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VoIP skills earn admins more cash

Even though most IT pros are seeing less bonus pay, those with VoIP skills are earning more. Experts say that's because demand for VoIP expertise is increasing.

No matter how much money an enterprise invests in voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, getting it to work well without knowledgeable technicians is an impossible challenge. Now, networking professionals with those skills are in demand and are bringing home more pay.

During the last two years, networking pros with VoIP skills have seen a 22% increase in bonus pay, according to a recent survey by New Canaan, Conn.-based research firm Foote Partners LLC.

Over the same period, bonus pay for all IT skills combined fell by 15.5%.

"VoIP is becoming strategic," said David Foote, president and chief research officer of Foote Partners. "Demand [for skilled workers] is rising faster than supply."

Enterprise VoIP deployments have grown at a dramatic rate. According to a report by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Synergy Research Group Inc., VoIP sales grew in 2003 by 89%. In the first quarter of this year alone, VoIP sales grew by 17%.

By 2008, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Radicati Group Inc. has projected that 44% of businesses will use VoIP.

A year and a half ago, Cisco Systems Inc., an enterprise VoIP vendor in San Jose, Calif., added a VoIP specialization to its Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert certification, its highest certification.

Since adding the VoIP specialization, demand has been overwhelming, said Rick Stiffler, senior marketing manager with Cisco's Internet learning solutions group.

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"The primary growth areas that overshadow everything else are security and VoIP," Stiffler said. "They are the two gorillas and they are in high demand."

In fact, demand is so high that Cisco is considering offering a second, lower-level VoIP certification. Though Cisco does not release figures on how many certifications it has awarded, Stiffler said that demand has been high globally and equal for enterprise and carrier employees.

VoIP has also raised the value of other skills, Foote said. Bonus pay for those with Gigabit Ethernet skills has risen even higher than VoIP. In the last year, those with Gigabit Ethernet expertise have seen a bonus pay boost of 25% over the previous year.

Stiffler expects to see significant growth in the number of people pursuing VoIP skills in the years to come. But ultimately that will fall off -- not because of falling demand, he said, but because VoIP will eventually become part of the core curriculum that every networking professional will master early on.

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