10 hot IT skills for 2013

Want to snag a pay premium? Check out the IT skills that will be in high demand in 2013.

The number of companies planning to hire tech professionals continues to grow, with 33% of the 334 IT executives who responded to Computerworld's 2013 Forecast survey saying they plan to increase head count in the next 12 months.

This is the third year in a row that the percentage of respondents with hiring plans has risen -- up from 29% last year, 23% in 2010 and 20% in 2009.

"When you look at just about any research or market trend, IT is one of the top two or three always mentioned as a bright spot in the job market, and it's pretty simple why," says John Reed, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half Technology. "When you look at technology, it drives so much of what business does, from productivity to communication to improving speed to making better business decisions. So companies are investing in that, and you have to have the people experienced in doing that."

Data from 2013 Forecast Survey (Base: 334; June 2012), 2012 Survey, 2011 Survey, 2010 Survey and 2009 Survey. Mouse over graph to get data details; click on items in chart key to turn them on and off.

Of course, IT leaders aren't hiring technologists indiscriminately. They're seeking specific skills to deliver what the business needs to compete today. Here's a look at the top 10 skills for 2013.

1. Programming and Application Development

60% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Companies put off projects during the recession, but now they're playing catch-up and looking for staff to keep up, according to Reed.

"Technology and software are great ways for companies to improve productivity, lower costs and create better Web presence," he says, adding that companies will need staffers to create new and better technology to do those things.

That's the case at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, says Jason Griffin, vice president and technology talent acquisition manager. "Our top needs are in programming and application development," he says. "We're just looking for more to meet the business need. The business [units] are investing in new products, they're looking for ways to provide products and services to meet customer needs."

Griffin, like others, says he's specifically looking for people with experience in Java, J2EE and .Net.

2. Project Management

40% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

The ongoing need for project management skills tracks with the continuing need for programmers: Both are responses to the demand for new applications that businesses need to compete.

"More projects mean more project managers," Reed says, noting that companies want experience as well as credentials, such as the Project Management Professional designation.

Jamie Hamilton, vice president of software engineering at Detroit-based Quicken Loans, says project manager jobs will be among the 100 new positions his company plans to add to its 800-strong IT team.

Hamilton says demand for project managers is strong in part because projects are growing more complex as the connectivity between applications increases.

Successful candidates need to have proven track records. "Three things are key for us, and they're more around behavior: Are you a leader, and do you operate as a leader? Do you have a history of executing? What's your behavior around detail?" Hamilton says.

3. Help Desk/Technical Support

35% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Jack Wolf, vice president and CIO at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, says he has a list of initiatives to pursue, including deployments of new radiology systems and electronic health record applications. To ensure success, he's looking not only for people to build and implement the systems, but also for tech support workers to help employees use them.

"New systems mean you need more help desk people to handle the increase in calls we expect," Wolf says.

He's far from the only one searching for such skills. Tech staffing firm Modis reports that help desk technician is the job title that companies most often seek help filling.

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