In autumn 2017, Cisco learning partner Global Knowledge emailed its annual IT Skills and Salary Report to professionals worldwide. More than 16,200 completed the survey upon which this report is based. Ninety-eight percent of responders identify themselves as IT professionals, either IT staff or decision-makers.


In this comprehensive study, many realities emerge about the individual choices driving statistics, which in turn shape business trends.


Decision-Makers and Staff Confront Widening Skills Gaps


Salaries and geographies may vary, but the challenges persist for IT decision-makers and staff alike. More than two-thirds of managers struggle with gaps between their respective teams’ skill levels and the knowledge needed to meet organizational goals. Globally, 70 percent of decision-makers believe their teams fall short; in the U.S. and Canada, that number rises to 75 percent.


AR29219.jpgThis is the second straight year that skills gaps have actually increased; managers are keenly aware of losing ground, which generates added stress. Even the 25 percent who don’t see a gap believe that one will open up within the next 12 to 14 months. What’s causing and widening those gaps? Forty percent of decision-makers think the problem is attracting talent—especially in areas not considered leading-edge in digital transformation, such as healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality.


Skills gaps result from inadequate staffing to handle the same workload, with less skilled or experienced workers performing important tasks. This has negative impacts on both organizations and people. Stress upon existing employees, along with issues of product quality, customer satisfaction and retention, process consistency, throughput, new product development speed, and new system deployments, can cascade into a potential loss of business and revenue.


Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity: Hot and Hotter 


Scorching demand in these two areas is shaping global employment trends. It’s last year all over again, and more so. Over half of respondents agree that cloud computing is a high priority; 50 percent as well see cybersecurity as a top tech interest area. Compared to last year, virtualization has fallen to a distant third; it was selected as an interest area by a bit less than 30 percent of respondents. Further behind are networking, Internet of Things (IoT), and AI/cognitive.


The reasons that cloud computing claims such dominance are easy to see: the cloud delivers almost incalculable value and agility as traditional on-premises technology loses its onetime primacy. Developing and nurturing cloud skills is vital, because a gap here acts as a brake on major initiatives.


Cybersecurity: the Never-ending Talent Search 


Thirty-eight percent of IT decision-makers reported difficulties in hiring cybersecurity talent, and the laws of supply and demand are strongly in evidence here. Salaries of certified respondents working in cybersecurity positions are the highest overall, and reflected in six of the twenty top-paying certifications.


With annual salaries ranging from $34,471 in Latin America to $100,650 in North America, positions in cybersecurity command the highest average global salary at $81,563. That is 10 percent greater than the second-highest paying functional area, cloud, with an average of $74,064. Respondents working in systems/enterprise architecture had the third highest salaries at $72,802. Those in business operations rank fourth with an average global salary of $69,960.


More Than Ever, Certification Matters 


The common denominator worldwide is certification driving good outcomes. For staff, that means compensation, job satisfaction, promotion, and agility in finding employment. For management, certification spells increased productivity, faster troubleshooting, and fewer skills gaps, to name a few positives. In all geographics, certification pays.


AR62424.jpgNorth America, dominant nearly everywhere, sees an average salary differential between certified and non-certified staff of $15,913 or 22 percent. That increase is even more noticeable in the Asia-Pacific region, as certified professionals there take home a whopping 45 percent more than non-certified peers. In Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), certified professionals make roughly $3,000 more annually than non-certified. Worldwide, certified earns you $5,439 more than non-certified, a nine percent increase.


U.S. Salaries Dominate, but Certification Raises Income Everywhere


Across all disciplines, U.S. IT professionals out-earn the rest of the world, with an average salary of $87,333, which is 36 percent above the global average of $64,206. Of course, compensation depends on a number of factors, including global and regional economies, living expenses, education, responsibility level, job role, certification, tenure, industry, company size, and other factors.


The average global salary for respondents holding at least one Cisco certification is $48,898. By comparison, the average salary in North America for respondents holding at least one Cisco certification is $80,617. The range of salaries varies by specific certification as well.


A significant common factor here, however, is that those who are currently certified are nearly twice as likely to be actively pursuing yet another certification, which is certain to raise their compensation and enable them to advance into new job roles. So certified employees are on the move—and in the right direction.


Calculating Pay Scales: It’s Complicated 


When you compare decision-makers’ salaries to the earnings of those they manage, a sharp contrast shows up. For example, average salaries for IT decision-makers are highest in North America at $107,467, and lowest in East Africa at $15,203. North American IT managers earn an average 42 percent more than their staff. The ratio in EMEA is 31 percent, but in Asia-Pacific, decision-makers take home over 60 percent more than staff. Latin America, in line with Canada, sees about a 41 to 42 percent span between IT staff and decision-makers.


Despite all of these respective income differentials, though, the one constant in the survey has been the raise: wherever you live, you stood a good chance of a bump in salary. Between half and 72 percent of respondents received a raise in the prior year. Sixty-three percent of respondents in Canada, whether staff or decision-makers, received salary increases as well. That’s up seven percent from 2017. The U.S., EMEA, and Asia-Pacific also saw more raises across the board compared to a year ago.


A raise driven by skills development, including new certifications, could garner you a reported increase of nine to 16 percent. In the U.S. that added value averaged seven to 13 percent. Worldwide, taking on a new assignment within the company can lift your income up about 11 percent. In EMEA a change in assignment is worth about 13 percent, while in Asia-Pacific it might generate a 15 percent increase.


Training: the Big Picture 


Globally, 88 percent of respondents took some form of training last year. This is up from the 84 percent noted in last year’s report. Nearly half of respondents are currently training to prepare for a certification exam, just as in 2017. Other reasons for training included preparing for a new product deployment or a new position.


AS45712.jpgFor employers who approved training, the majority—78 percent—did so to prepare their staff for certification or recertification. An impressive 95 percent report that their certified team members bring added value above and beyond the cost of certification


Given the benefits of training, why would you not train? Sadly, lack of available training budget is the main reason. Over one-third of respondents who didn’t train named a lack of funds for training in their organizations.


Training shortfall is a major factor driving skills gaps in IT departments, and this fact coheres across all employee groups regardless of region, industry, or company size. Although 59 percent of IT decision-makers stated that their organizations do offer formal training for technical employees—and that holds true across all regions investigated—only 46 percent actually authorized training for their team members. (The amount of money spent also holds steady worldwide at about $2,000 per employee per year on training, whatever the location.)


Given that figure of 88 percent of IT staff who took training, the report concludes that decision-maker approval wasn’t required for a portion of that training. The report also notes that these statistics point to IT decision-makers not being as attuned to training needs as they should be.


Training Drives Satisfaction with Work and Life 


Training and goal-setting are positively associated with job satisfaction. IT professionals who took training of any type in the past year were 30 percent more satisfied in their roles than those who didn’t train. Those who didn’t take training were fully 70 percent more likely to feel dissatisfied with their jobs than IT professionals overall. Forty-two percent of those who trained reported feeling fully satisfied with their current position.


Frederick Herzberg, a psychologist who studies motivation in the workplace, found that compensation alone is a low predictor of satisfaction. This is in line with the works of Abraham Maslow, whose Hierarchy of Needs includes a concern with gaining recognition, status, and respect from others. Training can help to give a person that important sense of achievement, contribution and value, which is then ideally recognized and made meaningful by compensation. While Herzberg made his observations 50 years ago, both his and Maslow’s findings remain valid in human terms.


Within the past five years, survey respondents have noticeably increased their respect for the value of certifications. In 2013, 70 percent of IT professionals believed that certifications led to a more effective staff. That number is well below today’s figure of 90 percent. Investing in a certification—both in terms of time and money—is often a big decision, but it’s one that IT professionals aren’t hesitating to pursue.


Eighty-nine percent of them worldwide hold at least one certification, up three percent from last year. That number jumps to 92 percent in both Latin America and EMEA. One of the main reasons professionals are seeking certification value is that both individuals and organizations are witnessing the benefits firsthand—most notably in higher salaries and greater productivity.


Individual Benefits of Certification


Seventy percent of IT professionals who prepared for certification exams in the past year report an improvement in their on-the-job effectiveness. Forty percent say they perform their jobs better. Thirty percent say they have implemented system efficiencies, and 38 percent say that their expertise is more sought after within their organization.


Evidence for the value of certification is indisputable: certification pays off financially for IT professionals—and these people are acting on that information.




As business grows worldwide, more IT staff are pushing for training and certification. But global skills gaps persist, while heavy workloads hold back competitive initiatives and hamper ripe market opportunities. The global skills gap epidemic, according to the report, may be founded on the significant number of IT decision-makers who aren’t approving training—but it’s also true that over a third of organizations have neglected to allocate training funds. IT professionals need to show ingenuity and persistence in finding ways to train. That perseverance will eventually pay off in getting you the training that improves your professional productivity, compensation levels, and overall quality of life.


For the full 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report from Global Knowledge, click here. And to get started thinking about your overall career satisfaction and growth, take a look at our "Create Your Career" toolkit and webinars.


Get the latest IT industry news and exclusive Cisco learning offers. Sign Up Now!


Primary photoLinda Boroff is a technical and marketing writer with more than a decade of experience in areas including network security, analytics, virtual data center, and SDN.