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.