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Modern IT Careers: Is Certification Really Necessary?

When you go into information technology, one of the first things you’ll be told is to get your certifications. It’s almost as if certs replace a formal college degree. Here are a few reasons why they’re so important and why employers value them so much.

Employers Love The Practicality Of Certifications

A certification is an implicit guarantee that you have practical knowledge about a particular thing. Whether it’s a new programming language, how to handle security and networking, or how to build and design webpages or code in some obscure environment, a certification shows that you actually know how to do whatever it is you’re certified in.

These quality management training courses, for example, can prepare you for things like applying Lean concepts like 5S, process mapping, and waste reduction. You can also prove to an employer that you understand value stream mapping and that you can resist errors through mistake proofing.

Employers pay a premium for these types of certifications because, ultimately, it’s money in their bank account that gets siphoned off for unproductive and inefficient processes – processes you know how to fix.

Certs Earn You Raises

The Department of Labor reports that the median annual earnings for an individual without a high school diploma is a paltry $24,544. However, a degree bumps that pay up to $89,128. Certifications often carry the force of a college degree. But, there’s an important difference. Where a degree can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, a Microsoft certification exam costs just $150, employers view Microsoft Cert specialists as more competent and productive and, as a result, they earn higher wages.

In some cases, the raise is significant, with certifications resulting in a $5,000 to $20,000 bump in salary. Is it worth paying a few hundred dollars for a $5,000 raise?

Another cert, Microsoft Office Specialist, is another valuable one where IT professionals lean more advanced concepts in MS Office, like database and programming. Average salary for those with a specialist cert? $62,849.

That’s higher than the median salary for a bachelor’s degree – $57,616. There’s no doubt about it; certifications make you more valuable to your employer and can earn you substantially more money.

You Can Learn A Second (Or Third) Language

Learning another language (not a programming language, but an actual spoken language), is another area where certifications may help you earn more. Being bilingual is becoming more and more important to companies.

For example, The Economist examined the impact on an employee’s salary of learning a foreign language and found that it improved decision-making skills as well as potential earnings. Earnings rose 2 percent, on average. Specifically, Spanish improved earnings by 1.5 percent while German improved them by 3.8 percent.

While it might not sound like a lot, it adds up over the long-term, especially when you’re earning close to a 6-figure annual income.

You’re More Qualified For Project Management

There’s some data from Accenture that shows that 117 of the 300 manufacturing execs in the U.S. believe that the shortage of skilled and qualified IT applicants is “severe.” Roughly 60 percent said that it’s difficult to find the people they need. And, while this study focused on manufacturing, other studies show that skill shortages are widespread.

Filling that gap is worth, on average, a 7 percent increase in pay. To put that into perspective, for every $100,000, that means a $7,000 “bonus” for having the sharpened skill set an employer needs.

And, that’s typically at hire. Raises are usually commensurate with experience and additional qualifications and certifications.

Data published on Monster shows that negotiation skills also increase earnings – 4 percent. And, a data analyst who is familiar with SAS programs can demand a 17 percent pay raise.

You’re More Flexible And Valuable

If you’re flexible with your schedule, and you’re willing to travel, companies will compensate you for the effort. If you’re willing to do weekends, expect more pay. The Huffington Post recently found that 16 percent of Americans would take a 20 percent pay cut for 20 percent less work. But, businesses often need more workers, not fewer.

So, if you’re willing to pick up the slack at an office that’s hungry for work, offer to take up time and allow others a day off, you could find yourself making substantially more – 20 percent more.

Those extra days add up, and overtime will often earn you even more at time and a half. Even when you’re an independent contractor, you can often negotiate for additional bonuses for extended hours or work in addition to a base contract.

Chandana is a Senior Content Writer for She holds a M.A. in English Literature from Gauhati University and is PRINCE2 Foundation certified. Her unique and refreshing writing style continues to educate and inspire readers from around the world.

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