Main image of article Mid-Year Report: Most Profitable Certified and Non-Certified Skills of 2023

Acquiring new skills and certifications has traditionally been a great way for tech pros to stay relevant, progress their careers and increase their earning potential. However, figuring out the most valuable skills can prove a strong challenge.

For instance, the extra pay or cash premiums awarded by employers for the 682 non-certified IT skills tracked by analyst firm Foote Partners LLC declined slightly in the second quarter of 2023.

Plus, the average market value for 614 IT certifications fell more than non-certified skills, down 1 percent overall, according to the firm’s “IT Skills & Certifications Pay Index & IT Skills & Certifications Volatility Index.”

What triggered these declines? Recession fears may have contributed. Employers also reallocated skills that used to qualify for premium pay to basic job requirements covered by base pay or salar,y explained David Foote, Foote Partners chief analyst. Reallocation happens when supply increases and demand for a skill stays the same.

To help you adapt to changing skill demands and stay ahead of the curve, here’s a look at some of the non-certified and certified skills that earned above average premiums in the first six months of the year… and are still growing in value.

Non-Certified Skills Earning High Pay and Still Growing in Value


Average Pay Premium: 19 percent of base salary
Market Value Increase:
11.8 percent

Much like its “cousins” DevOps and Agile, DataOps is a set of practices, processes and knowledge that defines how a company approaches the management of data and the area of data analytics.

DataOps improves the communication, integration and automation of data flows between data managers and data consumers across an organization, Foote explained, making it a highly valuable skill for the foreseeable future. Plus, its part of a larger fix to today’s data management challenges.

Becoming proficient in DataOps can benefit tech pros in a variety of roles including data analysts, big data developers and cloud architects. However you may want to consider becoming a DataOps Engineer which has been called the new sexiest role in analytics.

Smart Contracts

Average Pay Premium: 19 percent of base salary
Market Value Increase:
5.6 percent

Learning smart contracts can be highly beneficial and lucrative for professionals across various domains, but especially for those who want to benefit from the blockchain movement by becoming smart contracts developers.

Smart contracts are basically automated contracts or computer programs that run automatically as the parties fulfill the terms of an agreement. Because they have the potential to significantly reduce the risks of fraud, delays and additional costs, the smart contracts market is expected to grow from $1.9 billion in 2023 to $9.2 billion by 2032.

Apache ZooKeeper

Average Pay Premium: 18 percent of base salary
Market Value Increase:
20 percent

Apache ZooKeeper has become an in-demand skill because it provides a variety of benefits, including a robust and reliable infrastructure for managing distributed applications. Best of all, because ZooKeeper is free and open source, anyone can learn it.

Artificial Intelligence

Security testing

Threat Detection/Modeling/Management

Average Pay Premium: 18 percent of base salary
Market Value Increase:
5.9 percent

According to Foote Partners’ surveys, learning any of these skills can future-proof your career.

For instance, Stanford University's AI Index Report found that, in 2022, the demand for AI jobs in the U.S. was the highest it had been since 2014. Some of the most in-demand AI skills include machine learning, programming, data analysis, natural language processing and problem-solving.

The interest and demand for Blockchain has continued to rise, boosting the value and fortunes of blockchain developers as well as blockchain solutions architects, project managers, UX designers, quality engineers and professionals in connected roles.

Companies also need testers with experience in a variety of areas to identify all possible loopholes and weaknesses, vulnerabilities, threats and risks particularly in software systems.

Finally, Foote Partners’ data suggests that the cybersecurity industry faces a skill shortage when it comes to qualified professionals. Specifically, threat modeling, a proactive technique used to identify vulnerabilities, has now become the most important part of software design and development. In fact the EC-Council called it the most in-demand cybersecurity skill.

Certified Skills Earning High Pay and Still Growing in Value

GIAC Security Leadership (GSLC)

Average Pay Premium: 14 percent of base salary
Market Value Increase:
16.7 percent

Gartner predicts that nearly half of cybersecurity leaders will change jobs by 2025. The churn poses a threat to cybersecurity teams but also an opportunity to advance into management or a leadership role. However the ante for landing one of these jobs has risen as well. Earning a GIAC Security Leadership certificate can increase your chances of getting a promotion.

Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)
Offensive Security Exploitation Expert (OSEE)

Average Pay Premium: 13 percent of base salary
Market Value Increase:
18.2 percent

While cloud growth took a breather in early 2023, the overall transition is still in the early stages. That means you can still cash in by earning the Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge from the Cloud Security Alliance. This cert is recognized as a standard of expertise for cloud security and gives you a cohesive and vendor-neutral understanding of how to secure data in the cloud.

Microsoft's Windows continues to be the dominant desktop operating system (OS) worldwide as of July 2023, with a market share of around 70 percent. If you’re looking for job security and respect, earning the Offensive Security Exploitation Expert (OSEE) certification may be a worthwhile investment. However, while it is considered to be one of the top cybersecurity certs, it requires passing a 72-hour online exam.

GIAC Security Operations Manager (GSOM)

Average Pay Premium: 10 percent of base salary
Market Value Increase:
25 percent

Again, if you’re looking to manage a team and oversee the operations of a Security Operations Center (SOC), earning this cert can open doors. “The GSOM is hot because it involves a combination of technical proficiency, managerial acumen and strategic thinking,” Foote says.

AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE)

Average Pay Premium: 10 percent of base salary
Market Value Increase:
11.1 percent

Other certs that show promise by offering both high pay and growth include the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional certification. The coursework focuses heavily on continuous delivery (CD) and the automation of processes, two fundamental concepts of the DevOps movement.

Also given the growth of digital forensics, earning the CFCE certificate can open the door to a lucrative and rewarding career in law enforcement.

As technology changes, so do skills and skill requirements. As the data shows, being an early adopter of high earning and growing certified and non-certified skills can pay off today and down the road.