Taking Stock of the 2021 Dice Tech Salary Report

IT salaries are on the rise.

Anybody who's been reading my work for GoCertify knows that I tend to view "top certification" lists with a certain amount of skepticism, hopefully the healthy kind. Thus, I have some quibbles with the Dice 2021 Tech Salary Report (I'll get to those later).


Another thing I see, however, and take great interest in, is what stepping back from the individual top certs singled out in that report tell us. If we look instead at what they have to say in the aggregate, then — to make a long story short — the trends for IT compensation remain positive, and the rewards of pursuing and earning high-demand certs are still fairly high.


I'd go so far as to assert these things hold true regardless of whether or not a given certification appears on a Dice list, or on anybody else's list for that matter.


Check Out This Table of Results!


I took the data from a CRN item that clued me into the Dice report and laid it all into a spreadsheet, so I could do some rough-and-ready analysis. That CRN slide show appeared on March 26, title 17 Top-Paying IT Certifications For 2021 To Boost Your Salary. Here's a rearranged table of those results:


Dice.com 17 top-salaried certs for 2021


I arranged the data in ascending order of salary, based on 2020 reported values. Of the 17 certs that appear in the list (most of which make pretty good sense to me, FWIW — remember, quibbles come later), 15 reported an upswing from 2019 to 2020, while only 2 went down in pay. The average raise across all certs covered from 2019 to 2020 was 3.99 percent.


That's considerably better than either the 1.81 percent inflation rate Statista reports for 2019, or the 1.25 percent rate it does likewise for 2020. What's really interesting — and a good way to distinguish among certs in the rankings — is the change from 2019 to 2020, which went from a (positive) low of 1.48 percent (Security+) to a high of 11.1 percent (AWS Certified Developer Associate).


IT salaries are on the rise.

What I see is rising pay (which economists invariably translate into rising demand) for IT workers in general, more so for those with high-demand, short-supply technical certifications. CompTIA sent me an e-mail in early April (matches this Press Release) that also speaks to "growth acceleration" in hiring and an increasing number of unfilled positions across the entire IT spectrum.


Here's how they put it: "(A)ll five top employment categories are expected to add workers in 2021." These include IT services and custom software services, plus software development, tech manufacturing, technology occupations, and cloud infrastructure and support.


I couldn't agree more, and find it encouraging that they're talking about growth vectors that range down from a high of 4.4 percent (cybersecurity, as well as data science and analytics), with software development (+3.7 percent) and cloud infrastructure and support (+2.2 percent) trailing somewhat behind. CompTIA sees infrastructure IT positions climbing to a total of nearly 1.4 million positions occupied by the end of 2021.


Feeling Pretty Good About IT in Particular, and the Whole Economy in General


Like manufacturing, IT is considered something of an economic harbinger — that is, when one or both go up, the whole economy generally follows behind in that same direction. IT unemployment is around 4 percent according to CompTIA, and that's only two-thirds of the general U.S. rate for March of 6 percent. I'm tempted to believe that most other sectors will follow this lead, with more jobs opening up to be filled, and unemployment continuing to decline.


The last report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (I wrote about this for GoCertify in early April) is pretty encouraging in that respect, and interim indicators — such as the number of first-time filings for jobless benefits — are equally or even more positive (that number hit its lowest value since March 2020 last week).


My quibbles with Dice's selections notwithstanding, I'm liking what that data tells me about IT employment in general, and the value of certifications in particular. Read on, and I'll tell you my quibbles with the Dice survey data and its findings.


Survey Sez � Much About The Surveyed Population, Less About the Whole IT Workplace


IT salaries are on the rise.

I find it absolutely fascinating, for example, that despite being retired since the beginning of this year, and unobtainable for three years and more, that the MSCE still claims a spot on this list. Indeed it may be of high value and pay nicely, but it's now purely of historical interest.


Certifications that come in a bewildering variety of forms and flavors, like the MCP, are also interesting because that lumps many different topics under a single umbrella. Ditto for the CCNP and — right up until last year — CCNA, though each comes in 10 flavors or less, as opposed to the dozens and dozens of MCPs currently available.


The problem with reporting such things, of course, is that they cover a multitude of sins and possibilities, without really telling us much about those of lesser and great import. It's also a testament to what else cert holders know and can do that certs like the ITIL Foundations and the CompTIA trio (A+, Security+, and Network+) can make such a list.


By themselves, these certs are worth relatively little, but there are undoubtedly other feathers in the caps of the survey population who reported these items that also contribute (heavily) to their reported compensation.


There are also some obvious items missing from this list. I believe that if it could register, for example, the CCIE (in any of its flavors) or TOGAF (ditto) certifications, these would take up residence in the highest-paying positions of this table. The same is true for high-end specialist credentials in architecture, computer forensics, cloud computing, HCI and virtualization, and more.


Of course, only what the survey population supports in sufficient numbers to make such reports statistically significant counts in such recitations. That's just the way statistics work. But despite my quibbles about inclusions and oversights, I think this list is generally sound and reasonably meaningful — especially in the aggregate where I find its subliminal messages perhaps more cheerful and encouraging than either Dice or CRN expected.


Sometimes, it's nice to look at a silver lining, and find something even more precious lurking in its background. I believe I've done so in this case. Cheers!


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
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.