Here are a few areas of IT that should remain bright for the foreseeable future:
1. Wireless and messaging. Wireless communication and messaging administration continue to draw investment as companies examine new ways to connect an increasingly dispersed workforce. Developers are creating more tools and applications for mobile devices, and IT departments are increasingly responsible for supporting users of tablet PCs, portable e-mail devices, PDAs and smart phones.
On a broader scale, networking professionals are devising long-term plans for the use of wireless technology, managing implementation and troubleshooting problems. Firms will continue to need individuals who can develop comprehensive security strategies for wireless technology use and who can then monitor those policies to ensure compliance.
2. Lead applications development. Ongoing growth in the variety of software content used by mobile and other device manufacturers is fueling investment in software development projects. With renewed budgets in hand, many companies are upgrading old systems, and high on the priority list is the migration to Microsoft .NET technology. Software developers with PHP, C#, Visual Basic and Java expertise also are highly sought. The hottest languages may change, but the underlying market for lead developers should continue to grow.
3. Web development, front to back. The growth of desktop-like functionality on the Web continues to drive significant IT investment, as many firms modify their web applications to enhance communication with customers and support operational strategy.
Web developers are needed to support Web 2.0 initiatives and to provide technical assistance to web administrators, integrate websites with back-end systems, and write test plans and results. Many firms are relying on skill sets such as AJAX, Microsoft SQL Server and LAMP for web development.
4. Network administration. The employment of network administrators is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent projections, from 2004. Heavy investments in wireless technologies and security efforts mean that specialists in those areas are in particularly high demand.
Increasingly, IT professionals must understand how government regulations and human resources concerns, such as monitoring and privacy policies, affect security strategies. The heightened emphasis on network security has made specialized certifications, like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation, all the more valuable.
6. Windows administration. Another unheralded but highly sought skill is Windows administration. Currently, employers are having a tough time finding the skilled professionals they need. Nearly three-quarters of the CIOs we surveyed said Windows administration (Windows Server 2000/2003) is the technical skill set in highest demand within their IT departments.
7. Soft skills. Underneath the changing technical proficiencies demanded by the industry, one thing remains constant: Companies of all sizes repeatedly emphasize the importance of soft skills such as communication and leadership. Firms seek IT professionals who communicate well, understand business fundamentals and are able to collaborate with diverse personalities throughout the organization, from engineers to executives. The most sought-after IT professionals don’t just know how the technology works — they also understand what it’s for.
Keep in mind that while talent shortages exist in a number of specialties, an ongoing commitment to learning and advancing your skills is more valuable than any individual technical proficiency. With an eye on the industry’s core specialty areas, you can insulate yourself against changes in the IT field and remain a hot commodity to employers.