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IT staff costsRanked by the salary, the top 15 certifications for IT staff can command salaries and benefits well in excess of $100,000 each once healthcare and other benefits are calculated.

The most valued certifications as ranked by Global Knowledge, an IT training firm, are as follows:

  • Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT) – $121,363
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate – $121,292
  • Project Management Professional (PMP) – $114,473
  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate – $114,148
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) – $111,475
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) – $111,049
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) – $108,043
  • Certified ScrumMaster – $106,938
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) – $106,375
  • Six Sigma Green Belt – $104,099
  • Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V) – $103,424
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) – Server Infrastructure – $100,656
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) – $99,684
  • Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching – $99,402
  • Citrix Certified Associate – Networking (CCA-N) – $99,217

Competing for top IT talent

Most managed service providers will incur additional costs from benefits, which add about 20 percent to their payroll costs. Naturally, how much MSPs wind up paying to hire IT professionals varies depending on geographic region. It typically costs more to hire IT professionals in New York or San Francisco than it does in, for example, South Carolina. Yet, because it’s possible for most IT staff to work remotely, it’s not uncommon for organizations to hire IT professionals with the right skills anywhere they can find them, including countries half way around the world.

The challenge MSPs face is that in many cases they are bidding for the same talent as many of the customers they hope to serve. In theory, MSPs should be able to offer higher pay because they are essentially aggregating the cost of hiring IT staff across a large base of customers. Nevertheless, financial resources are never infinite. Most MSPs don’t have enough IT talent to service all the demand for IT services, which only increases when IT organizations themselves don’t have the talent required to embrace, for example, public clouds.

Cost saving through automation

Those payroll costs are also a big reason there is so much focus these days on applying machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) to the management of IT. Vendors perceive that a lack of skilled IT professionals is acting as a governor on the total size of the available market for their IT services. IT vendors investing in AI are hoping that reducing the total cost of operating an IT environment will lead to that savings being reinvested in acquiring additional IT products. Cisco, for example, is already advising partners to focus on higher-level services away from the networking gear itself.

The impact AI will have on the value of some classes of certifications is going to be significant, so MSPs need to invest in staffing with an eye toward what level of IT automation will be commonplace in the months ahead. One day soon, there many not even be a need for CCNP certification.

In the meantime, IT professionals with advanced skills remain hard to find and retain. But as six-figure salaries become more common, it should not surprise MSPs to discover why there’s so much focus on reducing the total cost of that IT labor.

Photo: Watchara Ritjan/

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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