Diving Into the Pearson VUE 2021 Value of IT Certification Report

Pearson's Value of IT Certification report has lots of cool information.

Pearson VUE remains a juggernaut of the IT certification testing industry. According to its 2021 Value of IT Certification Report, it delivered more than 2.5 million certification exams in 2020. This latest survey is based on information obtained from more than 29,000 candidates who, in the words of the report "prepared for and earned IT certifications during the previous 12 months."


The company sought answers to some interesting — and perennial — questions, including:


Why do candidates pursue certification?

What kinds of outcomes result from earning certification?

Who benefits from certification, and by how much?


A Short Detour, with Download Instructions


I had a little difficulty downloading the report PDF. I'm going to assume that others may also struggle a bit, so I have provided instructions here to (hopefully) speed and simplify that process. When you click the "Download Report" button on the download page, you'll be prompted to enter your name, e-mail address, job title, and employer.


Then you must check a box to indicate agreement with Privacy and Cookies policy and Terms of Service, and click "Submit." When you do that, a view window opens inside your web browser (see below for relevant controls). You won't actually download the PDF until you click the download button (third icon from right corner; looks like down arrow, circled in red). Normal in-pane right-click controls do not work.


Don't get stuck trying to find the download button!


Others may not be as prone to overlook little GUI details as I can sometimes apparently be. Because it took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to grab a local copy of the report, however, I'm sharing these perhaps-unnecessary details anyway. Please forgive the digression. On to the report!


First, Start with the Highlights


The report kicks off with what it calls "key findings." I'll summarize and comment on these next:


IT certification demand is up. The total exams delivered in 2021 (2.6 million) represents a 16 percent increase vis-�-vis 2019. Even though the report asserts that "employers were less likely to cover costs for training and certification," candidates showed themselves more willing that ever before to shell out their own time, money, and effort to get certified in 2021.


Pearson's Value of IT Certification report has lots of cool information.

IT certification is an ongoing pursuit. Once people get started down the IT certification trail, they tend to stay on it, and keep earning more and newer credentials over time. The report states that "86 percent of (certification) candidates plan to pursue additional certifications over the next 12 months." On average, candidates younger the 24 hold four certifications, while those older than 55 have 10 certifications. Longer time in IT service is apparently conducive to more certifications.


Upskilling drives cert acquisition. Nearly three-quarters of certification candidates said they engaged in certification "to obtain necessary skills and enhance job performance." Further, the report also asserts that an "increased reliance of technology caused by the COVID-19 pandemic created a sense of urgency for IT skills and drove an additional 30 percent of candidates to pursue certification." Later in the report, we learn that certification helps because it can close gaps caused when the rate of technology change outpaces company-provided skills development programs.


IT certs pay off, both for individuals and their employers. According to the report, 70 percent of certification candidates met their personal certification goals, and would recommend certification to those seeking to start or boost an IT career. Stats show that certification led individuals to new jobs (36 percent of those surveyed), pay raises (28 percent), and promotions (21 percent). Employers also experienced direct benefits from employee certification, including "increased quality of work, productivity, efficiency, and the employee's ability to mentor others." That counts as a definite win-win (even if employers aren't picking up as much of the training and certification tab as they once did).


More Fun Facts


You'll want to read the report for yourself, but I did find some additional noteworthy items which I mention in loose order of their appearance in the report:


56 percent of those surveyed reported that they pursued certification to enhance their professional standing and credibility (the report calls this "their professional profiles"). The same proportion of the survey population also agrees that IT certifications increase their chances of career advancement or promotion in current job role, thanks to acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Only 26 percent of respondents agreed that IT certification opens the doors to new job roles or career paths. See the table on Page 8 for more motivational factors.


When it comes to financial gain from certifications earned, the report lays out some interesting numbers. 55 percent of those who earn a new cert get a raise within 90 days of its acquisition; that jumps to 77 percent within 180 days. Pay raises obtained fall mostly in a range of 21-to-30 percent at the high end (13 percent of respondents) to less than 5 percent ( 22 percent of respondent) at the low end. Those who got 11-to-20 percent represented 23 percent of respondents, and those with 6-to-10 percent represented 27 percent of respondents. In total, this range accounted for 85 percent of respondents (all the details are on Page 12 of the report).


People apparently get lots of personal pizazz from earning certifications. The report cites 91 percent reporting increased confidence, 84 percent greater determination toward professional success, 76 percent increased respect from peers, and 76 percent greater job satisfaction. Another 74 percent report that earning certification confers greater work autonomy and independence.


Pearson's Value of IT Certification report has lots of cool information.

The cert topic breakdown is absolutely fascinating. 28 percent of certs fell broadly under the heading of cloud computing (up 164 percent from 2019). Network and wireless certs covered 15 percent of the total (down 23 percent from 2019). Specialties with high growth also include DevOps, enterprise architecture, and business skills. Security interests remain strong, but are highest in North America and China. The details table on Page 22 is both compelling and surprising (for example, security is down 65 percent from 2019 levels; look to the bottom of the first column, and then to the second column of data, for some truly eye-popping growth numbers).


Still Going


There's still plenty of life in the IT training and certification game, though the landscape changes to reflect advances in technology and ever-changing investments in tools, platforms, and products. Of all the many such surveys on this industry that I read, this one is perhaps the most substantial and filled with interesting details and information. Highly recommended.


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.