What Does the Job Market Have in Store for 2010?

Everyone knows that 2009 was challenging for workers. And despite some initial signs that the economy may be turning around, 2010 looks to be another difficult year. But not everything is doom and gloom. Research conducted for the “Robert Half Technology 2010 Salary Guide” suggests that bright spots do exist for IT professionals. Here’s a look at the IT job market for the coming year.

While starting salaries for most positions within IT will stay at current levels or dip slightly, some will see modest gains in 2010. Networking- and security-related jobs, in particular, remain in demand. Here are some of the most promising roles:

•    Information systems security manager: With new threats continually emerging, every company needs to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of its information, both from internal and external breaches. As a result, security professionals are highly sought out by organizations in a variety of industries. According to CIOs surveyed by Robert Half Technology, information security topped the list of IT projects executives expect their firms to invest in during the next 12 months. Starting salaries for information systems security managers will range from $96,500 to $130,750 in 2010.

•    Network administrator: The complexity of networks and the requirements placed on them have increased due to technologies such as cloud computing, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and software as a service (SaaS). In addition, 69 percent of CIOs surveyed for the fourth-quarter “Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report” said network administration is the most in-demand skill set. These professionals can expect starting salaries ranging from $54,500 to $80,250.

•    Systems engineer: Businesses continue to put new technologies into practice, meaning the role of systems engineer remains critical. These individuals develop and maintain the technical infrastructure, hardware and system software components supporting various IT projects. The position also topped Money magazine’s list of “Best Jobs in America,” based on pay and growth prospects. Starting salaries for systems engineers will range between $64,250 and $93,250.

Growth Industries
Despite the economic slowdown, IT hiring and technology investments remain strong in several industries. Some of this growth is the result of the U.S. government’s stimulus package, which is expected to boost IT spending in certain sectors.

Following are a few industries in which job prospects for technology professionals are brightest:

•    Education: Three main factors — money from the government’s stimulus package, increased enrollment (in part due to job losses) and the expansion of e-learning programs — are leading to an upward trend in hiring and spending on technology in the education sector.

•    Financial services: Due to pressures being put on financial services organizations following the global financial crisis, firms are placing increased focus on meeting reform and compliance requirements, generating investments in IT.

•    Health care: An aging population and the government’s push to digitize health records are creating job opportunities for IT professionals at hospitals, physicians’ offices and other health care facilities.

Sought-After Skills
As technologies change, so do the skills that are most highly sought out. Here are a few that are currently in the greatest demand:

•    Applications and Web development: With social media and other interactive Web technologies growing rapidly, those with applications and Web development skills will continue to generate interest from employers. One of the most sought-after skills is .NET development, and those who possess it may see starting salaries that exceed average levels by up to 7 percent.

•    Help desk and desktop support: Companies continue to implement new technologies, which can lead to a sharp learning curve for customers and other end users. As a result, IT professionals with help desk and desktop support experience, and who remain up to date on new developments, are highly valued.

•    Virtualization: The combination of being able to lower costs — along with space and energy requirements — and increase hardware utilization has companies buzzing about virtualization and IT professionals with this skill set.

In addition to proven technical abilities, hiring managers seek IT professionals with solid interpersonal skills who can interact with colleagues throughout the organization to ensure business needs are met. Individuals also need to understand how IT projects relate to larger business goals. And, of course, employers always look for new hires who can help the firm reduce costs, increase profitability and enhance efficiencies.

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