13 IT skills paying the highest premiums today

From DevSecOps to cryptography, these 13 IT skills grew the most in market value over the past year, according to data from Foote Partners.

As IT jobs grow increasingly complex, there’s more ambiguity surrounding how job titles are defined by any given company and how employers can compensate candidates in the same role with varying skillsets. Pay premiums help employers track the value of specific skills, so they know how competitive the market is for candidates with those skills and how much to offer on top of the base salary. 

To keep a finger on the pulse of these premiums, Foote Partners has been tracking pay data on IT skills since 1999 to see which skills and certifications give the biggest boost at any given time. The Foote Partners quarterly IT Skills and Certification Pay Index report uses data provided by 3,602 private- and public-sector employers in U.S. and Canadian cities to track gains and losses in market value and pay premiums for more than 1,000 tech skills and certifications.

On average, market value for 593 non-certified tech skills rose in the second quarter of 2020, with an average pay premium equivalent to just under 10 percent of reported base salary — the highest average premium in 20 years. Meanwhile, more than 500 IT certifications decreased in market value, leading to the widest gap between certified and non-certified IT skills pay premiums since mid-2000, according to Foote Partners. 

Several factors impact the fluctuations in pay premiums for non-certified IT skills, including new technology, economic conditions, mergers and acquisitions, employment and economic conditions, budget cycles and changes in recruitment and hiring, according to Foote Partners. And when looking at the data, it’s important to note that a decline in value isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes it can mean that the “market supply of talent for that skill is catching up to demand — not necessarily that demand is starting to wane,” according to Foote Partners. Alternatively, if a skill is in high demand but the supply doesn’t increase to match at the same rate of growth, you will typically see an increase in pay premiums for those specific skills.

Here are 13 non-certified IT skills that gained the most premium pay value in 2020:

DevSecOps

DevOps is the combination of software development and operations processes to ensure that your company can improve and deliver quality applications and services by involving both teams in every stage of the development lifecycle. DevSecOps takes that one step further by baking IT security into the development lifecycle, arguing that security should be considered from the earliest steps of any process. As development lifecycles move faster — taking weeks or months rather than years — security has become an integral beginning step to getting secure products and services on the market quickly.

DevSecOps skills are the highest paying non-certified IT skills, earning IT professionals a median 19 percent of their base salary with a reported range of 16 to 21 percent. The premium value of DevSecOps skills grew nearly 6 percent in the past six months, according to data from Foote Partners.

Amazon Athena

Amazon Athena is a serverless interactive query service that doesn’t require infrastructure and enables users to analyze and query unstructured, semi-structured and structured data stored in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Cloud skills are in high demand as companies rely more heavily on cloud services, such as AWS. That growing demand makes Amazon Athena a valuable and marketable skill for IT pros who have the ability to create and set up and manage Athena databases, tables and partitions.

Amazon Athena skills are the second highest-paying non-certified IT skill, earning IT professionals an average 18 percent of their base salary with a reported range of 16 to 19 percent. Premium value for this skill grew nearly 13 percent over the past six months, according to data from Foote Partners.

Security architecture and models

Security architecture is an important step in determining how to implement security and the models are the blueprint for that plan. IT pros with security architecture and modeling skills are adept at security design principles, threat modeling, informational and architectural risk assessment, security architecture frameworks and security design patterns. It’s a popular skill for information security analysts and engineers, enterprise architects, security solutions architects and security architects. 

Skills associated with security architecture and models tie with Amazon Athena for pay premium value, earning IT professionals a median 18 percent of their base salary with a reported range of 15 to 20 percent. Pay premiums for this skill grew nearly 6 percent over the past 12 months, according to data from Foote Partners.

Risk analytics/assessment

Technology moves fast and that means IT decisions need to move just as quickly. But companies shouldn’t lose sight of potential risks and threats just to get a project off the ground. Risk analytics and assessment skills are important for businesses looking to secure their services and systems and to identify future potential risks that need to be mitigated, especially in industries such as finance, banking, technology and government. While some industries may have a stronger focus on risk assessment, it’s a vital and in-demand skill across every industry because nearly every business operates digitally in some way.

Risk analytics and assessment skills earn IT professionals a median 17 percent of their base salary, with a reported range of 14 to 19 percent. Growth for these skills maintained their value over the past year, neither gaining nor losing value from 2019, according to data from Foote Partners.

Master data management

Master data management (MDM) gives businesses the ability to improve the consistency and quality of data assets, enabling them to gain quick insights into KPIs and to answer business questions. MDM involves aggregating your company’s most vital and important data, which is typically the most complex and valuable data to manage and maintain — such as location, customer, product and contract or warranty data — so that it’s easy to pull queries, track KPIs and get insights into the most vital areas of the business.

Companies are collecting more data than ever, and the premium value of master data management skills reflects that. In the past year premium value for MDM skills grew just over 6 percent, earning IT professionals a median 17 percent of their base salary, according to data from Foote Partners.

Cryptography

Encryption is a big part of IT security and cryptography is the process of designing or deciphering encryption systems to deter attacks, mitigate risks or identify important information. Cryptography is a complex skillset that requires analytical skills, knowledge of computer science and algorithms, an understanding of mathematical principles and strong technical writing skills, to name a few.

Cryptography skills grew over 13 percent in premium value over the past year, earning IT professionals a median 17 percent of their base salary, according to data from Foote Partners.

Smart contract

A smart contract is a self-executing digital agreement or transaction between two people in the form of a computer program or code. Smart contracts are often run through blockchain, making the contracts unchangeable and transparent without needing a central point of contact. As more work is done remotely and companies need secure ways to sign and send contract agreements, smart contract skills are increasingly important to businesses.  

Smart contract skills grew more than 13 percent in the past year, earning most of its growth in the first half of the year and maintaining its value over the following six months, according to data from Foote Partners.  

RStudio

RStudio is a free and open-source integrated development environment (IDE) for the programming language R that supports direct code execution through a console syntax-highlighting editor. The enterprise-level software enables organizations to access open source data science software at scale in a code-friendly, vendor-neutral and scalable format. RStudio can be run through a browser or hosted on a dedicated server for centralized access. It is also offered in a commercial format for large organizations.  

RStudio skills grew more than 21 percent in the past year, earning IT professionals an average 17 percent of their base salary, according to data from Foote Partners.

Prescriptive analytics

Prescriptive analytics allow businesses to utilize machine learning to make business decisions based on predictions pulled from data. While descriptive analytics looks at past data to find trends and predictive analytics helps businesses look into the future, prescriptive analytics go a step further than making predictions by suggesting actual decisions the company should make.

Prescriptive analytics skills grew 25 percent in the past year and declined just under 6 percent in the past six months. That type of decline can be expected after a large jump in value, however, especially as supply meets demand for the skillset.

Data engineering

Data continues to be a valuable resource for businesses across every industry, so it makes sense that data engineering skills have high earning potential for IT professionals. Companies employ data engineers to help make sense of the data they collect and use those efforts to create new business solutions, improve customer service and build better quality products and services. Data engineering covers a broad range of skillsets such as data architecture, data processing, proficiency in several scripting languages, application development, data modeling and mining and analytics.

Data engineering skills maintained their growth over the past year, earning IT professionals a median 17 percent of their base salary, according to data from Foote Partners.

Natural language processing

Natural language processing (NLP) skills are increasingly important as companies rely on chatbots, voice recognition and automated assistants to support employees and customers. NLP is the process of teaching speech and natural-language recognition to artificial intelligence and to support machine learning technologies. Voice-driven interfaces are becoming the norm, and as more companies create voice-assisted services, companies are on the lookout for IT pros with NLP skills.

Natural language processing skills grew over 6 percent in the past three months, earning IT professionals a median 17 percent of their base salary, according to data from Foote Partners.

Big data analytics

Big data analytics skills still hold their place as one of the highest paying non-certified IT skills on the market. Big data has only become more important over the years, as more companies rely on data to make business decisions and improve products and services. Of course, no matter how much data companies collect, it is worthless without someone to make sense of what it means. Big data analytics helps businesses look at the data they collect to find trends, identify problems or issues and get a stronger picture of how the business is meeting its overall goals.

Big data analytics skills still top the list for highest paying non-certified IT skills, however the premium value for this skillset dropped just under 11 percent over the past six months, according to data from Foote Partners. Again, that doesn’t mean that the skill is losing market value or will be worthless on your resume; it typically suggests that supply is meeting demand in the market for that skillset — especially with a skillset such as big data, which has been a top skill for years.

Neural networks

Neural networks are designed to work like the human brain by using large amounts of data to create artificial neural networks to predict future outcomes and to produce desired outputs. They make up the foundation of machine learning, helping computers learn and perform tasks by analyzing data from other sources. Neural network skills include advanced math and algorithms, distributed computing, machine learning, programming skills, statistics, software engineering and system design skills.

As machine learning technology takes off, neural networks skills grew more than 21 percent in the past year, earning IT professionals a median 17 percent of their base salary, according to data from Foote Partners.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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