TestOut markets its products very heavily toward students at the high-school and college levels. We also embrace lifelong learning, however, which is the reason that TestOut Continuing Education exists. The TestOut CE brand embraces working IT professionals who are looking to advance their careers, or workers in other professions who are considering switching to IT. Certification can absolutely play a role both in strengthening existing IT careers, and launching new ones.
There's another asset, however, especially for younger professionals — possibly in their late 20s, 30s, or early 40s — that could potentially have a huge impact. Certification Magazine recently posted a very interesting look at the impact of educational attainment on IT salary. For their most recent annual Salary Salary, the CertMag team asked each respondent to identify the highest level of formal education they have completed. For a significant majority of both U.S. and international survey respondents, that's either a bachelor's degree (40.7 percent U.S. / 40.9 percent international) or a master's degree (35.4 percent U.S. / 33.3 percent international).
If we narrow our view to the United States, there's an interesting correlation between education and salary. If you work in IT and have a bachelor's degree, then your average annual salary ($109,980) is comparable to that of peers who took a different route, whether heading to the workforce directly from high school ($109,740), pursuing technical training without attending college ($107,350), or getting a two-year college degree ($96,830). Bearing in mind that those latter three averages are drawn from smaller sample sizes, and that many of the people in those groups may have received some degree of college instruction before ultimately dropping out, you could make a fairly strong case that university-level IT training doesn't strongly influence salary.
Except that if you look at the U.S. respondents who hold master's degrees, it's clear that there is, in fact, a significant impact. The average annual salary for U.S. survey respondents who hold a master's degree is $122,450. (It's even higher for the tiny group, 2.1 percent, of respondents with a doctorate: $140,020.) Since most people who get a master's degree are following up on the earlier attainment of a bachelor's degree, there's clearly some hidden clout to that four-year degree. And plenty of not-so-hidden clout from adding a master's degree to your resume.
If you're looking to really add some oomph to your IT earning power, then consider coupling your certification training with a master's degree in computer science or a related field.
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