Highest paying tech skills and certifications in 2017: there are some surprises

The second in a two-part series highlighting the fastest growing and highest paying certified and non-certified tech skills in the latest IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index.

money handout

Getting compensation right has been a nagging problem with tech professionals for a very long time. I’ve spent a few columns exploring aspects of why employers will pay their tech workers extra cash for a skill or certification when they're already paying them a salary and annual bonus.

Let’s summarize.

First, there’s constant market price volatility due to rapid shifts in labor supply and demand and it takes a lot of effort to respond accordingly. Then there are countless variations in the jobs tech pros are asked to perform as the average employer requires more and more hybrid tech-business experience with industry knowledge, specific solution aptitude, soft skills and niche experience with a certain kinds of customers or particular products and services. It’s no longer good enough for workers to demonstrate proven expertise on a single platform: employers reward experience spanning multiple tech platforms, domains, programming languages, tools and systems.

But the real problem forcing skills pay is inflexibility and lack of agility in compensation practices plus aging HR systems and pay structures that just don’t cut it anymore. Pure and simple, if companies were doing a better job managing their human resources they wouldn’t need to rely on paying extra cash for skills. But the fact is that for years employers have underpaid large numbers of their tech workers for one simple reason: prevailing market pay growth rates often exceed annual cost of living pay increases when they are driven by the market forces mentioned earlier. Employers not paying enough attention to this disparity will be exploited by recruiters who do and are searching for hot skilled individuals.

2017 IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index - U.S. and Canada

Extra pay awarded to 72,120 U.S. and Canadian IT professionals at 3,038 private and public sector employers for 916 certified and non-certified IT and business skills — also known as skills pay premiums — has been tracked and updated every three months since October 1999 in the IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index (ITSCPI) for the U.S. and Canada. Let’s take a look at what’s earning the most in the most recent 2017 data edition (data collected through April 1st).

Highest paying tech certifications

Market values for 422 tech certifications in the most recent ITSCPI data update are averaging the equivalent of a 7.6% of base salary with a median range from 2% to 17%. The following certifications are earning the highest pay premiums right now, averaging cash premiums equivalent to 13% to 17% of base salary typically paid out each pay period as a cash bonus in addition to salary. Shown in descending rank order of market value including ties, arranged alphabetically within each rank.

  1. (Tie)Certified Cyber Forensics Professional
    InfoSys Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP/CISSP
    Open Group Master Architect   
  2. (Tie) CyberSecurity Forensic Analyst (CSFA)
    Six Sigma Master Black Belt
    TOGAF 9 Certified
  3. (Tie) Check Point Certified Security Master (CCMA)
    EC-Council Certified Incident Handler
    GIAC Secure Software Programmer—Java
    GIAC Web Application Penetration Tester (GWAPT)
    Open Group Master Certified IT Specialist
    PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)
    PMI Program Management Professional (PgMP)
  4. (Tie) Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)
    Cisco Certified Architect
    EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)
    GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN)
    GIAC Systems and Network Auditor (GSNA) 
    InfoSys Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP/CISSP)
    PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
    PMI Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)
    PMI Project Management Professional(PMP)
    PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)
    Salesforce.com Certified Technical Architect
  5. (Tie) Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
    Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
    Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) 
    Certified Scrum Master
    GIAC Assessing Wireless Networks
    GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA)
    GIAC Certified Perimeter Protection Analyst (GPPA)
    GIAC Enterprise Defender (GCED)
    Open Group Certified Architect
    Open Group Certified IT Specialist (Open CITS) 

Highest paying noncertified tech skills (no certification required)

Market values for 494 noncertified tech skills in the most recent ITSCPI data update are averaging the equivalent of a 9.3% of base salary with a median range of 1% to 18%. The following noncertified skills are earning the highest cash pay premiums right now, averaging cash premiums equivalent to 14% to 18% of base salary typically paid out each pay period as a cash bonus in addition to salary. Shown in descending rank order of market value including ties, arranged alphabetically within each rank.

[NOTE: Certifications do exist for some of these skills but certification is not factored into an employer’s willingness to pay extra cash for them. Typically, employers have found other ways of evaluating of accrediting the level of expertise or aptitude a worker has attained with the desired skill. The bottom line is they need these skills in their workforce and are willing to pay something extra for them without the benefit of written tests, labs, peer review, or other services proctored by a vendor or third party testing service provider.]

  1. (Tie)Data Architecture
    Prescriptive Analytics 
    TOGAF (Enterprise Architecture)         
  2. (Tie) Complex Event Processing/Event Correlation
    Metadata design and development
    Security architecture and models
  3. (Tie) COBIT
    Big Data analytics
    Data Governance
    Infrastructure architecture
    Machine Learning
    Quantitative Analysis/Regression Analysis
    Risk management
    Zachman Framework
  4. (Tie) Blockchain
    Cloudera Impala
    Continuous Integration
    Network Architecture
    Objective Caml (Ocaml)
    Predictive Analytics and Modeling  Program Management
    Risk analytics/assessment
    Security skills (DW/BI, ERP, Web, project
    TIBCO ActiveMatrix BusinessWorks
    User Experience/Interface Design
  5. (Tie) Apache Cloudstack
    Apache Hive
    Apache Spark
    Configuration Management
    Cryptography (encryption, VPN, SSL/TLS, Hybrids)
    Data Analytics
    Data Integration
    Data Modelling
    Information management
    IT Governance
    Penetration testing
    Project management/governance
    Six Sigma/Lean Six Sigma
    Workday HCM

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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