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IT Certification Bonus Pay Up, Skills Pay Down

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IT workers with certified skills continue to reap compensation benefits, while bonus pay for standalone skills has dropped measurably over the last year, according to a report from Foote Partners LLC, New Canaan, Conn.

Overall premium bonus pay for 53 certifications surveyed has risen 4% since the end of 2000 to an average of 8.3% of base salary, despite a slight decline in the last three months of 2001, according to the Quarterly Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index, which surveyed nearly 30,000 IT professionals.

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In contrast, premium pay for 83 standalone skills not tied to a certification declined 13.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2000 to the fourth quarter of 2001, equal to a drop in bonus pay of about 1% of base salary. Premium pay for these standalone skills averages 8.1% of base salary. Bonus pay for specific skills has fallen by about 21% since the third quarter of 2000, or more than 2% of total base pay, according to Foote Partners.

President and chief research officer David Foote says since late 2000, employers have been reluctant to pay skills bonuses to junior staffers or inexperienced workers, those not well-matched to priority projects and others whose ROI is not guaranteed.

“Employers are more aggressively seeking ways to retain and motivate their very best workers with larger and sometimes additional bonuses for skills and certifications, especially in the areas of database, web/e-commerce, and applications development,” Foote said.

He added that until now, the average bonus being paid for a certification has never exceeded the average for a standalone skill in the four years he’s been researching the trends.

“Clearly, employers are more suspicious than ever of workers” self-marketing of their skills acumen and now perceive certifications as solid, more meaningful normative measures for comparing IT workers, whether currently employed or candidates for hire,” Foote said. “We’re being told by managers that certifications demonstrate greater commitment to job and career, which may be the equivalent of ‘comfort food’ to employers in these uncertain times.”

Among the research findings of Foote Partners:

  • Strong certifications premium pay performance has been driven by certifications relating to security, database, and project management, which increased between 12% and 18% from the fourth quarter of 2000 to the same period in 2001. System/network operating systems grew 6% in 2001, to an average 7.5% of base in median bonus paid.
  • The “hottest” certifications (those showing 20% or higher growth in 2001 or 10% or higher growth in the fourth quarter) currently are: Certified Novell Engineer, GIAC’s Certified Intrusion Analyst, Certified Unix Security Administrator, and Certified Firewall Analyst certifications, Microsoft Certified Database Administrator, and Siebel’s Certified Consultant and Customer Certified Consultant certifications.
  • The highest paying certification continues to be the Project Management Professional, which averages 14 percent of median base pay. That is followed by Oracle Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Database Administrator, and GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (12% of base), and Microsoft Certified Trainer, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer + Internet, and Prosoft’s Master CIW Enterprise Developer and Master CIW Administrator (11% of base).
  • On the standalone skills side, database skills held their value, finishing higher for 2001 and leading all skill categories averaging about 9 percent in median skills premium pay. Applications development tools/languages and Web/e-commerce skills also had strong showings in 2001.
  • The “hottest” skills are VoIP, WML, Novell Netware, and Siebel. The highest paying skill continues to be for Rapid Application Development, with an average 19% of base pay. Other high paying skills include project-related security skills (16%), XML(14%), Oracle DB(13%), and WAN/LAN, Java Server Pages, and SQL Server (all averaging 12% of base compensation).
  • The “coldest” skills are ATM, cc:mail, Window NT, Routing, PowerBuilder, Lawson, J.D. Edwards, HTTP, 10Base-T Switching, Ethernet, Delphi, CGI, Visual C++, and Cold Fusion.
  • Foote Partners predicts more accelerated growth in security skills and certification pay in late 2002 and early 2003 as more business is launched online and demand for wireless technology and remote computing expands.

Editor’s note: Click here to download a free executive summary of the “2002 Trend Report: Technical Skills & Certifications Pay” from Foote Partners LLC.

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