Paychecks Fatten For Retail IT Pros With Certain Skills

Recession notwithstanding, during the last three months of 2008, salaries increased for those with certifications in some vital retail IT segments, including systems architecture/project, networking management and database security, says a new report.

Some of these increases were substantial: The "value" of a CompTIA security certification increased 46.7 percent during the period and Cisco Certified Design Associates were worth 40 percent more, according the "2009 IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index" released by the Foote Partners research group. "Clearly, an urgent demand for talent in these areas is eclipsing broad, knee-jerk reactions to reducing budgets and cutting people, projects and purchases that have been characteristic of IT management decision behaviors in past recessions," the report says. "Those times were often marked by lack of careful forethought about the future consequences of budget decisions."

The salary increases seen for certain skills and certifications mean companies have "learned that it's not how much or how little they can get away with spending" during tough times, "it's about how smart they're spending," the report says. Some of the IT experts with salaries on the upswing are in fields, such as software automation and workflow tools, that make it possible for companies to operate more efficiently. Other high-value IT positions--such as integration, system architecture and project management--are worth more money because the recession is bringing a wave of company mergers and acquisitions.

The report authors "strongly discourage" recession-impacted companies from pulling the plug on system architecture improvements. "Organizations cannot afford not to rearrange their budgets to continue investing what dollars they have toward building such capabilities," says the report, which criticized the way panicked and indiscriminate IT salary cuts during prior economic slowdowns left many companies unable to seize the moment when things turned around.

The researchers did find the average salary paid to people holding certifications in 175 less-vital areas continued a decline that began in 2006. Those salaries decreased 1 percent in the last three months of 2008 and 5 percent for the year. Pay for 179 non-certified IT skills declined a half-percent during the quarter despite pay increases in three "key" non-certified categories: management/management process, database and messaging/communication. For example, the report says salaries paid to Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technicians decreased 40 percent during the quarter as did wages paid to SAS Certified Base Programmers.