12 IT skills paying the highest premiums today

From risk analytics to deep learning, these 12 IT skills are earning the highest pay premiums in 2021, 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 3,805 private- and public-sector employers in US 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 621 noncertified tech skills rose just slightly in the second quarter of 2021, with an average pay premium equivalent to just under 10% of reported base salary for a single noncertified skill. Meanwhile, more than 500 IT certifications decreased in market value, leading to the widest gap between certified and noncertified IT skills pay premiums since mid-2000, according to Foote Partners.

Several factors impact the fluctuations in pay premiums for noncertified 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. 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 12 noncertified IT skills that are paying the highest premiums in 2021.

Risk analytics and assessment

The market value of risk analytics and assessment skills grew just under 12% in the six months leading up to July. 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 is a popular skill for risk analysts, IT auditors, IS audit managers, security analysts, and IT directors. According to data from PayScale, the average salary associated with risk management and control skills is $83,000 per year.


The market value increase for DevSecOps skills grew 5.6% in the past six months leading up to July. DevOps is the combination of software development and operations processes to ensure that your company can 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.

According to salary data from Talent.com, the average salary associated with DevSecOps skills is $142,869. It’s a relatively new job in IT and tech, so the highest demand for these skills will be for DevSecOps engineering roles.

Smart contracts

The market value for smart contract skills grew 5.6% in the past six months leading up to July. 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. 

According to data from PayScale, the average salary associated with contract management skills is $79,000 per year. Jobs that require smart contract skills will be similar to those that look for blockchain skills, such as software engineer, research scientist, software developer, and software programmer.

Apache Pig

The market value increase for Apache Pig skills grew 20% in the past six months up to July. Apache Pig is a high-level platform used to build programs running on Apache Hadoop using the programming language Pig Latin. Programs that run on Pig can be highly parallelized, enabling them to handle large datasets. Pig Latin is designed to be a simpler way to build MapReduce applications in 1/16th of the development time.

According to data from PayScale the average salary associated with Apache Pig skills is $103,000 per year. It’s a popular skill with software engineers, data engineers, data scientists, application developers, and solutions architects.


Blockchain has been a hot topic in recent years — it’s appealing to businesses because it can offer better transparency and security around payments, transactions, and communication. It’s also gained popularity due to its use with cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. IT professionals who understand blockchain are an asset to any modern company that is interested in leveraging the technology. As Foote Partners points out, “Understanding how Blockchain integrates with IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and other technologies is a plus now for architects but will be a requirement in the future as these other technologies mature and adoption rates increase.”

It’s a skill sought after for roles such as software engineer, software developer, software programmer, research scientist, network analysts, and software architects. According to data from PayScale, the average salary associated with blockchain skills is $108,000 per year.

Oracle Exadata Database Machine

Market value for Oracle Exadata skills grew just over 12% in the six months leading up to July. The Oracle Exadata Database Machine is a combined software and hardware computing platform optimized for running Oracle Database workloads. It allows for mixed workloads by sharing system resources between workloads and allowing for prioritization of resource allocation. Exadata runs database workloads such as OLTP, data warehousing, in-memory analytics, and more.

It’s a skill that’s popular for database administrators, database engineers, enterprise architects, IT managers, and software engineers, developers, and programmers. According to data from PayScale, the average salary for professionals with Oracle Exadata skills is $107,000 per year.

Deep learning

The market value of deep learning skills grew just under 6% in market value in the six months leading up to July. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning, which is a neural network consisting of three or more layers. Deep learning is a technique that was created to mimic the human brain to find patterns and data to create accurate predictions and it’s a way to teach computers to “learn by example” when building artificial neural networks. You’ll find deep learning technology in artificial intelligence applications and services to automate analytical and physical tasks such as voice assistance, voice-enabled devices, and self-driving cars.

Deep learning skills are pivotal for jobs such as data scientist, machine learning engineer, software engineer, and research or computer vision scientists. According to data from PayScale, the average salary associated with deep learning skills is $115,000 per year.

Site reliability engineering

The market value for site reliability engineering (SRE) skills grew just under 6% in the six months leading up to July. SRE is the practice of automating IT operation and software development processes to ensure better standardization and efficiency by creating highly scalable and reliable software systems. SRE is a set of principles and practices designed to address infrastructure, security, and operational problems in the organization. It’s a similar practice to DevOps; SRE was originated at Google in 2003 by Ben Treynor Sloss, who created a site reliability team when he joined the company. The concept later spread to the rest of the industry, with large web companies creating their own SRE teams.

According to data from PayScale, the average salary for a site reliability engineer is $118,075 per year, with a reported range of $76,000 to $158,000.

Big data analytics

The market value of big data analytics skills grew over 21% in the six months leading up to July. 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 clearer picture of how the business is meeting its overall goals.

According to PayScale, the average salary associated with big data analytics skills is $113,000 per year. It’s a popular skill for data scientists, data engineers, analytics managers, and data analysts.

Cloud Foundry

The market value of Cloud Foundry skills grew over 13% in the six months leading up to July. Cloud Foundry is an open source, multicloud application platform as a service (PaaS). Its container-based architecture can run applications in any language on a variety of cloud providers. It supports continuous delivery through the application development lifecycle and gives developers the flexibility to use the programming language and cloud service that best suits the application workload.

Cloud Foundry skills are commonly sought for roles such as software engineer, software developer, software architect, programmer analyst, and network engineer. According to data from PayScale, the average salary associated with Cloud Foundry skills is $93,000 per year.


The market value of e-discovery skills grew over 13% in the six months leading up to July. E-discovery is a relatively new area of technology that encompasses the process of retrieving data to be used in civil or criminal legal cases, court-ordered or government-sanctioned hacking to find evidence. It’s a tricky area because it touches on legal, constitutional, political, security, and personal privacy issues. It’s also used in computer forensics and cyberforensics to find data and evidence on the contents of a hard drive.

E-discovery is still a relatively specialized skill and is most sought after in roles specifically looking for an e-discovery professional. According to data from PayScale, the average salary associated with e-discovery skills is $53,091 per year.


The market value of Splunk skills grew over 13% in the six months leading up to July. Splunk is a software platform that is typically used to monitor, search, analyze, and visualize machine-generated data in real time. With Splunk, users can capture, index, and correlate data in real-time using searchable containers. The software will also create graphs, dashboards, alerts, and other visualizations to help better illustrate diagnostics and to discover solutions to various problems in the organization.

Splunk skills are commonly sought in roles such as software engineer, systems administrator, cyber security analyst, software developer, and DevOps engineer. According to data from PayScale, the average salary associated with Splunk skills is $87,000 per year.

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