Offshore's Impact on Salaries, Certifications (Part 2 of 3)

Security, project management, and Linux skills are all still valuable

A prominent research firm says that offshore outsourcing is driving down base and premium compensation levels across the IT industry, for both certified and uncertified professionals alike.

All’s not lost, however. Salary researcher and management consultancy Foote Partners LLC identified a variety of “hot spot” skill certifications in which compensation levels have actually bucked the prevailing trend.

What's not working? If Foote Partners’ speculation is correct, the days of wine and roses are all but over for professionals working in what it calls “beginner” certifications, such as Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCP) or Cisco Certified Professionals (CCP), and A+.

Average pay for these IT pros declined by 15 percent alone from April 1, 2003 to April 1, 2004, Foote found. Also hard hit were many one-time sexy positions, such as Webmaster or Internet certifications (down 6.6 percent), application development certifications (down 3.8 percent), and database certifications (down 3.5 percent).

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however: From April 2002 to April 2004, Foote Partners says, compensation in these same skills areas declined by a substantial degree, such that beginner certifications were down 26 percent, Webmaster and Internet certs dropped 25 percent, database certs fell 20 percent, and application development certs saw a 15 percent decline.

That’s the bad news. On the plus side, skills certifications related to systems administration and engineering were up (by 3.8 percent), as were networking (up 2 percent), security (up 1.1 percent this year and by 5.9 percent over the last two years), and project management (flat growth this year, but up 6.7 percent since 2002).

What's Hot

In the midst of this tentative recovery, Foote Partners says that certain skill areas are downright “hot.”

Take the various security certifications, which in spite of modest (1.1 percent) uptick in premium pay this year, have notched impressive growth—29 percent—since 2001. The top performer in this skill area was the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) cert, with 33 percent growth in the past year alone, and 50 percent growth since 2002. Not surprisingly, Foote Partners says that CISA certs notched the biggest increase in premium pay of any skill area.

Also up were the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (up 18 this year and up 44 percent since 2002), and GIAC Certified Windows Administrator (up 11 percent this year, 25 percent since 2002) certs.

The networking industry has turned around dramatically over the past year, with bellwether Cisco Systems Inc. posting impressive revenues and earnings. It’s no surprise, then, that another “Hot” certification is that of the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE), for which premium bonus pay is up by 20 percent the past year alone.

Elsewhere, Foote Partners found HP/Compaq certifications are faring very well, indeed, with Accredited Systems Engineer certification up 17 percent in value through April of 2004, and Master Accredited Systems Engineer up 13 percent over the same period. Somewhat surprisingly, given the strong growth of Linux, Foote Partners rates Linux skills as “Warm,” noting that Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certifications were up 13 percent this year.

Other strong skills certifications include Project Management Professional, Certified InfoSys Security Professional, Certified InfoSys Auditor, Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator, GIAC Security Expert, Microsoft Certified DBA, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, Master Certified Novell Engineer, Oracle Certified Professional/DBA, Cisco Certified Enerprise Administrator, GIAC Certified Windows Security Administrator, Microsoft Certified Trainer, Foote Partners says. These certifications are earning at least 10 percent to 11 percent of base pay in median premium bonus pay this year—well above the 7.7-percent-of-base-pay average across all certifications surveyed.

In a future story we'll look at how IT pros working in uncertified skill areas are faring. While uncertified premium pay is down relative to that of certified professionals, there’s good reason to be optimistic: A bevy of emerging technologies is fueling demand for certified and uncertified workers alike.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.