The IT job market felt the push and pull of hiring binges and subsequent job cuts this year.
Despite the periods of growth and contraction, two factors continue to drive the market: companies need tech talent to stay competitive and IT workers desire to advance their careers.
“Looking at IT talent and skills as a whole, demand far outweighs supply right now,” said Greg Fuller, senior director, Skillsoft’s Codecademy enterprise business, in an email. “With the current AI wave, we’ll likely see IT salaries surge even higher next year.”
Certifications present a path for workers to gain specialized skills to complement a traditional education path into IT or supplement alternative pathways, such as apprenticeship models. They're a benefit for businesses, too.
Most IT leaders agree that certified staff adds value of more than $30,000 a year to their organizations, according to Skillsoft data published Tuesday. IT leaders also believe workers who gain certifications are energized and more engaged at work.
“On both ends, investment in professional development is an investment in future success,” Fuller said.
Certifications can boost pay too, but they are not the sole contributing factor. Businesses take into account the job role and tenure for example.
Here are 5 of the top-paying certifications going into 2024, according to Skillsoft data:
Google Cloud — Professional Cloud Architect
Google Cloud’s Professional Cloud Architect certification topped Skillsoft’s list with workers earning an average annual salary of more than $200,000.
“Cloud and cybersecurity certifications remain longstanding perennial favorites,” Fuller said.
This year’s top-ranking certification encompasses knowledge of Google Cloud’s infrastructure and services to optimize cloud architecture. Last year, Google Cloud’s professional cloud architect certification ranked third with an average annual salary of $161,000, marking a 25% year-over-year bump, according to Fuller.
“As Google's Cloud Platform gains momentum and the overall reliance on and maturation of cloud evolves, cloud architects are increasingly necessary for all organizations,” Fuller said.
Google Cloud — Professional Data Engineer
Another Google Cloud contender, professional data engineer certification holders earn an average annual salary of $194,000. More than two-thirds of these certification holders passed the exam within the last year.
Google made changes to the certification exam on Monday. The exam will now have less emphasis on operationalizing ML models and instead focus on data sharing, storage and governance, a Google spokesperson confirmed to CIO Dive.
Project Management Institute — Project Management Professional
Workers who hold a PMP certification earn an average annual salary of $176,000. The PMP certification is a longtime staple of Skillsoft’s top-paying certification list each year. In 2022, workers with the cert earned $148,000, coming in at seventh on the list.
Now among the top three highest-paid certifications, the certification’s rise is partly attributed to a persistent skills gap in the area of expertise, according to the report. Project Management Institute said it would take 25 million project management professionals by 2030 to close the gap.
More than half of IT decision-makers characterize their team’s ability to manage projects as medium to low. One in 10 described their team’s project management skills as high, according to Skillsoft’s IT Skills and Salary survey.
Two-thirds of the respondents earned the certification this past year and more than half of PMP certification holders are in a leadership role.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Professional
Falling from its seat at the top last year, AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Professional certification holders earn an annual average salary of $174,000, up around $6,000 from last year.
The certification spent a single year at the top of the list after its sister certification, AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate, became a regular on Skillsoft’s top-paying list. Solutions architects were among the top 5 most in-demand job roles this time last year.
The certification covers knowledge related to devising and implementing complex architectures, optimizing infrastructure, enhancing security and reducing costs.
Half of these certification holders are in management positions and nearly two-thirds passed the exam in the last year, according to the report.
ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager
Workers with ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager certification earn an average annual salary of $167,396, according to Skillsoft data. While it’s a few thousand dollars higher than last year, the certification dropped in ranking.
Last year, CISM ranked as the second highest-paying cert with an average annual salary of $162,347.
The certification course provides expertise in information security governance, risk management and incident management. CISM is a popular certification among those in management positions with more than two-thirds of respondents with the cert in a leadership role.