Top 10 Tech Skills in a Downturn

5. IT security

A slew of security certifications – including the CompTIA Security+, GIAC Security Essentials, Certified Ethical Hacker, GIAC Certified Incident Handler and Check Point Certified Security Administrator-- have increased in value in the past three months, according to the Foote report.

"The value of security skills is going up, and jobs are pretty stable," Foote says, adding that many federal jobs are available for information security specialists with government security clearances

Demand for security specialists is likely to remain strong because few teens are entering the field. Professor Peter Lee, head of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, sees a shortage in students studying security-related topics "We've seen a decline in interest in students who want to study security related to hardware architecture, operating systems and networks," Lee says.

6. Project management

The Project Management Professional certification remains in demand, the Foote report says. Even more important is experience managing complex IT projects and delivering results on time and on or under budget.

SIM's 2008 CIO survey listed project leadership as one of the top 10 skills needed for mid-level employees. Project planning, including budgeting and scheduling, was also cited as well as project integration and management.

"Project management skills are going to be more important over the next few years," says Henry Eckstein, senior vice president of strategic technology at York Insurance Services Group. Eckstein oversees a 50-person IT shop. "We have set up a corporate project management office. We are working on changing the corporate culture to do more project management and more IT governance."

7. Data mining

Jobs are plentiful for workers who understand data mining and related fields such as information on demand, content management and unstructured information management, experts say.

"The world revolves around data. Anything you can do to develop data analysis, data mining and information on demand skills is incredibly critical," IBM's Faughnan says.

"There's a broad range of issues involved with managing very large amounts of data and being able to process it and extract knowledge from that data," CMU's Lee says. "One of the things we are starting to see from leading-edge places like Google is the need for graduates with the understanding and skill to cope in the new world of data intensive computing."

8. Web development

Demand for employees with Web development certifications has plummeted in the past year, with the value for certifications in this area dropping 21.8% according to the Foote report. However, experts say there is still a need for developers who understand the latest Web trends, especially social media.

"You've got to learn to manipulate data on the Web, and that includes Web 2.0. Mash-ups are becoming commonplace," IBM's Faughnan says.

SIM's CIO survey listed programming and application development skills as key for entry-level employees, too. It was the highest ranked of the technical skills listed by CIOs.

9. IT optimization

IT experts predict a solid future for IT professionals with experience in IT optimization, including virtualization and cloud computing. However, these jobs may end up in service providers, rather than IT departments.

"Through software as a service, through cloud computing, CIOs may be doing less IT in house, but somebody is still going to be doing that. There will be a demand for more computer scientists in data centers," says Josh James, Director of Research and Industry Analysis for TechAmerica.

10. Networking

Although pay for networking certifications is down over the last six months, many remain on the list of the IT certifications earning the highest pay premiums, according to the Foote report. These include certifications from Cisco, SNIA, EMC, Brocade and Avaya.

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