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IT Salary Survey 2014: Who's hot, who's not

April 7, 2014 06:30 AM ET

It took six months to find a do-it-all help desk staffer to meet the growing technology demands of the Monadnock Regional School District in Swanzey, N.H., says Neal Richardson, the district's director of technology.

"We had very highly qualified candidates; we just couldn't meet their salary requirements," which were $15,000 to $20,000 higher than the district could pay, he recalls. "We ended up going with [someone with] less experience."

Public school IT professionals once accepted lower salaries in return for perks such as low-cost insurance and summers off, Richardson says. But school boards are whittling those benefits away. For instance, IT jobs are now year-round positions, he says.

Third place on the list of the most in-demand skills saw a tie between business intelligence skills and database analysis and development expertise, with 29% of hiring managers saying they planned to increase staffing in those areas.

"All things data" are red hot, says David Foote, CEO at Foote Partners, an IT labor market analyst firm. Titles such as data administrator, database developer and database architect are grabbing recruiters' attention, especially for positions in larger companies.

Rounding out the top 10 in-demand skills among 2014 survey respondents were security, network administration, networking, cloud computing, Web design and development, and data management.

Headhunter calls, unfilled positions

With demand outpacing supply for many positions, more than half of our survey takers (54%) said a headhunter has contacted them in the past year.

"I get a lot of job offers from staffing companies and corporations that need a ton of DBAs and SQL administrators," says Erin Baker, CIO at payroll processing firm Fastpay Payroll in Lubbock, Texas. He says he receives five to 10 calls a year from recruiters, and "most often they're looking for SQL DBA or SQL programming skills."

Though some offers have been tempting, Baker says no company has been able to beat the perks of his current job, which include weekends off, flexible hours and the opportunity to work from home.

David Fitzgerald, network and security engineer at Ariad Pharmaceuticals in Boston, says he gets a call or an email from a recruiter "probably once a day." But like Baker, he doesn't see himself leaving his current employer anytime soon. "It's a small cancer-based pharma. They're doing good things for people," he says. "I have a great deal of autonomy. I can make a difference."

(Many survey respondents ranked intangible factors such as recognition for good work and a positive corporate culture as important aspects of their jobs. See "What Do IT Workers Want?")

All of those recruiter calls point to a growing challenge facing employers: It's taking them longer to fill open positions. Half of the managers surveyed by Computerworld said that it has taken at least three months to fill open IT positions in the last two years.

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The IT skills shortage is real

IT job watchers and HR consultants agree that there's a real skills shortage in the "hot" IT specialties because the number of projects that involve those types of work is exploding. And with many other IT positions, employers want the "perfect candidate" -- someone with a mix of tech expertise, problem-solving abilities and people skills. That's a tall order that keeps positions from being filled.

"Companies don't want the hard-core techie that sits off in the back room. They want the person that has those tech skills, but also someone they can put in the boardroom or in front of the business group," says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology. "There aren't that many of those types of people."

Today, IT workers are "being thrust into a seat at the table," adds David Foote, CEO of Foote Partners. "The problem is, that seat requires a very different IT organization" -- one that can move with speed and agility -- and therefore a new hiring philosophy is also needed. For instance, Foote says, "the best companies are hiring software engineers who are also analysts because it's more efficient. You're doing it quicker, and it's strategic as well as tactical."

Stacy Collett

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IT Salaries 2014
2014 Salary Survey

Our 28th annual survey results show which IT skills are in high demand and which are cooling off. Also, see how your salary stacks up to peers' with our Smart Salary Tool.