Companies are no longer as willing to shell out for staff with technical certifications, as the effects of the economic downturn take hold.
On average, the pay premium for certification has fallen by more than four per cent over the past year, to an average of 7.7 per cent of base salary, according to a report from remunerations analyst Foote Partners.
Webmaster and internet certifications saw the sharpest fall in value - down 13 per cent in 2003 - alongside entry-level certifications including Microsoft Certified Professional and Comptia's A+ award.
Database certifications fell 6.5 per cent in 2003 but still remain the highest paying certifications group, averaging 9.7 per cent of base pay.
Bonuses relating to security, project management and Linux qualifications have increased in value over the past 12 months. And certifications relating to Linux security management and auditing, and Unix and Windows administration grew between 13 per cent and 25 per cent in the last year.
The highest paying certifications, however, continue to be for the Project Management Professional, which on average adds a bonus of 16 per cent of base pay.
This is followed by Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator, Novell Master Certified Engineer and Oracle Certified Professional/DBA, all at 11 per cent of base salary.
Foote Partners president and chief research officer, David Foote, blamed increased interest in outsourcing, particularly offshore, for driving the trend for lower skills and certification pay, particularly in application development, maintenance and helpdesk roles.
"It's been a disappointing couple of years for IT workers accustomed to being rewarded for their tech skills," Foote said.
But research showed that certifications still matter, he added. "Many IT and business line managers' interviews support the notion that certification is a more meaningful measure for comparing IT workers than untested or self-reported skills competency," he said.
The survey, based on data from 36,000 IT professionals in Europe and the US, also found that employers are keen to share the cost of certifications with their IT staff: 19 per cent of IT professionals said their company paid towards the cost of their certification.
Paul Drew, a consultant at IT recruitment specialist Penna Resourcing, said current pay levels marked a return to normality following the explosion in salaries in the run-up to 2000.
"Pre-2000, companies were over-hiring and paying silly money for the most basic of qualifications," he said.
"In the last year the market has slowly but surely started to pick up, but we're nowhere near that hype. But certification has always been a positive sign of people investing in their own career or in companies investing in their staff."
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