IT job seekers have real reason to hope. No fewer than 10,000 IT jobs were added to payrolls in May alone, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, reflecting a steady month-over-month increase since January. And in a June survey by the IT jobs site Dice.com, 65% of hiring managers and recruiters said they will hire more tech professionals in the second half of 2011 than in the previous six months.
But which jobs have the greatest growth potential -- and stand the best chance of withstanding outsourcing or another economic downturn?
To find those hottest of hot jobs, we've scoured listings on IT hiring sites like Dice and Modis and talked with IT execs about the skills they're looking for in the year to come. Our sources point to a cluster of new job titles created to make IT more agile, more social -- and more tightly intertwined with business.
Our results are not scientific. The six job titles you see here have actually been listed, but we didn't choose them based on frequency of appearance or random sample polling. Instead, we picked them because we think they answer the real needs of businesses that want to prepare for the future. In short, we expect they will pay well, have staying power, and truly influence the organization either now or in the future. When's the last time you heard that about a job in IT?
1. Business architect
The notion that IT is separate from business has faded into antiquity. Upper management recognizes that technology is not just integral to success, but actually drives the way companies pursue their business goals. To help merge technology and business processes, a new breed of enterprise architect -- known as the business architect -- is emerging.
"Business architecture is about making sure the whole business holds together," says Forrester Research analyst Alex Cullen, who researches IT strategy and organizational planning. "It's a role built around business planning, pointing out opportunities to utilize IT more effectively" in sales, customer service, and other key areas.
Unlike the traditional enterprise architect, whose role is to organize technology to meet business goals, the business architect is a member of the business organization, reporting to the CEO and fashioning high-level company strategy with technology in mind. The successful business architect has a deeper knowledge of the company's business model and workflow than the average enterprise architect. Think MBA with an IT focus.
"Business managers want to choose the technology that best meets their needs and to have the freedom to walk away from that technology to move on to the next thing," says Cullen. In a world where execs will one day have the power to provision cloud-based resources for a new business initiative by clicking through a couple of configuration screens, the need for enterprise architects who are glorified implementers will wane. The job of the business architect is to arm managers with the knowledge they need to choose wisely.
In some organizations, enterprise architects with the right experience and disposition may simply take on the business architect role, whether or not they change titles. Nonetheless, says Cullen, "If you want to know about a hot role for 2012, it's definitely business architect."
2. Data scientist
Big data -- that is, the glut of unstructured or semi-structured information generated by Web clickstreams, system logs, and other event-driven activities -- represents a huge opportunity. Buried in that mountain of data may be invaluable nuggets about customer behavior, security risks, potential system failures, and more. But when you're talking terabytes that double in volume every 18 months, where do you start? That's where the data scientist comes in.
On the business side, data scientists can open up new opportunities by uncovering hidden patterns in unstructured data, such as customer behavior or market cycles. On the dev side, a data scientist can use deep data trends to optimize websites for better customer retention. Within the IT department, a skilled data scientist can spot potential storage cluster failures early or track down security threats through forensic analysis.
"There's now an intellectual consensus in business that the only way to run an enterprise is to use analytics with data scientists to find opportunities," says Norman Nie, CEO of Revolution Analytics, which produces the first commercial application to bring the R data analysis programming language into the business world. Because of the immense opportunity for strategic insight buried in all that data, says Nie, "corporations now have an unlimited demand for people with background in quantitative analysis."