A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the US is losing momentum in IT certifications growth, compared with emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, India, and Latin America.
Now a report from researchers at Foote Partners has noted that average pay for IT certifications dropped 2 per cent in the three months ended October 1 - which would translate into an annual drop of 8 per cent if the trend continues. By comparison, pay for non-certified IT skills rose 1.4 per cent on average for the same period. That's 9-13 per cent over the past year. Are certified IT jobs just becoming more of a commodity, facing stiffer offshore competition? Are certifications becoming less relevant because anybody can go to Google and get themselves a mini-tutorial on almost any tech topic, any time? Or as Foote Partners CEO, David Foote, suggested, have enterprise employers simply refocused their priorities on niche, non-certified skills such as applications and Web or ecommerce development?
"Certifications are becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of the IT world," Foote said.
"Employers are desperate for IT professionals who can get things done," Foote said. "Technical skills are without a doubt critical for many IT jobs, but there's much more. Being a desirable 'impact' worker means getting along with people, keeping an eye on IT's role in business execution, and quickly delivering what customers want, which is a moving target." This man must surely be selling his services to the HR department, not to anybody who's ever taken an IT certification course.
"You wanna see 'impact', pal?" I imagine you certified IT pros thinking. "Try letting the network go down - or letting that virus infect all 50,000 desktops."
But extreme or not, there's a certain logic to what Foote's trying to say. The IT labour market's like one big auction, and rather than bidding based on a single skill set, employers are starting to look more at bundles of skills, of which a certification may not be the most important feature. Foote Partners' data presumably comes from an annual survey of 55,000 IT professionals in the US and Canada.
"You may have system administrators with a Unix or Linux specialisation working on critical customer facing systems," Foote said. "You don't want to end up lumping them with, say, MVS administrators when it comes to salary benchmarking. It's the same thing with Advanced Business Application Programming and .Net developers, Java programmers, and Oracle DBAs who get thrown in with all the other developers, programmers, and DBAs paywise."
At a high level, the implication for IT professionals just starting out would seem to be this: Try to become well-rounded; you can't just build up one competence and expect to ride it to retirement. You'll be perceived as too narrow and leave yourself open to outsourcing.
As environments and resources get virtualised, the managers holding the purse strings care less about what's under the hood and who tuned it up, than how fast the car can go and who's in the driver's seat. And one more thing. Whatever you do, don't bail on your technical track and go into writing. Man, talk about a commodity!