The Foote Partners report comparing average pay for certified IT skills versus non-certified IT skills got a lot of people talking. While news that the average salary for non-certified professionals was higher in the third quarter of 2007 came as a shock to some, others were not as surprised.
So what does this mean? To answer that I asked some of our SearchEnterpriseLinux.com experts what they think this survey says about the current IT job market and the Linux front specifically.
Bernard Golden, CEO of the open source software systems integration firm Navica, Inc., says the trend is very interesting but ultimately makes sense. While he recognizes that there is a need for certification and that certification is still very much in demand by both organizations and professionals, Golden points out that certification is only good for demonstrating ability in established, commodified skills. The job market has shifted away from “standard issue stuff” in the industry, which demanded basic skills from large numbers of employees and Golden said those days are long gone. Drawn to certified credentials are organizations that still require professionals who can perform basic skills (cost centers, for example).
Golden adds that certification can be more helpful offshore as a way of establishing credibility. “Offshore, they aren’t looking for innovation, just commodity skills … non-differentiated skill sets,” he said.
In today’s IT environment, certification alone isn’t enough to command a higher salary, Golden said. But the outlook is better for professionals with more expertise to offer potential employers, regardless of whether or not they have certified skills.
“If (an organization) needs to find someone with a particular skills set, above and beyond that of the average IT professional, an alpha-candidate, someone who won’t need certification to convince an employer that this is someone with the background and confidence to do the job, that is something special,” Golden said.
Expert Don Rosenberg, president of the marketing consulting firm Stromian Technologies, agreed that people who are senior enough not to need a certification will do better in the job market. Professionals who have had enough time to develop their niche or some kind of specialized function often will not need to bother getting certified, he said.
“It is a lot of trouble to go through a certification,” said Rosenberg, who believed the Foote survey reflects this to some extent. But he also expressed some skepticism about the study. He said it is problematic to gauge average salary for IT professionals across the board, citing major differences between Microsoft and Linux pros, the latter of which Rosenberg felt are typically more qualified and command higher salaries. “It takes so many Microsoft certified personnel to do what Linux personnel can do,” he said.
Rosenberg said Linux professionals could be blowing the curve, while the marketplace could also be seeing a surplus of Microsoft certified administrators forcing Linux out of the marketplace.
Nevertheless, Golden and Rosenberg both agreed that things keep looking up in the Linux job market. “Linux and open source skill sets are in demand,” Golden said. As as a member of a local Linux users group is seeing more job postings for Linux jobs showing up in the mailing list.
“People are starting to reach out in slightly unconventional ways,” Golden said. “I’m taking this as a sign that, having exhausted conventional avenues, employers are trying harder to find Linux professionals.”
For professionals who want to move up in the world, Golden suggested they develop skills that set them apart from the certified crowd: “When somebody needs that skill set, they’ll beat a path to your door.”