Professional Certifications Drive Up Compensation Levels For IT Pros

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When it comes to compensation for IT professionals, adding professional certification to a Master degree makes a difference. Recent studies show that adding a certification to a master’s degree increases IT professional’s compensation up to 10%. Who is benefiting? What concentrations are in demand? Enrollment in both masters and certification programs is up “Eight to 10 years ago, employers preferred bachelor’s degrees. Now the standards have changed—master’s degrees are preferred. People are looking into education to stay current in their job and to stay competitive in their fields,” says Amita Suhrid, Associate Dean for DeVry University’s College of Engineering and Information Sciences. Overall, Suhrid has seen an increase in the number of IT professionals enrolling in both master’s and graduate certificate programs at DeVry. “Many who enroll in the graduate certificate programs focus on information security and wireless communications,” she says. She adds that candidates in the MBA program often “choose the information systems or network communications track.” “Generally the people that enroll in technology-related certificate programs have had some exposure to IT. Sometimes they have a bachelor’s degree but want to add a graduate certificate to their resume while they work toward their master’s degree,” says Suhrid. “We also see a lot of tech managers taking coursework in the information systems management program, and a lot of IT people in the workforce do project management programs because they often are responsible for many projects and have to make deadlines,” says Suhrid. Studies show pay differential According to a joint study by TechRepublic and Global Knowledge, “The demand for the IT professional is increasing, but since critical technical skills are constantly changing, long-term success is achieved by broader education and experience.” One way for candidates to set themselves apart from other candidates with the same skill sets is through their education and training. “When looking for a job, a master’s degree and certifications can help differentiate that candidate from others. A candidate with a master’s degree and certifications would help [to get a higher salary] but it also depends on their experience,” says Suhrid. The study says, “Optimal salary is achieved by combining formal education with certification and skills-based training.” Suhrid agrees. “While a higher salary often depends on the candidate’s background and what the employer is looking for, chances are the more qualified a person is, the higher the salary.” The study said on average, a network analyst with a 4-year degree, training and certifications earned $74,285 per year. Between a network analyst with a four-year degree, training, and no certification and a network analyst with a four-year degree, training, and certification, on average, there was a difference of more than 10% in compensation. Another example in the study showed a systems administrator with a four-year degree, training, and certification earned an average of $68, 236. At the same time, a person in the same position with a four-year degree, training, but with no certifications earned almost a five percent less in salary. Again, it’s important to remember that salaries can differ based on the candidates experience, training, and education. Other factors Getting a job offer within a certain salary range also depends on your geographical location. “If you lived in a small town, you’d most likely find work at a small company but the number of people they are willing to hire would differ greatly depending on your location. I read an article recently which said that help desk people are needed in Los Angeles, where as companies in Houston were looking for software developers,” says Suhrid. Suhrid encourages IT professionals to decide which direction they want their career to take. “For example, if someone wanted to work for a small company which probably wouldn’t have a huge IT department, they would want to become a generalist in terms of their skill set. However, if they wanted to work for a big company, which would have specific needs, they should consider specializing in an area of IT through one of our graduate certificate programs.” From computers, websites, databases, and networks, Suhrid acknowledges that IT is an integral part of business. “Throughout the U.S., there are small to medium companies who are growing and need more IT people. IT is a part of business—everyone needs it. Computers, websites, databases, networks—it’s all a necessity. The bottom line is, regardless of education, training, and experience, in a constantly changing industry, it’s important to never stop learning. “All tech professionals must manage their own careers. As the technology changes, they must update their skills.”

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