IT skills that shine in uncertain times

Research firms identify in-demand IT skill sets and forecast potential IT salary increases in 2009

The current economic climate could cause IT professionals to worry about finding and keeping jobs, but research released Thursday shows that despite the financial turmoil, workers with specific high-tech talents will continue to be in demand.

Research from Robert Half International and others suggests that not only will IT salaries increase slightly in 2009, but also that IT professionals with key skills could find themselves in demand in the coming months. The professional staffing and consulting firm estimates that IT salaries could increase by about 3.7 percent next year, in part because of a smaller pool of skilled candidates and fewer college graduates with IT-related degrees.

"Companies highly value employees who can identify cost efficiencies, develop long-range business strategies and maximize the use of technology," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, in a statement. "Adding to the competition for those with specialized skills is a growing reluctance on the part of many professionals to leave secure employment situations in an unpredictable economy. This has made it a challenge for hiring managers to attract these workers."

Robert Half International identified three areas within IT in its 2009 Salary Guides that will be in demand and could experience pay increases in the coming months.

To start, Web developers are in demand because of the rise of social media and Web 2.0 initiatives within companies. Robert Half International expects salaries for IT professionals with these skills to start between US$60,000 and $89,750 in the coming year.

Programmer analysts, or IT professionals with .Net, SharePoint, Java and PHP skills, are in-demand across such industries as healthcare, finance and manufacturing.

"These workers are needed to write code, test and debug software applications, and analyze business-application requirements for functional areas across the organization," the staffing firm reports. "The salary range for a programmer analyst is expected to be [US]$60,000 to $100,750."

The third skill set Robert Half International identified lies with help-desk professionals. Companies work with a wide range of technologies -- from supporting older systems to deploying new desktops, for instance -- and require IT professionals capable of troubleshooting a broad range of problems across a variety of hardware and software platforms. Base compensation for such professionals could begin at US$36,750 and reach $48,250 on the high end, according to the staffing firm.

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