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About Global Knowledge's 15 Top-Paying Certs for 2015

15 Top Paying Certifications for 2015It's mid-February as I write this blog post, or about the usual time at which Global Knowledge has ace instructor John Hales describe the findings of their annual salary survey as it relates to IT certification. The new Top 15 list has a lot in common with last year's list but offers up some new items as well. For me, what's missing is as interesting as what's present, so I'll offer up some ideas on that as well.

The methodology for compiling the listings requires that enough survey respondents cough up salary information to make the numbers (which are averaged for all those who respond with their pay rates and the certs they hold) statistically significant. Neither Mr. Hales nor GK chooses to divulge how many respondents must chime in for their numbers to be counted in this survey, but I suspect it's somewhat more than a handful and probably less than two dozen for each item that appears therein. This also explains why some obviously high-paying certifications are missing from this set of survey results -- namely, not enough respondents professed to possess them to register on the radar (though some came close, as revealed in their discussion of items 16-25, which they also include in their eminently read-worthy article entitled "15 Top Paying Certifications for 2015," which includes lots of useful information about the certs covered therein). I should probably also disclose that I've know Mr. Hales since the late 1990s, and that he and I have worked together on several IT cert related projects, including some Exam Cram books.

Here's a tabular version of the results of the survey as reported in the article, for rankings 1-25:

Cert Acronym Pay
Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control CRISC 119,227
Certified Information Security Manager CISM 118,348
Certified Information Systems Security Professional CISSP 110,603
Project Management Professional PMP 109,405
Certified Information Systems Auditor CISA 106,181
Certified Scrum Master
Cisco Certified Design Associate CCDA 99,701
Citrix Certified Professional - Virtualization CCP-V 97,998
Cisco Certified Network Professional -R&S CCNP 97,038
Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate - Junos JNCIA-Junos 96,734
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer MCSE 96,198
ITIL v3 Foundation
Certified Ethical Hacker CEH 95,155
Vmware Certified Professional - Data Center Virtualization VCP-DCV 94,181
Certified Novell Engineer CNE 93,856
Citrix Certified Advanced Administrator for XenApp 6 CCAA 93,831
Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer CCEE 93,662
Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization CCA-V 93,437
Citrix Certified Administrator for Citrix Xenserver 6 CCA 92,695
Citrix Certified Associate for Citrix Xen Desktop 6 CCA 92,411
Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Enterprise Administrator MCITP 92,252
CCA for Citrix XenApp 6 CCA 91,069
Red Hat Certified System Administrator RHCSA 89,427
Certified Novell Administrator CNA. 89,018
Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator MCSA 87,667

To begin with, there are some interesting elements in this table. Information security and related disciplines clearly come out on top, as they have in most of the recent such surveys Global Knowledge has published. Infrastructure stuff and virtualization are also quite strong, as you'd expect them to be. I find it fascinating that the older MCSE and MCSA versions register on this radar (with Engineer and Administrator in their names) but not the newer versions of same (with Solutions Expert and Solutions Associate in their names). Equally fascinating is that, so many years after its heyday has come and gone, Novell certifications such as CNE and CNA still fill slots in this lineup. I also find myself wondering if the large number of Citrix certs in the list (over 25% of the slots,with 60% of the final 10 items) reflects the population that Global Knowledge serves, or the general IT population as a whole (this strikes me as a higher proportion than I would expect to find from the overall IT population, but I could always be wrong).

As to what's missing -- in a word, seniority. Because more senior credentials like the Cisco CCIE and CCAr, the Expert level VMware credentials, higher level ITIL certifications, and so forth, are held by correspondingly fewer members of the survey population (and the overall population as a whole, I hasten to add -- this is not a criticism of the GK survey by any means) they don't really register on its radar either. That doesn't mean that salaries for individuals who hold such credential aren't higher than what's reported here (I have to assert that they most assuredly pay more than any of the certs that made the top 15 or 25 slots in this survey ranking), it just means they don't show up in this particular set of data. What can you take away from this information? Some degree of certainty that if you keep climbing the certification ladders that are relevant to the items that DO show up in the survey, your compensation should climb along with your increased level of accomplishment, skills, and knowledge. This is in part a function of scarcity (the pyramid used to represent cert programs is apt, in that there's less room for occupancy as you get closer and closer to the pointy end at the top) and a function of demand for ever-more specialized, demanding, and difficult sets of skills and knowledge.

Good stuff overall, and an excellent guide to where mid-career folks might be steering their training and certification efforts, as well as a set of signposts beyond what's covered or mentioned in the survey as to even better paying positions in the thinner ranks above those credentials.