The IT Salary 'Wave': Skills, Salaries, and the Coming Reckoning

The financial prognosis for information technology jobs appears to be good, but there's an underlying condition attached: cutting-edge skills are set to have a big impact on IT careers. 


According to a recent 2013 salary survey conducted by Computerworld, not only are average annual pay rates up for some IT workers, but bonuses are showing signs of climbing out of the dip they took last year. 


Of the more than 4,200 respondents to the poll, the average increase in salary was pegged at 2.3% in the 2013 report — up 0.2% from last year's check-in. That increase is smaller than the 0.6% bump from 1.5% to 2.1% between 2011 and 2012, but part of an upward trend nonetheless. And bonuses, which were cut by an average of 1.1% in Computerworld's 2012 report, saw a 0.9% increase. 


All of this should prove encouraging for IT professionals — think of it as a rising tide to lift all boats. But what's especially interesting about the Computerworld report is not only that it shows an incoming wave of salary increases, but also that it supports an idea that has percolated in the IT industry for several years now: new, cutting-edge skills are becoming increasingly in demand.


Salary and Skills: The Interdependency of Cash and Cutting Edge

Want to be among those enjoying that average 2.3% salary increase? Computerworld's report identified some key factors that make IT workers attractive to companies, and they're all skill based.


The new report shows that currently employed IT professionals see application-development, support, security, and analysis as the important skills to acquire. According to the report, the top five skills that hiring managers are expected to seek are:


— App Development: 49%

— Support/Help Desk: 37%

— Security: 29%

— Network Administration: 28% 

— Business Intel: 24%


Equally important is what's at the bottom of the list: skills related to software-as-a-service and virtualization. That those skills aren't as highly valued suggests IT departments may be moving away from cloud implementation—rollout being well and done—and into a phase of refinement and improvement. In other words, knowing how to get what you want out of Big Data and cloud-based systems is going to become very important, while skills related to build out may be on the decline.


Reverse Curve: The Coming Shakeout

Considering the way that salaries and bonuses are edging upward in the 2013 report, you might infer that the situation is rosy for most every IT professional. But 44% of the survey's respondents said a career in IT is not as promising as it was five years ago. Why, if the salaries are on the rise, would this be the case? The likely answer is skills. 


Think about it: with a new emphasis on new skills in IT, there's a necessary learning curve underway. Not every IT professional is going to successfully embrace those changes. If nearly half the IT professionals see a narrower future for the work they do, they may be judging their own skill sets as inadequate, in light of where the industry is headed.


That's backed up by another study. In March 2012, the Computer Technology Industry Association pointed to the writing on the wall: 93% of employers identified a skills gap among their IT staff, and 80% of those respondents said the skills gap was having an impact on their business. 


If you want to continue to feel secure in your job, like the 36% of IT workers who told Computerworld that they did, then pay attention to those top five skills IT employers are looking for. They're likely the key to your future in IT.




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