IT Certification Bonus Pay Up, Skills Pay Down

By David Aponovich

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IT workers with certified skills continue to reap compensation benefits, while bonus pay for standalone skills has dropped measurably over the last year, according to a report from Foote Partners LLC, New Canaan, Conn.

Overall premium bonus pay for 53 certifications surveyed has risen 4 percent since the end of 2000 to an average of 8.3 percent of base salary, despite a slight decline in the last three months of 2001, according to the Quarterly Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index, which surveyed nearly 30,000 IT professionals.

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In contrast, premium pay for 83 standalone skills not tied to a certification declined 13.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2000 to the fourth quarter of 2002, equal to a drop in bonus pay of about 1 percent of base salary. Premium pay for these standalone skills averages 8.1 percent of base salary. Bonus pay for specific skills has fallen by about 21 percent since the third quarter of 2000, or more than 2 percent of total base pay, according to Foote Partners.

President and chief research officer David Foote says since late 2000, employers have been reluctant to pay skills bonuses to junior staffers or inexperienced workers, those not well-matched to priority projects and others whose ROI is not guaranteed.

"Employers are more aggressively seeking ways to retain and motivate their very best workers with larger and sometimes additional bonuses for skills and certifications, especially in the areas of database, web/e-commerce, and applications development," Foote said.

He added that until now, the average bonus being paid for a certification has never exceeded the average for a standalone skill in the four years he's been researching the trends.

"Clearly, employers are more suspicious than ever of workers" self-marketing of their skills acumen and now perceive certifications as solid, more meaningful normative measures for comparing IT workers, whether currently employed or candidates for hire," Foote said. "We're being told by managers that certifications demonstrate greater commitment to job and career, which may be the equivalent of 'comfort food' to employers in these uncertain times."

Among the research findings of Foote Partners:

Editor's note: Click here to download a free executive summary of the "2002 Trend Report: Technical Skills & Certifications Pay" from Foote Partners LLC.