IT Careers 2007: Networking Skills in Demand

by Cynthia Harvey

Network administrators and analysts have bright prospects for the coming year.

The experts have consulted their crystal balls and made their predictions about the IT job market for 2007. The consensus? This year, employers will likely be hiring more IT workers and paying their current workers a little more. The outlook is especially rosy for a few hot job titles and industries.

More Jobs for Everyone
The increase in the number of IT job openings in 2007 is part of an overall trend of employment growth. While no one believes the job market is likely to expand dramatically, a majority of experts describe the coming year’s employment outlook as “stable” or “steady” and expect moderate increases in the number of available jobs.

For example, economists at the University of Michigan’s Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics (RSQE) predict unemployment in 2007 will stay at 4.6 percent. They expect the economy to produce 1.5 million new jobs. That’s down from 1.9 million in 2006, but still represents steady growth.

In the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s fourth quarter Survey of Professional Forecasters, those surveyed made very similar predictions. They believe unemployment will rise slightly to 4.8 percent while the economy produces 119,000 jobs per month (1.4 million for the year).

Employers themselves also indicate a greater willingness to hire more workers. In a Harris Interactive Poll conducted for CareerBuilder.com, 40 percent of employers reported that they expect to increase their number of full-time employees. While many of those expect to hire only a few new workers, nearly 10 percent said that they plan to hire 500 or more new people.

"Recent reports from the U.S. Department of Labor support a sense in the market that the economy is slowing at a gradual, reasonable pace and inflation has steadied," added Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.com. "This bodes well for job creation.”

More IT Opportunities
Just as a rising tide lifts all ships, the slow but steady economic growth will likely lead to job growth in the information technology sector. In addition, experts predict a shortage of IT workers to fill some key positions.

In a December survey by Robert Half Technology, 16 percent of CIOs reported that they plan to increase hiring, while only 2 percent said they plan to decrease their staff. That 14 percent net increase is the largest since fourth quarter of 2001, according to Robert Half figures.

The same report indicates that the sectors doing the most IT hiring are transportation and – somewhat surprisingly – manufacturing. Other hot industries for IT workers include financial and business services, insurance, technology, and healthcare.

Managers in those industries aren’t hiring just anyone, however; they’re looking for specific skills for specific job titles. While lower level IT jobs, such as help desk support, are increasingly being filled overseas, demand is up for jobs that require a higher skill level.

In the Robert Half Technology Survey, CIOs ranked Microsoft Windows Server 2002/2003 administration as the skill-set most in demand, followed by network administration and database management. That information squares neatly with the six IT job titles included the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of the 30 fastest growing occupations 2004-2014:

• #2 Network systems and data communications analysts (54.6 percent growth)
• #5 Computer software engineers, applications (48.4 percent growth)
• #8 Computer software engineers, systems software (43.0 percent growth)
• #11 Network and computer systems administrators (38.4 percent growth)
• #12 Database administrators (38.2 percent growth)
• #25 Computer systems analysts (31.4 percent growth)

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High on managers’ list of candidates to fill those positions are those who combine technical expertise with an understanding of business issues. According to an October 2006 PriceWaterhouseCoopers report on talent management , “The battle for talent is about to become even fiercer as companies search for the hybrid employee: workers who excel at collaboration, innovation and managing change.”

That trend toward “hybrid employees” is reflected in Vedior’s list of Hot IT Jobs for 2007. The list highlights positions which require both business acumen and technical know-how, including project manager, business analyst, program manager, and change management specialist.

IT Salaries on the Rise—Slightly
The experts agree that IT workers in all areas should expect slight pay increases this year. As the competition for top-notch employees heats up, companies are both improving pay for new hires and offering salary increases and other incentives to keep current employees from bolting.

According to the Robert Half Technology 2007 Salary Guide, starting salaries for all IT workers will increase an average of 2.8 percent this year. Salary.com takes a more optimistic view, anticipating 4 to 5 percent salary increases for technology workers.

If the Salary Guide is proved correct, workers’ pay may just barely outpace inflation. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters predicts CPI inflation will average 2.6 percent in 2007 (up slightly from 2.4 percent in 2006). That means a 2.8 percent pay raise will leave the average IT worker’s salary basically flat in terms of real buying power.

Fortunately, some IT workers will likely receive more than a 2.8 percent salary hike. Robert Half Technology believes software developers will see the greatest gains—a 5.1 percent raise in base compensation—putting averaging base pay between $60,250 and $94,750 annually. Other top gainers include:

• Web developers (average 4.2 percent increase)
• Data warehouse managers (average 4.2 percent increase)
• Project managers (average 4.1 percent increase)
• Quality assurance analysts (average 4.1 percent increase)
• Applications architects (average 4.0 percent increase).

By contrast, entry level support desk technicians can expect just a 0.8 percent wage increase—or a whopping $250.

In addition to working hard to fill new positions, employers are increasingly focusing on retaining and developing their current workforce. Careerbuilder.com notes that 81 percent of companies surveyed planned to raise current workers’ salaries, with 20 percent raising salaries 5 percent or more. Businesses are also offering more flexible work schedules, providing better training, and offering more promotions in order to convince current workers to stay put.

And PriceWaterhouseCoopers finds that companies are working harder to recruit from within, with a third of IT companies focusing “extensively” on personnel development and training.

According to Brendan Courtney, senior vice president at corporate recruiter Spherion, “IT workers are still being enticed to stay with their current employers through a series of retention efforts, which may explain why even more of them are confident in their own job security.”

And international staffing firm Vedior summarizes the IT career outlook for 2007 this way: “The hunt for qualified employees is fierce. The demand for high quality, trained workers is increasing competition and driving up salaries, giving workers the upper hand when negotiating with employers.”

Article courtesy of Datamation

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This article was originally published on Saturday Jan 20th 2007
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