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Professionals in IT, cybersecurity, privacy, risk, audit and related digital trust fields have wrestled with this question for years. Do certifications actually help with competitive job applications, increasing earning potential, and staying up to date with the latest IT trends? Or are they just acronyms on a resume that employers skip over?
Whether it’s for a job you are pursuing, taking the next step in your career, transitioning to a new industry, or brushing up on the latest trends and best practices, earning an IT certification can be a springboard to success. The latest technology innovation is always lurking around the corner, ready to transform the digital landscape in the blink of an eye. IT professionals not only need to quickly adapt to these abrupt developments, but must also educate themselves and validate their knowledge to provide employers with the most up-to-date skills and best practices. And, according to industry data, many industry credentials are accompanied by a compensation boost.
Certifications don’t just build and refine professionals’ essential knowledge for careers in IT, cybersecurity, privacy, risk, audit, governance and related fields with the latest information available; they also signal this expertise to employers. In many cases, IT certifications will differentiate you from other applicants vying for the same role by acting as an external metric of quality that hiring leaders value. Some employers even require certifications as a qualification for certain roles because of the credibility and validation of expertise, skills and knowledge they demonstrate. This increase in marketability produces a competitive edge over your peers and emphasizes your commitment to your professional development and continued education.
According to a recent report from Lightcast, an independent authority in labor market analytics and insights, certification-related skills are in high demand in the job market. For skills related to ISACA’s stackable Information Technology Certified Associate (ITCA) credential, such as data ethics and DevSecOps, job demand is expected to increase by 100%-250% over the next five years, and 12 million ITCA-skill-related jobs were posted in 2022 alone. For roles that require Certified in Emerging Technology (CET)-related skills—including 15% of the total US labor job market demand and 67% of cybersecurity engineer job postings—demand is expected to increase 450% for AI skills, 230% for cryptocurrency skills and 90% for cloud computing security skills over the next five years.
ISACA’s annual State of Cybersecurity 2023 survey report found that 87% of professionals view credential-holders as the most qualified for open positions, and that 74% are more likely to hire a candidate with a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification over a non-certified candidate.
Certifications can boost your total compensation in several ways, including via bonuses, higher salaries and enabling your qualification for higher-paying job roles. By providing the fundamental skills that so many IT-related jobs require, earning certifications expands job opportunities and professional possibilities for upward mobility. Companies are often willing to offer pay premiums when they feel the credential you hold is beneficial to the overall organization.
According to expert David Foote, chief analyst and co-founder of Foote Partners, LLC, pay for certification-holders is on the rise. “New highly validated data from 4,200 employers in our long-running IT Skills and Certifications Pay IndexTM (ITSCPI) reveals that the average cash pay premium for 606 IT certifications has risen in three of the last four calendar quarters, currently earning certificates the equivalent of 6.6 percent of base salary. Even better, for the 137 IT security certifications reported, it is a whopping 8.3 percent for those lucky enough to work for an employer willing to pay you a premium for your certification.”
Lightcast’s data found salary premiums for CET-related and ITCA-related skills reaching as much as US $15,000 and US $30,000, respectively. Skillsoft’s IT Skills and Salary survey, which thousands of IT professionals participate in annually, illustrates just how lucrative earning certifications can be for an IT-related career. According to the 2022 survey results, the top three highest-paying certifications were: 1) AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional at US $168,000; 2) Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) at US $162,000; and 3) Google Cloud – Professional Cloud Architect at US $161,000.
Depending on your specialization, job experience and prior knowledge, you can determine which certifications you qualify for. Different training resources, educational courses and exam preparations exist for every industry-recognized credential, and there are certifications available for professionals at every point in their career, including for recent graduates, mid-career professionals looking to move up the executive ladder and those who are braving the transition to a new career field. Lightcast found that CET and ITCA certifications aid in career agility and advancement.
Even academic programs are beginning to include certifications in their curricula, offering their learners the chance to kickstart their careers early. Academic Partners through ISACA provide students with job-aligned training and leverage access to a global network of IT professionals and mentors. Institutions are increasingly seeking certification-enhanced curricula as a method to elevate their prestige, stand out in a saturated industry and impart students with unique and influential opportunities and skills to begin their professional lives.
So, should you earn an IT certification? The employment opportunities, pay premiums and up-to-date, specialized education point to yes. Whether you are just beginning your IT journey, seeking to polish your existing skills or looking to expand your professional horizons, certifications can pave the way to the next step on your career path.
ISACA is a global community advancing individuals and organizations in their pursuit of digital trust. For over 50 years, ISACA has equipped individuals and enterprises with the knowledge, credentials, education, training and community to progress their careers, transform their organizations, and build a more trusted and ethical digital world.
This global professional association and learning organization leverages the expertise of its more than 170,000 members who work in digital trust fields. It has a presence in 188 countries, including 225 chapters worldwide. Through its foundation One In Tech, ISACA supports IT education and career pathways for under-resourced and underrepresented populations.
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