Perhaps one of the most critical factors for success in IT and in life is maintaining optimistic expectations that are also realistic. Nowhere is this more important than when you pursue certification. Certification can help you land a better job and a better salary. However, it’s not a guarantee of either. And if you expect certification to be the pathway from driving a bus to a 40-hour-per-week, $100,000-per-year job, you are obviously driving the bus in nutty nutty land.
So, what salary expectations should you have for certification?
First, certification is no guarantee that you’ll get a job. We aren’t in the gold rush days of the dotcom boom when a company hired someone just because he or she was an MCSE and could operate a keyboard. Then again, certification is probably more important in a tough job market than in a good job market. In tough times, you need all the advantages you can get and certification can certainly be one of those advantages. Certification is a great way to prove to a potential employer that you have achieved a certain level of knowledge.
As far as salary expectations go, many salary surveys can provide you with a ballpark figure for what a certified individual typically earns. Good salary surveys break down the certification by categories such as years of experience (e.g., a certified individual with several years of experience typically earns much more than a certified individual with little or no experience) and region of the country (e.g., certified individuals in areas such as New York or the Bay Area typically earn more, but also have a higher cost of living). However, one problem with salary surveys are that they often overestimates the amount of money you can make. Reasons for this can be anything from people bragging or just making stuff up to people earning worse wages being less likely to respond to survey queries about what they earn. In general, the real average salary is likely to be about 75% of what is published in the salary survey.
If knowing in advance what your expected salary might be is important to you, we recommend that you get the whole picture by checking out multiple salary surveys. By reviewing these surveys, you should get a pretty good idea of what you can expect to earn once you’re certified. As we mentioned before, we would rather that you know that upfront than find out after you’ve finished your exams.