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Average market values for hundreds of non-certified tech skills rose in the first quarter of 2020, according to a new analysis by research firm Foote Partners. Meanwhile, roughly 505 tech certifications continued to decline in market value. But did any certifications actually gain?

“The average cash pay premium for a tech certification is currently at its five-year low,” read the group’s report. “In the quarter ending April 1, 2020, 505 tech certifications lost even more value, down an average of 1.9 percent in the quarter. Pay performance from January to March 2020 was lower for all but one certification segment, Applications Development & Programming Languages.”

What’s behind this decline in certification value? That’s a difficult question to answer. Foote Partners hypothesizes that the popularity of certifications might actually drive down pay premiums, because the market is flooded with certified technologists. As supply fattens, demand slackens.

Certifications also age or become less useful as the overall technology industry evolved. “Also, there remains a lingering bias that taking a proctored exam does not confer expertise in a subject on the test taker, especially when the pass rate is 70 percent correct answers,” the report added. “The certification industry has fought back against this bias by adding laboratory requirements and even peer review panels that decide if the candidate has qualified to receive designation.” 

All that being said, which certifications are actually gaining value? Here’s how Foote Partners breaks it down:

Cyber Security Certifications 

Cyber security is a highly specialized field, as well as one much in demand. Based on that combination of factors, you’d figure that a cyber security certification would be worth a significant salary premium—and you wouldn’t be wrong. Whether you’re trying to land a job as a cyber security analystwhite hat hacker, or a professional tasked with hardware defense, a certification can help you stand out within a large application pool.    

Foote Partners suggests that the following cyber security certifications have enjoyed the biggest compensation increases:

EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) 
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) 

Average Pay Premium: 13 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 30 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA)
Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)

Average Pay Premium: 13 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase:18.2 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

EC-Council Certified Incident Handler V2 (ECIH)
Average Pay Premium: 12 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 33.3 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN)
Average Pay Premium: 12 percent of base salary equivalent 
Market Value Increase: 20 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

EC-Council Certified Encryption Specialist (ECES)
Average Pay Premium: 12 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 9.1 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

GIAC Certified Enterprise Defender (GCED)
Average Pay Premium: 11 percent of base salary equivalent 
Market Value Increase: 22.2 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

GIAC Certified Forensics Examiner (GCFE)
Average Pay Premium: 10 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 11.1 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

Architecture, Project Management and Process

Project and product management are vital elements within any company’s roadmap, and technology teams depend on these leaders in order to keep initiatives on-schedule and under budget. 

Six Sigma Black Belt
Average Pay Premium: 12 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 20 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA)
Average Pay Premium: 11 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 22.2 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

Six Sigma Green Belt
Average Pay Premium: 10 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 25 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

ITIL Expert Certification
Average Pay Premium: 10 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 11.1 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

Application Development and Management 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is an enormously popular service among developers, cloud architects, and others tasked with managing their companies’ IT infrastructure, so it’s no surprise that one certification enjoying considerable compensation gains is related to it. (If you’re interested in bulking up on your AWS skills and certifications, there are quite a few foundational, associate, and professional certs you can pursue, including some that are very highly specialized). 

AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
Average Pay Premium: 10 percent of base salary equivalent
Market Value Increase: 11.1 percent (in the six months through April 1, 2020) 

Remember, certifications aren’t vital for every job. For example, according to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, only 1.1 percent of postings for software developers and engineers requested certifications. However, some employers place a premium on them, especially for highly specialized roles in cyber security and other fields.