Get Certified, Earn More
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 27 September 2021

Results of an O'Reilly survey of data and AI professionals indicates a marked gender pay gap. It also reveals that certification, in particular cloud certification, is associated with both higher salaries and salary increases.

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The salary survey was publicized in the June issue of O'Reilly's Data & AI Newsletter and was limited to respondents in the United States and the United Kingdom and the report by Mike Loukides, Vice President of Content Strategy for O'Reilly Media for Radar, the O'Reilly blog, focuses on the 2,778 respondents from the US. 

The survey found that the average annual salary for those who working in data or AI was $146,000. Just over a third  (34%) of reported salaries were between $100,000 and $150,000 yearly (34%) and the next most common salary tier was from $150,000 to $200,000 (26%). Salaries varied with location and the highest  average salaries were in California ($176,000).

The survey also looked into changes in salary over the past three years, finding that an average salary increase of $9,252, equating to 2.25% per year assuming a final salary equal to the average. A small number of respondents (8%) reported salary decreases, and 18% reported no change.

The O'Reilly survey looked for gender differences in salaries, but first looked at the proportion of men and women among respondents, commenting: 

To nobody’s surprise, our survey showed that data science and AI professionals are mostly male. The number of respondents tells the story by itself: only 14% identified as women, which is lower than we’d have guessed, though it’s roughly consistent with our conference attendance (back when we had live conferences) and roughly equivalent to other technical fields. A small number (5%) reported their preferred pronoun as “they” or Other, but this sample was too small to draw any significant comparisons about compensation.

The survey found that on average women's salaries were "sharply lower" than men’s, averaging $126,000 annually, or 84% of the average salary for men ($150,000). Education might be expected to be associated with salary - and indeed it is - but the male advantage held even for those with a Doctorate or Master's degree where the average salary for a woman was only 82% of the salary for a man with an equivalent degree.

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Despite the salary differential, a higher percentage of women had advanced degrees than men: 16% of women had a doctorate, as opposed to 13% of men. And 47% of women had a master’s degree, as opposed to 46% of men. (If those percentages seem high, keep in mind that many professionals in data science and AI are escapees from academia.)

The gender difference in salaries was greatest between people who were self-taught: in that case, women’s salaries were 72% of men’s. An associate’s degree was the only degree for which women’s salaries were higher than men’s.

Over recent years O'Reilly has transitioned from being a book publisher to offering a wide range of learning, training and certification experiences and the survey looked at the impact of training and certification on remuneration. With regard to training, those spending more than 100 hours on training (19% of respondents) had an average salary increase of $11,000, exceeding the average salary increase across all respondents by nearly 20%.

With regard to certification, the highest salaries were associated with AWS certified Solutions Architect, obtained by 3.9% of respondents which made it the most popular certification.orscert

Respondents were allowed to write in the name of certifications not listed and the average salary for those in the Other group was $149,000 compared to $143,000 for those with no certifications.

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Certifications were also associated with salary increases and here Microsoft's AZ-104 had the greatest impact, over $14,000 in three years, followed by the three AWS Certifications, which boosted salaries by more than $10,000.

So it's clear - be serious about training and go for certification.

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More Information

O'Reilly 2021 Data/AI Salary Survey 

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Last Updated ( Monday, 27 September 2021 )