15 Top Paying IT Certifications–Not Really

Today, I received a newsletter from Global Knowledge. The first article listed was “15 Top Paying IT Certifications for 2012“. I wanted to pose an interpretation to this article. It is not the certifications that are valuable, but what those individuals bring to the table that determines what their worth. For example in the number three position, GK lists the CCDA. This is a single exam that is based more on theory and memorization than practical experience. In the seventh position we find the CCNP certification, earning over $11,000 a year less.

So what gives? The skills achieved and demonstrated by obtaining the CCNP are typically more valuable than those learned by achieving the CCDA. To understand this phenomena, we need to think about the survey itself. What I recall is basically taking a survey that asked my salary and allowed me to choose the certifications I had. I believe that the results of this survey is more about longevity in the industry than the certification itself.

If we look at what pool of individuals each certification represents, you’ll see what I mean. For example, the CCENT is represented by entry level individuals to a larger degree than CISSP. CCDA was never as popular but has been around for a long time. I know many CCDAs, but none that don’t have a significant amount of experience. I would say more people today actually do go from CCNA to CCNP than from CCNA to CCDA. The CISSP itself has a prerequisite of experience in some of the domains of security.

I guess what bothers me about this article is the title. Employers do not and should not pay based on certifications (at least normally). The certifications should be an indication of what an employee or perspective employee can do for the indication. It is what this employee can do for the organization that is a primary factor in determining the value that individual brings to the table.

I’m curious what we would see if this article listed some more extreme cases, for example what is the average salary of an individual who is a Master CNE (Novell). My guess is that it “Certification” would pay more, even though it is far less relevant than anything else on the list. Why? Because the individuals represented in that pool have been around and are doing other high-end work that is relevant to today’s technology.

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About Paul Stewart, CCIE 26009 (Security)

Paul is a Network and Security Engineer, Trainer and Blogger who enjoys understanding how things really work. With over 15 years of experience in the technology industry, Paul has helped many organizations build, maintain and secure their networks and systems.
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2 Responses to 15 Top Paying IT Certifications–Not Really

  1. I think you’re thinking about it all wrong. I assume what they mean is that assuming you have the skills indicated by the certifications you possess, then you can expect to be compensated based on the indicated averages. I could be wrong…

    • Paul Stewart says:

      Thanks for the comment. I guess the survey, like everything, is up for interpretation. I personally don’t see direct and consistent correlation between the skill indicated by the certification and the salaries in this survey. For example, according to the GK survey, a CCDA would average $11k/yr more than a CCNP. There’s no way that that makes sense to me if we are only looking at the single certification. I think we have to look at the respondents as individuals who may have multiple certifications. The CCDA crowd probably has more longevity and is an overall more elite group. I’m curious how many of the people who have the CCDA are actually a subset of the CCNP.

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