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Careers of the year

As the industry continues trying to find itself, so too do employers, workers, and the recruiters who try to unite them.

As it was for just about everyone connected with the technology industry, the turn of the decade was a golden age for IT recruiters: Workers were eager to have top-tier companies bidding for their services, and companies were all too glad to dangle big salaries in front of the most promising talent. As the industry continues trying to find itself, so too do employers, workers, and the recruiters who try to unite them. Since their livelihood depends on knowing where the jobs are, we polled a number of recruiters to find out which areas of IT are heating up for 2005, and which are cooling off.

What’s up

Security, big and small: Regardless of size, business owners are putting security at the top of their to-do list. “People who combine a security clearance with almost any technical skill set are in good shape right now, as are people with a security background,” says Lamont Meeks, Midwest recruiting director for Houston-based COMSYS Information Technology Services. “There is a huge emphasis on hacking prevention and the overall design and creation of secured technical systems.” Meanwhile, big-picture security is still gaining momentum two years after 9/11. “Anything related to government security clearances is hot,” says Rich Milgram, CEO of Haverford, Pa.-based Artemis HR.

“With defense contracts escalating, major job boards have recently done deals along this front: 4Jobs.com is involved in large recruiting efforts for The Army National Guard, the U.S. Army, and the Army Reserves; Dice.com recently acquired ClearanceJobs.com; and Monster is working with Military.com.” IT auditing: Compliance is as important in IT as in any industry–maybe more so. That makes a skilled IT auditor a hot commodity. “They’re popular right now due to the prevalence of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance projects,” says Kevin Hudson, vice president of Product Management Technology for Tampa, Fla.-based Kforce Inc.

“A year ago, you found very few jobs for IT auditors on the job boards. Now there are hundreds if not thousands posted on the major boards. I do not know how long there will be a demand in this area, but right now demand far exceeds supply.” Support: Where there are computers, there are computer problems, and where there are computer problems, there must be computer support professionals and help-desk workers. “We are seeing the whole area of PC and network support continuing to have strong demand,” says Hudson. “It’s being driven by positions like systems administrator, systems design and hardware, and software support.” Voice-over Internet Protocol: “VoIP is a sector that should continue to be strong,” says Mike Kendall, CEO of the St. Louis-based Kendall Placement Group.

“Candidates with wide-area networking experience, router experience, and VOIP experience will be in high demand.” .Net programming: Microsoft’s strategic architecture for distributed computing isn’t for novices, and so naturally, a high skill level in this area is coveted. “It’s one of the hottest skill sets on the market right now,” says John Martin, president of Atlanta-based Impact Innovations Group. “We average eight to 10 open .Net positions on a pretty consistent basis.” Also on the rise: Web design, computer networking, programming in Java and C++, database administration, database modeling, engineering (electrical, mechanical, civil, and architectural), aerospace, RF engineering, and biotech.

What’s down

A number of job segments have dropped off due to a number of factors, the primary culprits being outsourcing, over-supply, and plain old creeping obsolescence. Mainframe development: “It’s been relegated primarily to support or analyst roles,” says COMSYS’s Meeks. “These positions will never go away, but they will drop down in pay towards second- to third-level support folks. They will never get too far back above the $60,000 salary mark.” “I don’t think it is news to anyone that the demand for mainframe programmers has declined dramatically post-Y2K,” agrees Hudson. “There are still jobs, just not at a level that gets anyone’s attention.”

Java development: “It isn’t declining in usage–quite the opposite, actually,” says Meeks. “But we are starting to see some market saturation. This will cause rates to decrease for your average front-end developer. Server-side folks and architects won’t see much in the way of pay-rate pressure.” Network engineering: “It’s still a great career choice,” says Elliot Clark, COO of Wayne, Pa.-based Kenexa. “But newer, efficient technologies can allow a much smaller team to manage a large network, so a lot of those folks are looking for work.” Programming: Though some experts see a boom in specific areas of programming, others see a bust, at least for now. “Programming jobs in general have been down because companies have not been investing in new or upgraded systems,” says Hudson. “I hope and believe that this will change as we see companies spending in this area again.” Also on the wane: software engineering, hardware engineering, computer science, IT operations, applications maintenance, and systems analysis.

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