By multiple accounts, IT hiring has slowed in the past few quarters, but those with highly sought-after skills continue to entertain multiple job offers.
While IT professionals with hot skills might not be able to name their price, client companies often go above their stated budgets when they find a candidate they like with in-demand skills, according to Robert Byron, partner/manager for information technology search at recruiting firm WinterWyman Search in Boston.
"These candidates are definitely in the driver's seat," he said.
Digital strategy has gone beyond a matter of company growth to become a competitive necessity, according to analyst firm Foote Partners. In its IT Skills Demand and Pay Trends Report, the firm predicts digital strategy will drive IT job growth and increase salaries for the right skills.
"Digital transformation alone will depend on solving the puzzle of getting the right mix of critical technology and business skills and experience just right when in fact the shortages of skills and talent have never been more profound nor more debilitating," David Foote, chief analyst and co-founder, says in the latest report.
James Stanger, senior director, products, for CompTIA, the computing technology industry association: "We are seeing a chronic shortage of candidates for tech jobs across the board. We expect core IT jobs to be very healthy with demand outpacing the supply for the foreseeable future."
Here are some of the hottest IT skills in 2016:
It's not just about building and releasing software, it's about doing it faster. That is leading to the crumbling of cultural barriers between development and IT operations, according to Foote.
Software development topped the list of most challenging positions to fill for IT job board Dice. Premiums grew by 7.8 percent over the past year for skills in application development tools and platforms, and by 14.3 percent for DevOps skills overall, according to Foote.
Skills in developer tools such as Apache Cordova and Google App Engine are in rising demand, as well as configuration tools such as Chef, Puppet and Ansible. Other hot areas of software development include:
- agile software development methodology
- Go and other programming languages
- Docker, container and microservices technologies
- tools for setting up and managing continuous integration/continuous delivery pipelines
DevOps engineers are in high demand as organizations look to employ a formal strategy. The relatively few available experts in this area can select from multiple job offers, according to Foote.
In 2015, DevOps practitioners reported salaries of $75,000 to $100,000, while most U.S. managers made $125,000 to $150,000, according to a Puppet Labs survey.
Information Security/Cybersecurity Skills
With the big data breaches of 2015, especially those in health care, and the rise of ransomware in 2016, information security is top of mind in every industry sector.
"Our clients have an insatiable appetite for these candidates," said Byron, of both infosec pros and software developers.
There are more than 200,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States and postings are up 74 percent over the past five years, according to a 2015 analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Security certifications are paying off strongly for IT security management and architecture, secure software development, forensics, intrusion analysis and cybersecurity. Foote reports that CyberSecurity Forensic Analyst and Certified Cyber Forensic Professional are among the highest-paying certifications it tracks.
The average chief information security officer (CISO) salary is $204,000, according to a new report from SilverBull, an IT and cybersecurity recruiting firm. Last year Dice reported lead software security engineers making more ($233,333) than their CISO bosses ($225,000).
Cloud and Networking Skills
The supply of cloud skills seems to be catching up with demand, and pay premiums are leveling off, according to Foote. Demand remains high, though, for those with expertise with cloud environments including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and Rackspace Cloud.
The ability to manage companies’ private clouds and hybrid clouds will set job candidates apart, as well as those who have software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) skills.
"It's all about automating as much as you can," Byron said.
Demand also remains hot for front-end developers, back-end API/web services engineers, and those well-versed in scalable microservices architectures, networking and storage.
Big Data Skills
After many companies paused to reevaluate the value of their data analytics expenditures in 2014, premiums for Big Data skills grew by 8 percent in the past 12 months, according to Foote Partners. It expects more gains over the next two years.
"Big Data capabilities are just too critical for staying competitive," said Foote. That means organizations need the capability to house, process, analyze and visualize data, as well as the ability to make business use of it.
Glassdoor recently ranked data scientist No. 1 on its list of best jobs in America with a median base salary of $116,840.
The International Institute for Analytics and Forrester Research are both predicting that new tools will take over the dirty work of compiling and curating data, leaving data scientists with more time to focus on analysis.
Forrester predicts that many companies this year will address their skills shortages by turning to insights-as-a-service and data-science-as-a-service providers, which would provide employment opportunities for those with data science skills as well.
Companies continue to struggle with all data they have to store and manage, so it's no surprise that database skills have experienced gains in 37 of the past 45 quarters, according to Foote. Pay premiums have grown by 7.8 percent in the past 12 months, with extra pay for MySQL skills in particular up 12.5 percent.
Foote also reports healthy pay premiums for IT pros who work with open source databases such as Redis, PostgreSQL andApache CouchDB.
Dice listed database administrators among its 10 most challenging positions to fill.
Business Systems Analyst
The business analyst role topped Glassdoor's list of jobs with the biggest pay raises last year, with salaries up 10 percent. Average pay in 2015 was $83,300.
It is a hot position, particularly among financial services firms, according to Byron.
"As more and more stuff gets shoved offshore, outsourced, there needs to be that consistency with the IT team and the business," he explained. "They understand the business; they understand how systems are being used. They're not developers, but they understand that side of it. They can work with the business to understand where the gaps are and can translate those business requirements into technical requirements."
Help Desk/IT Support
Demand far outstrips supply in help desk and IT support positions, but the job role has shifted remarkably, according to CompTIA's Stanger.
"Today's support role often involves responding to sophisticated problems that require sophisticated response," he said.
For example, with the increase of phishing and social engineering, the help desk is becoming a key part of a company's approach to security.
"The help desk person is a go-to person, a one-stop shop to solve problems," Stanger said.