Determining Your True IT Employee Value
By Kevin Cevich
There is more misinformation out there about IT employee salaries than any other profession in the world. If you were a Doctor, the open ER position pays within a pretty small range and your experience only counts towards if you are or are not qualified for the open position. Seldom does a Dr. with 10 years of experience make more than a Dr. with 7 years of experience. To further drive this point home, the person hiring the Dr. doesn't necessarily care how big the ER was at his previous employer nor will HR ask him to fix some patients before being offered the job.
However, IT employees are completely different. You and I may have the same certification and the same amount of experience and earn two drastically different salaries. The main separator between two relatively equal IT employees is where they received their experience. Companies want to see some pretty strange metrics to determine whether or not you are qualified for their open positions. Before I started doing Cisco networking exclusively, I was a Windows Server Manager. Nearly every employer asked me how many servers I had at my previous employer. Indeed, the next question would be how many Windows Servers have I installed over my career. How on earth is this relevant to anything? To make this more nonsensical, if you have worked for a large employer, the builds that go onto servers are completely standard. Does it really matter if I followed a checklist one time or one hundred times?
This type of thinking is involved with nearly every aspect of IT. If you haven't worked for a major corporation, employers do not value you as high as those that have. If anything, I believe this should go the other way. If you worked for a smaller IT organization, chances are you had your hands in every aspect of that infrastructure. On the contrary if you were an AD tech at a large company for example, you may know AD inside and out, but wouldn't really have any experience with anything else.
Thus, to determine your true value as an IT employee the only real metric you can use to gauge your worth is what an employer is willing to pay for you. Many of us look at the IT salary surveys, find our job title, and wonder why we are making too much or too little. However, considering the IT surveys go nowhere near far enough to determine what the respondent's background is, the surveys are completely meaningless. In addition, they do not break down the numbers based on geography. I assure you that someone in Kentucky probably doesn't have the equivalent salary to someone working in Manhattan.
Finally, the biggest flaw in the salary surveys is the certification values. I may be a CCNA with 20 years of experience making well into the six figures, while someone who got their certification yesterday may be worth $30k on the open market.
These discrepancies can all be corrected by understanding appropriate salary levels based on what employers in your area are willing to pay for someone with your skills, experience, and certification. Considering no two employees have the identical background or knowledge, you can pretty much safely disregard any salary survey that doesn't include a massive range of possibilities.
Visit http://www.ciscocareers.org for more information about Cisco Professional salaries including the CCNA salary range.
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