Bright Spots in the IT Job Market

Despite bad news in the labor market, there is reason for experienced IT workers to stay positive. A smaller pool of highly skilled candidates, the increasing complexity of the IT field and reluctant-to-leave senior professionals are keeping unemployment levels lower for this group relative to many other occupations.

Positions in Greatest Demand

Overall, IT starting salaries in the United States are expected to increase an average of 3.7 percent for the year, according to the “Robert Half Technology 2009 Salary Guide.” The following are three positions for which jobs are being created:

1. Web developer: The rise of social media and the expansion of companies’ online presences, Web 2.0 initiatives and interactive Web functionality have fueled further growth in Web technologies, creating a strong demand for Web developers. The average starting-salary increase for Web developers in the U.S. is expected to be 4.4 percent, to the range of $60,000 to $89,750, in the coming year.

2. Developer/programmer analyst: IT professionals with skills such as .NET, SharePoint, Java and PHP are at a premium across companies in all industries, including health care, finance and manufacturing. These workers are needed to write code, test and debug software applications, and analyze business application requirements for functional areas across the organization. The estimated increase in U.S. starting salary is 4.2 percent, bringing the average range for a developer/programmer analyst to between $60,000 and $100,750.

3. Help desk: Companies are implementing a wider range of technologies, migrating from older operating systems and launching Web 2.0 initiatives, all of which contribute to the demand for professionals who can troubleshoot software and hardware problems. For example, the increase in average starting salary for Tier 2 help-desk professionals — which is projected to range from $36,750 to $48,250 — is 3.7 percent higher than projections for 2008.

Industries to Watch

While many industries are eliminating jobs, some sectors are generating new ones. Those expected to add IT positions in 2009 include:

1. Health care: The growing need for health care among older age groups, coupled with constant upgrades to technology and information, ensure the health care industry will continue to grow.

2. Nonprofits: The nonprofit sector continues to expand, largely because it consists of other growth industries, including education, social services and health sciences. Nonprofit organizations can benefit from IT applications in areas such as donor database management, Web site and blog creation and network security.

3. Education: Rising student enrollment at all levels of education is creating demand for educational services. The e-learning market in particular is expected to grow at a rapid pace in coming years.

4. Government: There likely will be a need for IT expertise within the U.S. government itself or as a result of federal effort to ease the financial crisis. During his campaign, President Barack Obama proposed an ambitious IT agenda that many believe would require significant investment in skilled IT employees.

Skills in Demand

When 1,400 chief information officers (CIOs) polled for the Robert Half Technology “IT Hiring Index and Skills Report” were asked which technical skill set is needed most in their IT departments, 70 percent cited network administration (LAN, WAN). This was followed closely by desktop support and Windows administration (Server 2000/2003).

Demand for professionals with skills in areas such as .NET, SharePoint, Java and SQL Server development remains strong, particularly for those with several years of work experience and IT certifications. In addition, as companies expand their online presence, they are placing a premium on Web 2.0 development skills.

IT managers also seek well-rounded candidates. Soft skills such as interpersonal and leadership abilities are viewed as key competencies. 

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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