The 10 best IT jobs right now

IT professionals looking to find new employment or upgrade their current positions should investigate job opportunities that address growing demand for technologies such as virtualization, cloud, network security and social computing skills.

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Industry watchers report that while an economic recovery won’t guarantee that IT jobs return to pre-recession levels, increased interest in emerging and existing technologies will drive internal training and external hiring decisions.

“IT staffing got hit in 2009, but it didn’t get decimated they way it did back in 2002. Companies were renegotiating contracts, freezing salaries and delaying projects, so this year we won’t see a flood of IT employment back,” says Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research, Gartner Executive Programs. “But we will see a skills shift from IT personnel that operates only in the old, slow expensive ways to IT pros that can adopt agile methods. There will continue to be opportunities in analytics, for people who understand lean IT, Six Sigma, business processes and improvements — it’s going to be about information, connectivity and collaboration.”

Here we examine 10 IT job titles that could gain traction in 2010 as new technology demands require evolving IT skills.  

1. Security specialist/ethical hacker

Disturbing new facts and figures appear almost daily about companies falling victim to hackers and experiencing security and/or data breaches. That won’t change in 2010 and IT training and employment industry specialists report that interest in acquiring new security skills continues to grow among IT pros and hiring managers who seek the latest skill sets to better secure their environments.

“If you know how to keep your company’s data secure, you were in demand yesterday, are in demand today and will be in demand tomorrow,” Tom Silver, senior vice president with, said in a recent interview with Network World.  

The Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA, in late 2009 polled some 1,537 high-tech workers and found 37% intend to pursue a security certification over the next five years. Separately, nearly 20% indicated they would seek ethical hacking certification over the same time period. And another 13% pinpointed forensics as the next certification goal in their career development.

“When you add the results, you will see that about two-thirds of IT workers intend to add some type of security certification to their portfolio,” said Terry Erdle, senior vice president of skills certifications at CompTIA, in an earlier Network World interview. “This trend is driven by two factors: one, security issues are pervasive, and two, more and more people are moving to managed services and software-as-a-service models, which involves more complex networking. That level of non-enterprise data center computing has people looking more closely at their security infrastructure.”

2. Virtual systems manager

While many systems managers might not yet have the word “virtual” officially in their titles, it is just a matter of time, according to industry experts.

“Virtualization and automation technologies are directly related to the cloud. Virtual servers comprise the computing environment and automation is responsible for the cloud being monitoring, management, secured and made compliant,” says Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. “Virtualization is fundamentally mainstream now, and there is a lot of activity around virtual systems management.”

Like high-tech vendors, IT pros will have to incorporate virtual systems knowledge into their repertoire in order to compete for open positions in 2010. Virtualization not only impacts current data center plans, but also future cloud computing efforts and while companies look to adopt such technologies, they will expect staff to be versed in the tools required to support new environments.

“We get several calls per week around SaaS, cloud and virtual skills that companies want guidance on, considering we are the vendor-neutral party,” CompTIA’s Erdle explained in late 2009. “CompTIA is working now on building certifications programs to release in 2010 and get in front of this growing demand.”

3. Capacity manager

Companies that don’t properly prepare for needed resources could lose money or fail to respond to business needs. That’s why industry watchers from Forrester Research and Gartner have tagged capacity planning skills as in demand, especially considering the down economy.

Forrester says the role of capacity manager will be in demand for companies looking to optimize resources and accurately assign financial values to technology resources.

“Due to the current economic environment, downsizing (or rightsizing) of infrastructure, resources and capabilities is a top priority for IT,” Forrester Senior Analyst Evelyn Hubbert stated in the Forrester Research report “Role Overview: Capacity Manager.”  

Gartner identifies a similar skill set in its IT resource planning position. By combining the tenets of capacity planning with financial management as well as usage and service measurement, IT resource planning experts will help IT departments understand how services and resources are consumed. This knowledge will help IT respond to business demands quickly.

“Capacity planning today is all about trying to ensure that you have enough capacity and memory cycles to meet workload demand. But virtualization causes new variables to be taken into consideration, and power consumption is just one among many,” said Cameron Haight, research vice president at Gartner, in an interview with Network World. “For IT resource planning (ITRP) there are several more elements to consider and the process must become much more strategic within an enterprise.”

4. Network engineer

As retro as it may sound, network know-how won’t go out of style in 2010. According to Gartner, interest in networking,  voice and data communications technologies increased for 2010, meaning skills in that high-tech area will also be in demand.

“The future of IT and enhanced competitive advantage requires social interactions and greater collaboration and that is why the importance of the network continues to grow,” Gartner’s McDonald says. “Even though revenue was down in 2009, CIOs reported that transaction volumes and communications requirements continued to grow, making it imperative to focus on network technologies.”

5. Open source specialist

Companies keeping IT budgets lean but hoping to add services and help business return to growth will be considering open source software for more enterprise projects. And while several open source software maker offer commercial support packages, IT managers will want to have some skills in-house as well, according to IT talent experts.

“We are seeing a ton of demand for skills around open source technologies and frameworks. Demand for Python, Ruby on Rails and PHP development skills far exceeds the number of people available with skills,” said Michael Kirven, co-founder and principal of IT resource firm Bluewolf, in a Network World interview

“Hiring managers want to see more then people playing around with open source in a sandbox environment. People that get trained and certified in these open source technologies will stand out when their resumes fall on recruiters’ desks.” also reported seeing an increased interest in open source skill sites. Dice’s Silver said in late 2009: “There are about 1,000 jobs open looking for such skills and we expect open source technologies are an area employers will be looking to hire.”

6. Service assurance manager

IT specialists skilled at identifying potential problems and optimizing performance in IT domains such as network, systems, storage or applications should look to broaden their knowledge to encompass the entire IT service life cycle in 2010. As companies hope to bring down the last barriers between IT groups, they will also be looking to staff their teams with an IT service assurance manager. 

The premise of IT service assurance isn’t entirely new and until recently was more commonly a concern for service providers, but enterprise IT organizations have started to evolve into service providers in their own right. Vendors such as BMC, CA, HP, IBM and now EMC are touting the ability to provide insight into the life cycle of an IT service, and enterprise IT departments want to establish themselves as internal service providers. That means IT staffers would be wise to also embrace the skills required to track services from start to finish across a distributed and diverse environment.

In a research report, Forrester Research advises companies to: “Initiate a service management process by putting a service manager in place who focuses on the service life cycle to enable the business; through this role and its activities IT starts to align with the business and begins to run itself like a business.”

7. Electronic health records systems manager

Specific vertical industries are expected to add IT positions in 2010, but healthcare is expected to bolster its IT numbers significantly, thanks to government economic stimulus plans.

CompTIA anticipates some 70,000 new IT positions in the next 12 months in the healthcare industry. The increase in open jobs is due in part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes billions in provisions for healthcare IT. The expected uptick in demand is driving industry organizations such as CompTIA to find the best ways to educate and train IT workers on healthcare specific skills.

“We are working now to determine what kind of IT roles should be supported in certifications from CompTIA,” said CompTIA’s Erdle.

8. Sourcing specialist

Software-as-a-service, cloud computing, managed services, outsourcing and offshoring offer companies alternatives to hiring internal staff, and savvy IT managers will educated themselves on the various sourcing options to help their employers make the right choices for their business, industry watchers say.

For instance, IT candidates with expertise in areas such as software license management, contract negotiations and managing consultants or distributed teams could help a company determine which managed service offering could be a good fit or if cloud computing is a reasonable choice for a midsize or smaller company.

“Outsourcing is going to continue to be a trend, and the skill sets to manage vendor relationships and contract performance will be highly valued,” said Lily Mok, vice president of Gartner’s CIO Research, in a Network World interview.”Companies will want to consolidate vendors, find better deals with existing vendors, really understand their contracts in terms of costs and performance, and renegotiate contracts to find better options.”

9. Service catalog manager

As IT departments work toward becoming internal service providers to their companies, they will want to change their approach to meeting customer needs. Industry watchers and best practice frameworks such as ITIL detail how establishing an IT service catalog can help companies model themselves after service providers. And with an IT service catalog comes an IT service catalog manager, according to Forrester Research.

“The service catalog manager is responsible for producing and maintaining the service catalog. This includes responsibilities that fall into three categories — planning and implementing a service catalog, financial management aspects of a service catalog, and rollout and maintenance of service catalog,” reads a recent Forrester Research report. “A service catalog manager can play a significant role as a change agent from a utility IT organization to a service-focused IT organization.”

10. Business process engineer

Demand for business-savvy technologists will drive hiring decisions in 2010, as companies look to evolve processes to align with leaner budgets and more streamlined operations. According to Gartner’s Mok, companies will seek business process engineers for re-engineering projects in the coming year.

“We see a lot of people using ERP systems and engaging in business process re-engineering projects,” she said. “Those coming from the business side or being very well versed in the business processes are in good positions. Combining the knowledge of the technical systems with business processes will help IT professionals get and keep key positions.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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