Find out what skills are in demand, average IT salaries, and top-paying IT certifications.
With all the changes in the industry, IT pros are under tremendous pressure. The rise of software-defined infrastructure, DevOps, and automation, alongside the constant barrage of cyberattacks are all combining to make for a tumultuous IT environment. In these changing times, companies are putting a priority on certain skills, and having those skills can pay off handsomely for IT pros.
According to the 2016 IT Skills and Salary Report from Global Knowledge, IT security tops the list of IT skills that hiring managers are looking for, followed by cloud computing skills. IT architecture, network engineering, and network operations round out the top five.
Average salaries for IT pros and IT decision makers dropped some from Global Knowledge's previous survey – from $88,835 to $86,545. However, for the second year in a row, the percentage of respondents reporting a raise reached 75% and the highest percent ever -- 66% -- said they received a bonus.
Considering the IT skills that are in demand, it's no surprise that survey respondents with jobs in those areas reported higher average salaries than IT pros in other areas. Cloud computing, IT architecture, and IT security came in as the areas with the highest pay, according to Global Knowledge.
The Global Knowledge report is based on a survey of more than 10,000 IT and business professionals in North America.
Continue on for more details on what this year's study revealed about IT skills and salary trends, including factors on salary such as geographic location and certification.
No. 1 priority: IT security
Like last year, IT security remains the top focus for organizations, no matter the size, industry or geographic location. More than 40% of survey respondents said their organizations planned to increase their security efforts this year. Thirty-five percent said they planned to ramp up IT architecture projects while 31% said they are investing more in network engineering. Twenty-three percent said they're focused on storage/SAN projects. Survey respondents showed the least interest in SAP, social networking, and Java.
In terms of top IT salaries, Global Knowledge found that cloud computing garnered the highest pay, followed closely by IT architecture, with salaries of $115,826 and $113,449 respectively. Business technology and enterprise infrastructure management also earn average salaries slightly more than $100,000. The levels of pay indicate relatively high seniority for IT pros in these positions, the report noted.
Within functional areas, the survey found major salary differences across job roles. For example, in networking, there's more than a $30,000 difference in average salary between a director and a network technician. (Image above shows mean salaries on the left, with median salaries on the right).
IT pros cited a variety of reasons for receiving raises, according to Global Knowledge. Those who received raises of up to 5% cited routine cost of living increases and standard company pay increases along with performance credits. IT pros who received salary increases of 6% to 10% said they had taken on new responsibilities, received a promotion, taken on a new assignment or developed new skills. Those winning raises of more than 11% cited an internal or external promotion, new skills or moving to a new company in a similar role.
Global Knowledge found that the number of employees – whether at a specific location or the company overall – is a major determining factor for compensation and job function. Larger companies pay technical employees an average of $23,723 more than businesses with fewer than 100. IT decision makers at large firms make an average of 12% more than ones at the smallest companies.
Industries that pay
IT pros who work for systems integrators like Bechtel Group and General Dynamics earn the highest average salaries with pay ranging from $91,428 for IT staff to $119,559 for IT leaders, according to the Global Knowledge survey. Those working in the education sector earn the lowest average salary at about $68,000. The retail sector pays IT pros an average salary of $83,511, just beating out telecommunications at $80,000. However, IT decision makers who lead IT operations earn an average of 45% more than their IT counterparts.
Location, location, location
According to Global Knowledge, the cost of living where you work is a key factor in your IT salary. The average IT salary in the continental US ranges from a high of $80,720 in the Mid-Atlantic region to a low of $68,185 in the southern region that includes Louisville, Memphis and Birmingham.
Networking pros with Cisco certification earn salaries in markets such as Phoenix, Denver and Boise averaging $75,396 while those working in the south Atlantic cities of Atlanta and Washington D.C. earn an average of $86,670.
IT certifications are always a hot topic, especially in today's environment where programming and other new skills are coming into play. Some question whether certifications like the CCIE still have value. But Global Knowledge found that certifications remain popular. Nine out of 10 technical respondents said they had earned at least one certification, up 10 points from last year's survey. Fifty-nine percent of IT pros are either working on, or plan to work on, a certification this year. Global Knowledge said this figure goes up for networking pros and those working in cloud computing positions.
CompTIA certification was the one most cited among those polled. Others in the top five are Cisco, security, Microsoft, and ITIL and IT service management.
IT pros polled by Global Knowledge said certifications generally have a positive impact on their salaries, but some more than others. In both 2014 and 2015, security certifications held the top spot in terms of salary impact, but this year, were bumped out of first place by ISACA's Certification in the Governance of Enterprise IT with an average salary of $131,443. While that's a little surprising, the increasing value of cloud certifications like the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate ($123,801) isn't.
Four Cisco certifications made the report's list of the 20 highest-paying certifications: CCIE Routing and Switching (average salary of $109,656); CCNA Data Center ($105,136); CCDP Cisco Certified Design Professional ($103,360); and CCNP Security ($102,832).
Ongoing professional development is critical in IT, perhaps more than any other industry. IT pros polled by Global Knowledge reported using seven different methods for keeping their skills and knowledge up to date, including online research, webinars, conferences, self-paced e-learning, and classroom training. Eighty-five percent said they preferred online videos for educational purposes and interestingly, 75% use printed materials. Eight-two percent of executive-level respondents attend professional conferences to keep current.