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10 best IT jobs right now

With many industry watchers speculating about a jobless economic recovery, IT job seekers could find work in a few key technology areas.

By , Network World
February 02, 2010 12:02 AM ET

Network World - 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 Dice.com, 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."

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