...Notes Sucks!!!

zbatia
zbatia

It always happens that the technology is fading out and there are less and less professionals who would serve the company that is still using old technology. No wonder, the companies would pay top dollar to the pro who has certain skills. I would not put Lotus in the list. It's the same as to add Novell certification to the list since it's still paid well. However, I don't think any IT pro would want to spend money and efforts to learn outdated technology or the technology that has no wide-spread acceptance. What was obviously missed in the list is the PMP certification! Batia http://www.rtek2000.com/certific.html

macstewart34
macstewart34

Does anyone have any advice as to the best certification I should do first? I am a few years out of college and am considering a career change. I am very comfortable working/troubleshooting with Windows, so I am thinking that the Windows Servers ones mentioned would be a good place to start. Should I do 2003 or 2008? Or, should I just start with Cisco? What about Linux? I appreciate any help you guys can offer.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Cisco has done a great job in acquiring mindshare in the IT community. Almost every job description I've seen either requires or prefers some type of Cisco certification. Why? I don't know. Half the time I think employers put them in the job description because they think that's what all IT people should have. Just like Nurses need to be certified, they believe that Microsoft and Cisco certifications are what IT professionals need in order to "practice" IT. That mindset is a pain in the ass if you're tens of thousands of dollars in debt from college and have to get up off of thousands more for meaningless certs that pad certain vendor's pockets. It's good for Microsoft and Cisco though! Companies spend tons on their products, said companies then believe that they need certified folks to work with the products. Certified folks are mostly familiar with those products so they keep purchasing them and it becomes a perpetual wheel that ends up with more money flowing into Cisco and MS.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Here's a complete description of the survey methodology: The Global Knowledge/TechRepublic 2009 Salary Survey was conducted online from October 20 to November 11, 2008. Over half a million survey invitations were e-mailed to recipients from the databases of Global Knowledge, TechRepublic, and other vendors. Links, including the survey invitation, were also provided in online newsletters. The 2009 IT Salary Survey yielded more respondents than any other salary survey in the industry, with a base of 14,159 U.S. IT professionals. This online survey was powered by Vision Critical, LLC and tabulated using Uncle Software (cross tabulation software).

MarketingTutor
MarketingTutor

consolidation is still going on with little or no certification. Having been personally involved in a large-scale consolidation effort, we didn't even consider certification in the subject. We ran through a couple of classes, and corporate purchased licenses to online PDF's to do "training", but otherwise, we were given a sandbox and told to "figure it out". This was mostly because when adding training and certification to the costs, it was immediately threatening the Cost/Benefit results. Nowadays, nearly all of our decisions are based on ROI, nothing more. Seems future tertiary benefit isn't included in the thought process.

sidekick
sidekick

Maybe it's just still to new or not wide-spread enough for certs to be that much in demand yet, though I would expect that would change once the wave hits us.

ruthie56
ruthie56

Don't you think it's a bit slanted? I wouldn't be surprised if CISCO paid for this survey. Lotus notes average from salary.com is higher than ALL of these. And from experience, I'd say it's close to accurate too. (salary.com)

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

When you have a four year degree, employers want at least 2 years experience. When you have loads of experience employers want a four year degree. Alas, when you have a four year degree and real world experience, they want a litany of certifications. There are no consistent hiring standards in IT. Mainly because IT has become so vendor-driven with a few major players including MS and Cisco that control the mindshare as seen by the top-paying certs in the survey. As far as employers seem to be concerned, no matter what your education or real-world experience, you're not worth your salt if you don't have a Cisco cert or a MS cert as if those certs are a barometer of overrall IT knowledge. Secondly, every IT shop is different in the technologies they use so you have to kind of hope that your experience matches at least some of the tech they're using. We're victims of an industry that is relatively young and hasn't really matured to a point where there are consistent hiring standards across the board.

john.postlethwaite
john.postlethwaite

I had the same problem when i was trying to break into the IT sector. The thing that really helped me was volunteering. I volunteered for a computer recycling charity and things just went from there

ruthie56
ruthie56

LIKE??? "We have "like" 15000 Notes clients" -- how old are you? You can't even write a post without using the stall word of "like" ? I'm sure you have spoken to ALL 15,000 people using Notes... so I wouldn't Dare oppose your Opinion. A Notes installation at any company is only embraced when it is administered and utilized correctly. Perhaps you need to cast your attention there. Most people that HATE Lotus Notes haven't used it properly or had the experience of using it beyond what they have been shown. Grow a little... you might find there's more out there than you thought. Like, ya know?

ruthie56
ruthie56

This from Maryland... hot spot of technology. FIRST of all, I don't even UNDERSTAND your first paragraph. Perhaps you could edit it, so it grammatically makes sense? or if you are a PMP, have someone on your team edit it. SECOND, You obviously don't have enough companies there to form an educated opinion from. If Lotus were dying, they would NOT be in version 8 now, nor would they be integrating with Websphere, NOR would they have made the move to using DB2 as the backend storage repository. Your information is outdated. Get up to speed...

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In this video, I only covered the list's "purely technical" certifications. PMP and multiple ITIL certs. were among the report's full list of most popular certifications. Jason Hiner will cover these and other "management" certification in this Thursday's Sanity Savers for IT Executives video. http://sanity.techrepublic.com/

ruthie56
ruthie56

I would look at the job ads for the city you want to live in. Online, newspaper, etc. See what is needed in that area.

sidekick
sidekick

Part of it comes down to what you want to work with. If you like working with Windows, go with that. If you want to get into networking or Linux, go with one of those. No point getting certified in something you don't like and trying to get a job you won't be happy with. If you do go the Windows route, I would focus on 2008. There is a lot of 2003 out there, but if you are already comfortable with 2003, then you might as well focus on what is going to be around longer. Plus you will be more prepared as 2008 becomes more prevelent. And it will save you the trouble of upgrading your cert from 2003 to 2008.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

The Windows and Cisco market will soon become glutted because it seems that everyone and their brother wants to get into IT because of the low barrier to entry ("A $3,000 bootcamp can make me an engineer that pulls $80k per year?!!! That sure beats my Applebees salary!"). So I suggest you go for your RHCE or any Solaris Admin certifications because those markets are less crowded and therefore pay much, much better.

ruthie56
ruthie56

Yes there is a lot of CISCO out there, I give you that, but the job ads I look at are not predominantly CISCO...perhaps those are the ads you're looking at... or that's what is needed most in your area. Yes, it's a good product, I don't begrudge that, but 14,159 people? heck there are 10,000 SYSTEMS people in Bloomington at State Farm alone! Maybe the survey needed to go out further... maybe the database needed to have more names in it.. All I know, is that most Certified Lotus Notes people(any of the 3 types of certifications they offer) make more than most of the salaries listed on that survey. Maybe that survey needed to include IBM database data.

daveevans28
daveevans28

Who cares who paid for it as long as the numbers are accurate. Paying for a survey doesn't necessarily imply that having the sponsors' cert will yeild a higher salary.

MarketingTutor
MarketingTutor

slanted. Or you don't work in IT. Man, Cisco certs have been the shiznit in high-pay certification for years. This isn't news to anyone in the know. Go chase bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster...

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Here's a complete description of the survey methodology: The Global Knowledge/TechRepublic 2009 Salary Survey was conducted online from October 20 to November 11, 2008. Over half a million survey invitations were e-mailed to recipients from the databases of Global Knowledge, TechRepublic, and other vendors. Links, including the survey invitation, were also provided in online newsletters. The 2009 IT Salary Survey yielded more respondents than any other salary survey in the industry, with a base of 14,159 U.S. IT professionals. This online survey was powered by Vision Critical, LLC and tabulated using Uncle Software (cross tabulation software).

ajludgate
ajludgate

I agree with what you say, but have found an additional aspect: when you have a four year degree, over five years experience and the required certifications, employers won't hire you these days because they figure they can't afford to keep you around for more than a year -- you're overqualified. One of the teething pains regarding hiring standards in the IT world centers around the fact that IT is partially an art -- just like there aren't specific requirements for musicians, dancers, authors, sculptors, etc. there aren't specific requirements for IT workers. Of course, IT is in reality an art/science hybrid, which makes things even more complex. "IT" encompasses everyone from the guy who lays fibre to the person who does search engine optimization, to the project manager who is managing a group of embedded software engineers. "Working in IT" is similar to "Working in construction" -- depending on what you're actually doing, you're going to need very different qualifications. As you've mentioned, the industry hasn't settled down yet to the point where there are accepted defined roles across the industry. IT doesn't have any professional organizations equivalent to structural engineers, draftsmen, carpenters, welders, etc. The industry changes so quickly that it will likely be at least decades before we will.

don.howard
don.howard

Volunteering is a great suggestion. You might also want to think small to begin with. I can't speak to your particular situation in the UK, but a couple of things you may want to consider is some type of internship or starting at a small company. My first job was at a company with only 35 employees. True, the starting pay was low, but it gave me the experience I needed for that next job where I was competing with literally hundreds of applicants. Good Luck in your job hunt.

zbatia
zbatia

Calm down. I AM up to speed, and this is my opinion (and you can have a different one). Is Cobol outdated language? It exists only because IBM exists and because IBM is pushing it to the Government organizations (due to the large investment into mainframes). Did you see many training courses in Cobol? It will fade away the same way as Lotus Notes. I wish we can talk in 5 years. Read the article: http://www.marquam.com/clients/stories/wutc.html

macstewart34
macstewart34

I'm not quite sure yet, I'm really open to anything. I'm starting to realize that I'm getting too good at the system I'm using at work that I don't think is used anywhere else. Essentially, I'd rather work with something with a future instead of a dead end. The only thing that would lean me towards Windows would be the fact that I'm very comfortable with it already.

sidekick
sidekick

I'm not accusing anyone of wrongdoing or anything, but it's hard not to look at the fact that the survey is done by a company that offers training for certifications. And since it was sent using people in their databases, then it is probable that many of those who responded have trained and possibly tested through GK (I myself did an MCSA boot camp and got certified through them), so it is possible the results were skewed towards what GK offers. I will say that I didn't see the survey, so I can't really say for sure, but it does float in my mind as a possibility. I just took a quick look at their website, and they do offer a lot more than Cisco, including some VMWare, though I don't know enough about VMWare certification to comment on it.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

I wanted to become a Microsoft Certified Trainer -- back in the days when you needed to be an MCSE plus had to 'sit' the official courses before being allowed to teach them. At the time, I had just been 'downsized' and didn't have the money to pay up to $2,000 for each course -- so I worked a barter where I would volunteer to teach the training center's 'uncertified' courses in exchange for being allowed to sit the Microsoft Official Curriculum courses. This worked great and after sitting the second course, the contract instructor who was teaching it hired me to teach for him and I was on the way. Just be careful when volunteering that someone isn't doing it just to take advantage of 'free labor' to get low-level work done. You should either gain valuable experience (perhaps in 'complimentary' areas), and/or will get an excellent reference and/or a referral. It should be a win/win deal for everyone.

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