The Hot Jobs for 2006

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Industry observers are expecting a hot IT job market this year with companies clamoring to hire experienced tech professionals with several stand-out skill sets.

See Workers in Driver's Seat in 2006 Job Market.

''There's going to be fantastic opportunities for people who heeded the warnings about diversifying their skill sets and understanding the business,'' says Kevin Knaul, executive vice president of the Hudson Highland Group, a professional staffing and outsourcing company based in New York City. ''Those folks will put themselves in a great situation. But those folks focused on a specific technology run the risk of finding themselves in a tighter market and tighter circumstances.''

Becoming business focused is the main piece of advice for IT professionals these days. It's no longer enough to be a skilled technician. It's no longer enough to be a specialist. Today, the professionals who companies are looking to hire will not only have a wide-ranging skill set, they'll also understand how the business works and they'll have participated in business-side projects and teams.

''They need to get out of the server room and spend more time understanding the business aspects and the ramifications of technology decisions that are being made,'' says Knaul. ''Those skill sets and experiences are becoming more in demand. Go beyond the technology and involve yourself in committees, organizations and the whole business operation.''

Another hiring theme for 2006 is project management, according to Scott Melland, president and chief executive officer of New York-based Dice Inc., an online recruiting service for IT professionals. With business picking up over the last year, the time is ripe for companies to begin upgrading their systems and taking on new IT projects. That means they'll be needing some new project managers to run the show.

And a third theme for the new year is open source. ''Last year, we saw a 90 percent increase in that skill set,'' says Melland. ''We still see a lot of companies out there switching to an open source platform. This trend will continue well into 2006.''

Here's what Melland and John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement company, say will be the hot jobs -- and skills -- for 2006:

  • Project Managers -- This job category grew by 75 percent last year, according to Dice. People with experience in managing teams and projects, along with business knowledge, still will be in big demand;
  • Security -- This remains a hot skill set with companies dealing with zero-day exploits, insider attacks and high-profile data loss. Melland says people with network security experience and Cisco engineers with security experience will be in hot demand;
  • Top-Secret Security Clearance -- Someone with just about any core skill set who has top-secret security clearance is going to have an easier time finding work. The key attribute is the active government security clearance;
  • Experienced Programmers -- Developers with experience either in wide-ranging projects or specifically in .Net or SAP should be looking at a good year. The call for SAP-oriented developer positions was up 86 percent last year, and those with .Net skills were up 84 percent, according to Dice. Overall, developer jobs were up about 40 percent to 45 percent;
  • Open Source -- Analysts expect companies to continue their move toward open source and that means they'll need IT professionals with a background in open source technology to help them do that;
  • Wireless -- As wireless grids expand, and more and more companies go wireless, job demand in this sector will continue to rise;
  • Managers with Business Knowledge -- Any IT manager who has been involved with business projects and working on teams with the business side, should find herself in a powerful position this year;
  • Technical Trainers -- Companies are constantly asking their workers to learn new technology and smarten up about security, so the need for educators will continue.

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