Web services, security and Linux jobs continue to dominate the IT help wanted ads and are projected to remain among the hottest skill and certification areas in 2005, according to research firms that specialize in tracking skills and certifications.
Researchers said companies continue to invest in security-related projects while looking to eliminate aging legacy systems, and are exploring less expensive, newer platforms such as Linux.
A small drop off in offshore outsourcing projects and an increase in competition for IT consulting talent have contributed to a reversal in declining premium pay tied to IT skills, said David Foote, president and chief research officer for Foote Partners LLC, a New Canaan, Conn., research firm that specializes in tracking skills and certifications.
"There is a re-emergence of talent wars, but on a smaller scale than in the past, according to our research," Foote said. "This is an indication that offshore outsourcing will no longer be the dominant theme in IT employment trends."
Security certifications top the list for a second year in a row. Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations on data in the health care and financial services industries continue to drive the trend, Foote said.
Having a niche certification also continues to be desirable, Foote said. For example, IT personnel with intrusion detection skills are highly desired.
Networking, messaging and programming language skills also increased in value in 2004, Foote said. Networking skills pay has increased 6% in the past year, messaging/groupware skills are up 4.5%, and skills relating to applications development and programming languages have grown nearly 4% in value.
IT workers who are familiar with basic Unix and Linux concepts will also stand out in the job market, said Tony Iams, principal analyst with Port Chester, N.Y.-based research firm, D.H. Brown Associates Inc. Companies are seeking IT personnel in patch management and other basic Linux support skills.
"Linux for a long time had been targeted for edge of network type applications, but it's taking on support for a much broader range of applications," Iams said. "For a while, it looked like the future was Windows, but now there is a larger demand for a more hands-on understanding for the Unix and Linux philosophy of managing workloads."
Robert Half Technology, an IT consultancy and job placement firm based in Menlo Park, Calif., is documenting similar trends. Network security administrators, quality assurance managers and business systems analysts are seeing a slight increase in pay, said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology.
Starting salaries overall are projected to increase an average of 0.5% in 2005, with larger increases expected in high-demand specialties such as information security and quality assurance, Lee said. This compares to the 1.6% decline in pay that was projected this time last year.
A need for more additional database administrators has also been a growing trend, according to Robert Half. Companies are trying to get control of the growing amount of data they collect.
Despite the move by companies to streamline systems, more and more data continues to be unused by companies, said Charles Garry, senior program director of server infrastructure strategies with Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group. Garry said DBAs need to follow in the footsteps of blacksmiths who dealt with the rise of the automobile.
"Innovation is not a bad thing, it just means that the workforce needs to adapt," Garry said. "As end users get more tech savvy, DBAs need to understand the business side to make better infrastructure decisions so companies aren't paying for more than they need."
The trend to outsource daily management of database systems will continue to multiply, Garry said. DBAs need to respond by taking on skill sets they never had in the past.
DBAs need to have database archiving skills and understand business intelligence and data warehousing, Garry said. A solid understanding of specific applications and the movement and cleansing of data are also skills that make a job applicant stand out.
"We're seeing the birth of a data resource manager," Garry said. "Clearly, DBAs of the future need to have a lot better people skills than they've shown in years past."