Skills on the Rise

Be in the right place at the right time with the talents employers want.

Frank Sirianni finds himself in an unlikely situation during this recession: He's having trouble filling an IT position.

Sirianni, vice president and CIO at Fordham University in New York, already tried to hire a director of business intelligence once, but he couldn't. He figured it was the age-old principle of supply and demand: There weren't enough qualified people to fill all the open slots.

Sirianni is again trying to fill the BI director's position. But he's concerned that he won't succeed, even with an advertised salary of more than $100,000.

It's not the first time he's had trouble filling positions that required highly sought-after skills. He says he recently filled three IT security positions, but it took him a year. "And all three I had to pay more than I originally anticipated," he says.

Sirianni's situation parallels the findings of Computerworld's 2009 Salary Survey. The title of information security manager had the highest total compensation increase in this year's survey, followed by network engineer/wireless network engineer, business intelligence analyst, software developer and storage administrator/architect/engineer.

Although the salary increases for these jobs -- ranging from 1.4% to 2.3% among the 5,861 IT professional surveyed this year -- are modest compared with previous levels, career experts say the increases indicate that these positions require some of the most in-demand skills in IT today.

"Salary is an indicator of demand," says Kate Kaiser, who runs the Society for Information Management-sponsored IT Workforce Research Project and is professor of IT at Marquette University.

Ralph Spencer Poore, chief cryptologist at Cryptographic Assurance Services LLC, a security consulting firm in Arlington, Texas, says he's not surprised to see "information security manager" top the list of biggest compensation increases.

"It's a blossoming field internationally and has undergone a great deal of maturing, so there has been tremendous growth as a career," he says. As a result, information security jobs have become elevated in organizations, putting upward pressure on pay.

"If you had the title of information security manager in the '70s -- it was a rare title -- you were paid as a programmer. Now you're at a director's level, at the vice president level or higher in stature in a company, commanding that kind of salary," Poore says.

Yet while organizations are increasingly facing regulations and compliance challenges that require top-flight security professionals, there aren't enough experienced security managers to meet demand, he says. That, too, pushes up pay.

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