Employers are upping the ante on what they will pay for employees and job candidates with certain specific skill sets, including database skills, application development, and SAP and business enterprise business application skills.

The latest 2017 IT Skills & Certifications Pay Index report issued by the Foote Partners LLC/Foote Research Group also finds that pay premiums for noncertified technology skills is rising faster than for specialized skills with certifications.

Foote Partners tracks pay adjustments for 935 certified and noncertified IT skills, based on the compensation practices of 3,084 employers in U.S. and Canada. During the past year, the report found that while overall compensation for IT specialists continues to rise, the outsized bonuses and raises that employers are willing to award those with noncertified skills are outstripping the premiums paid for certified skills—which have actually fallen.

Of 494 non-certified skills surveyed, the ones that showed the highest volatility (more then 25 percent increasing in value) were operating systems, SAP and enterprise business applications, database, application development tools and platforms, and mangement, methodology and process skills.

Of 424 certified skills surveyed, only IT security skills showed high volatility (with more than 20 percent showing increases in value).

During the second quarter, among those IT skill sets that changed in market value from the prior quarter, 104 registered gains and 96 declined in value. Breaking this down further, the report found that among those skills that carry certifications, 30 gained in market value, while 36 declined.

But among noncertified or less formalized skills that do not carry official certifications, 74 experienced a rise in their market worth, while only 59 declined in value.

Examples of certified skills include:

  • Certified Scrum Developer
  • GIAC Certified Incident Handler
  • Open Group Master Architect
  • Six Sigma Green Belt
  • VMware Certified Professional 5 - Data Center

Among the noncertified skills tracked by Foote Research are:

  • Business analytics
  • Data cleansing
  • Incident management
  • Riak
  • Sqoop

The added pay for such skills—both certified and noncertified—usually takes the form of a cash bonus or a higher base salary, although the report notes that incorporating the skills premiums into base pay is the most popular option, “because it is an effective solution to the long-standing problem of job titles that don't match what people actually do on-the-job,” explains Foote Partners chief analyst David Foote.

These days, according to Foote, “It is not uncommon to find specialists with C#, Javascript, PHP, Python, Ruby, SAP/ABAP, and dozens of other popular programming language skills all with somewhat generic ‘programmer’, ‘developer’, or ‘software engineer’ titles.”

Why don’t companies just alter the title to reflect the skill specialization? Why, for instance, don’t software developers who work exclusively with Ruby become "Ruby Developers" and engineers in the Cisco environment receive "Cisco Network Administrator" designations? Answering its own question, the report states that there is significant resistance to this among employers “who are wary of the complexities of job title proliferation and [the] inability to find exact titles in available salary surveys. Instead, they have learned to simply differentiate workers within common job titles by offering skills premium pay.”

Employers have been paying for IT skills and certifications for some time, the report concludes, “but they are notoriously reluctant to create formal programs to do so. That’s because they want to pay for skills selectively without feeling obligated to pay all holders of any one skill or certification equally, or even at all,” explains Foote.