With the fall term underway in the United States and with many undergraduate and graduate students considering internships or thinking about jobs they’ll apply for after graduation, many are asking questions about technical skills and certifications. At Microsoft, we’re frequently asked about the value of Microsoft training and certification for our customers and partners. For companies, they’re a great way to evaluate employees’ skills beyond what a manager might see. And when it comes to the interview process, potential hires can show organizations industry-proven validation of technical skills. But what about college students and recent college graduates who are just entering the workforce? How might Microsoft technical skills be a differentiator for them?
To investigate these questions, we used data from job postings in the United States to examine areas of technical skill growth and demand, in addition to salary data. In an analysis done with Labor Insights, an industry data set from Burning Glass for understanding the job market, the findings are simple: skills and certifications in Microsoft Azure provide a differentiated way to help not only find a job but also to help attain a higher salary than the market average.
For anyone looking for a job, the first question is really around demand. How much demand is there for the skills I may have? In general, there has been significant growth in the demand for cloud skills. However, when we look at the demand for cloud skills for people with a bachelor’s degree and zero to two years of experience, demand for Azure skills has surpassed the market.
Figure 1 illustrates the year-over-year (YoY) growth trends in job postings for cloud skills in general, requests for Azure skills, and requests for AWS skills. Since the cloud skills data set is so large, the cloud line is normalized to the secondary Y axis on the right and Azure and AWS to the primary Y axis on the left. As shown, Azure has had a much steeper growth rate than the market or AWS, especially over the last three years, and even surpassed AWS in total job posting requests in the United States at the end of 2019. To put numbers against those plots, YoY growth for Azure demand has been 58 percent annually since 2017, compared to cloud skills in general (29 percent) and AWS (14 percent).
Figure 1. Year-over-year demand trends for cloud skills. (Source: Analytics compiled through Labor Insights from Burning Glass, evaluating jobs in the United States requiring zero to two years of experience and skills in Azure, AWS, or the cloud in general.)
The world has shifted since the onset of the global pandemic in 2020, and the job market is no exception. Yet, in the last 12 months, the demand for Azure skills in this space has remained strong. In fact, it’s up 15 percent.
However, the rest of the cloud skills job market has not fared as well when it comes to jobs for recent graduates—those requiring a bachelor’s degree and zero to two years of experience. Demand for cloud skills, in general, is down 30 percent over the last 12 months. Demand for AWS cloud skills is down 17 percent in this same time frame.
Figure 2. Month-over-month (MoM) demand trends for cloud skills for the past year. (Source: Analytics compiled through Labor Insights from Burning Glass, evaluating jobs in the United States requiring zero to two years of experience and skills in Azure, AWS, or the cloud in general.)
As noted, cloud skills are in demand among jobs tailored more for recent college graduates or college students with limited experience. But what about technical certifications?
Technical certifications are popular for the cloud space. In fact, according to additional analysis compiled in Labor Insights from Burning Glass for September 2020, 24 percent of all job postings in the past 12 months list some industry-standard certification in their descriptions and details. Listings for Azure and AWS certifications are slightly outpacing what’s generally seen in the cloud space, with 28 percent and 27 percent, respectively.
As students are working to get real-world experience, technical certifications are a great way to demonstrate not only the coursework but also the validation of the skills in general. Even if the demand is only a portion of the total volume of job postings, the reality is that certifications can be a differentiator for students among employers—even if the employers weren’t explicitly looking for it.
There’s also the question of salary. According to the analytics referenced earlier in this piece (compiled through Labor Insights from Burning Glass), the average posted annual salary for jobs requiring a college degree and zero to two years of experience in the cloud skills market is $79,027. For job postings for Azure skills and a college degree, that annual salary is $90,750. Furthermore, according to a March 2020 IDC Survey Spotlight, "Certified IT professionals get promoted more than 50 percent faster than non-certified IT professionals."*
The data is clear. If you’re looking for a path to greater job demand, higher-than-average salary, and the potential for faster promotion, picking up your Azure skills and Azure certifications can help give you that competitive edge in the market.
*IDC, Do IT Certifications Increase Promotion Opportunities?, doc #US46090620, March 2020
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