It's been a good year for IT workers. Computerworld's annual salary survey shows IT pay is on the upswing, and, equally encouraging, salaries are expected to continue to climb in 2008. The just-released Robert Half Technology 2008 Salary Guide indicates that the average base salary for all IT roles will rise 5.3 percent next year.
What's behind the positive outlook? Simply put, the IT industry continues to thrive despite some signs of economic uncertainty in recent months. In a September 2007 poll by CIO.com, 58% of IT executives said they weren't concerned about the current credit crunch affecting their budgets, and only 12 percent indicated that they plan to change or eliminate projects as a result of it.
In fact, ongoing business growth and renewed technology investments are driving demand for IT workers to the highest levels in several years. Companies are recognizing that technology investments are essential to their ability to compete. Initiatives in security, applications and Web development, wireless communication, database management and other sectors are fueling a robust market for skilled IT professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent projections -- from 2004 -- nearly 1million "computer specialist" jobs will be created by 2014.
Though there's strong need for skilled IT workers across the board -- from the standpoint of both the development of new technologies and the support of existing ones -- some positions are expected to be in even greater demand in 2008. For example, according to Robert Half Technology, positions such as lead applications developer, messaging administrator and data modeler should see increases in base compensation of 7 percent or more next year compared with 2007.
Computerworld's findings bear out these bright employment prospects. According to the survey, application development skills are in greatest demand by hiring managers. The most marketable lead developers oversee development teams and apply technical know-how to everyday business challenges. Messaging administrators are in high demand as companies aim to keep their employees, clients and customers connected via e-mail systems, corporate networks and mobile devices. And data modelers are needed to organize data into logical models and ensure access to reporting functionality.
IT's most wanted
What does all this mean for your career? First and foremost, it means you have a significant advantage in the job market. You may be hesitant to test the waters if you have a secure position, but keep in mind that it's not easy for many businesses to find the people they need. Forty-two percent of hiring managers in Computerworld's survey said difficulty in recruiting workers is their top hiring concern.
More employers than you realize may be seeking the skills you possess. If you have been considering asking your boss for a raise, the results from these surveys might assist your efforts. Naturally, there are many factors to consider, but the competitive marketplace, as indicated by results like these, is one piece of the puzzle that you and your employer should take into consideration.
If your company isn't in a position to increase your base salary, perhaps your boss would be open to an alternative, such as a larger bonus, a stock grant, or even a nonmonetary perk like a flexible work schedule or extra time off.
Vary your search to increase your chance of success. Robert Half Technology's research shows that companies are relying less on online job boards and classified ads, and more on networking and referrals in the hiring process. If you're spending the bulk of your job search online, attend industry events and schedule informational interviews in an effort to expand your network.
Also remember that hiring managers seek individuals who are able to tie a firm's technical capabilities to its business needs. As a result, your soft skills are important. Your project management, communication and problem- solving abilities can increase your marketability and serve as a deciding factor if an employer is evaluating another candidate with qualifications similar to yours.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology (www.rht.com), a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis.