For SAP professionals, security certification can pay

Security certifications continue to increase in value despite the fact that rewards for many technology certifications have fallen in the past six months.

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SAP professionals would do well to consider IT security certification as they compete for jobs in an increasingly competitive job market, recent research has found.

According to David Foote, CEO of New Canaan, Conn.-based Foote Partners LLC, during the lean years of the early 2000s, pay for those with IT certifications held its premium value versus non-certified skills. But starting in 2004 and 2005, non-certified pay started picking up again, and Foote's latest research shows it is now almost equal to that for certified professionals in many technology areas.

Security certifications are becoming an exception, however, and can help SAP professionals further differentiate themselves, according to Foote.

"When you see security is holding its own against a tide of people saying ho-hum to technology certification for compensation, then you have to take notice," he said.

Foote Partners has been tracking skills purchasing behavior on a quarterly basis since 1999. Its most recent survey counted more than 1,900 companies.

Over the last six months, Foote's research showed that security certifications received an increase in pay of 2.2%. That may not seem like much, but security certification is the only category in the research that increased in value during that time.

Technology buyers are finally taking notice of security certifications, Foote said.

The many high-profile data breaches, such as TJX, made customers more nervous about the level of security built into the products and services they were purchasing. So customers have put pressure on providers of those products and services to improve security, Foote explained, especially where outsourcing required data going across another company's network.

"To get a CEO or head of a line of business to pay attention to security, you don't say, 'We need to invest in security as an insurance policy.' You say, 'Our customers are unhappy,'" Foote said. "The moment they hear customers are unhappy with service or a product, they tend to move -- this is what's been moving security."

Foote has seen this concern over security filter down to individuals, and he used himself as an example.

"I've found, doing business with certain technology suppliers, I do business with the same ones over and over because they give me a level of confidence," he explained. "So, even at the personal level, you start seeing attention to security that you didn't see before."

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) directive 8750, which requires security certification for all information-assurance workers inside the government as well as outside contractors over the next five years, should drive even more demand for security certifications.

"Not only do we have a private-sector driver to increase security skills or consider certification, but we have a public-sector directive saying you must be certified if you're going to work in information assurance for the Federal government," Foote said. "It looks like it's going to be a pretty strong driver all around."

For the SAP professional

Even with this demand for security certification, many are hesitant to make a career in an IT security field, Foote said. But, while SAP skills as a whole continue to pay well and are in demand, according to Foote, security certification is an option for many SAP professionals to further differentiate and promote themselves.

"SAP software developers would be wise to consider security skill certification to enhance their competitiveness amidst the increasing supply of security professionals competing for SAP jobs," Foote said.

Professionals with roles like basis administrator should also consider security certification because security and auditing are becoming attractive options to specialize in and increase pay, he said. This is especially true with the increase in enterprise integration work over the last few years.

"Security as a career choice will never be as sexy as being a Java programmer in the early days of the Internet or doing anything in SAP right now," Foote said. "But we're starting to see the beginning of a sustained interest in security skills going forward."

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