An IT career is once again one with a lot of long-term potential. While the market now does not resemble the halcyon times of the dot-com boom, demand is expected to remain steady in the short term and the future looks bright.
“From all of the companies that we work with, the message now is, ‘full speed ahead,'” John Estes, a vice president with Robert Half Technology, told the E-Commerce Times. Here are five trends in the high-tech job market that leading industry experts see:
1. Solid Demand for IT Professionals
Despite present perceptions, IT professionals are on solid footing — at least for the moment. Only 2 percent of chief information officers expect to reduce staffing in their companies this year, according to Robert Half Technology.
That is because high tech has become central to new marketing and sales initiatives. Once companies decide to undertake these new projects, they need armies of techies to perform the work. Surprisingly, executives at the nation’s largest firms (1,000 or more employees) are hiring the most aggressively, with a net 19 percent increase in staffing activity, according to Robert Half.
2. Network and Security Pros in High Demand
The demand in high tech for personnel is not distributed evenly. Companies are not looking for someone with AS/400 programming experience, but a few other areas are attracting a great deal of interest. As companies become more dispersed, they need to be able to connect their systems to not only their own devices but also to those of their suppliers and customers.
Consequently, network technician are in high demand. “The growing use of wireless technology is driving demand for networking professionals,” explained Estes, whose firm found that networking has experienced the most growth during the last three quarters.
Security has been another hot button area. E-commerce companies need staff to ward off potential threats, such as viruses and phishing, as well as new security concerns. “There has been a big push for security professionals because of initiatives such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that demand that companies comply with certain procedures,” said Nate Viall, a principal at Nate Viall & Associates, an IT recruitment company.
E-commerce expansion is still having a major impact on the market. Web site designers are attracting attention, and can expect starting compensation ranging from US$46,500 to $68,500 per year in 2008, according to Robert Half.
3. Walking Away From Outsourcing
Outsourcing is a controversial issue in the high-tech space. To try and cap expenses, companies have been outsourcing more of their IT functions.
One common misconception is that corporations have been taking domestic jobs and shipping them to places like Asia, but that picture does not seem to be accurate. Ninety-four percent of CIOs said they do not plan to send any IT jobs abroad, Robert Half reported.
In fact, there seems to have been push back against this trend. Among companies that once sent IT jobs overseas but discontinued the practice, nearly six in 10 (59 percent) cited management challenges as the top reason for the change. Offshoring means dealing with different languages, cultures and time zones, so the challenges often outweigh the potential benefits.
4. It’s the Economy, Stupid
High-tech job prospects are often the tail on the nation’s economy in good times as well as the bad. Currently, the economy has been sending a mixed message. “While there has been a lot of talk recently about the country being in a recession, the unemployment numbers have been quite low,” John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a nationwide executive outplacement services firm, told the E-Commerce Times.
Recently, many pundits have been warning that the nation is poised to slip into a recession — or already has — for a couple of reasons. Problems in the mortgage industry have been quite pronounced, and a number of financial firms have been struggling. Consequently, many IT professionals have been forced out of financial services into other markets, such as healthcare.
To date, IT has been shielded from these problems. Many high-tech projects tend to be large, involved, expensive and complex, so the ones that have come online recently were placed in the pipeline 12 to 18 months ago. The economy may not have slipped into a recession yet, but the prospect of one still remains, and it if it does occur, it will have a negative impact on the IT arena.
5. Long-Term Prognosis: Increased Demand
While the short-term outlook for IT jobs is bit uncertain, the long range prognosis seems good for a couple of reasons. In any job market, there is a balance between supply and demand. The number of IT professionals has dropped significantly since the dot-com boom. “On college campuses, students have been ignoring IT and moving into the new sexy professions, such as healthcare,” Viall told the E-Commerce Times.
While fewer people are getting into high tech, the number of individuals who are leaving it is on the rise. Many IT professionals are baby boomers, who are nearing retirement. “As the boomers retire, there is a good possibility that there won’t [be] enough experienced professionals to take their places,” noted Viall. Increased demand translates into higher salaries and more opportunities for those individuals now carving out a career in high tech.