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

A shortage of workers with both technical and business skills has employers scrambling and (some) IT pros smiling.

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While positions remain unfilled, the projects are piling up for current IT employees. Some 26% of respondents said that in the past year their working conditions were significantly affected by unfilled open positions, compared to 20% in 2013. One-third of survey takers said they were affected by new understaffed projects.

Solutions architect senior manager Dane Bamburry received a 3% raise this year from his employer, Cox Enterprises, the same pay increase he had last year -- but he also got an 18% bonus for his efforts on two major internal cross-divisional projects that required him to work an extra five or six hours several days a week.

"In my immediate department we have a shortage of employees right now," says Bamburry. "I'm trying to procure funding to add additional staff."

Bamburry, who oversees a staff of five, says he fields eight to 10 phone calls a year from headhunters looking to poach employees with technology strategy skills -- especially people focused on mobility and cloud. "Those are the buzzwords of today," he says.

But he chooses to work the extra hours and stay with the company because he likes his team. "We have a good group of people, very collaborative, and a positive environment," he explains. "The career and growth potential so far have been good. If you have a good working environment with people you get along with, that's always a big plus."

Skills cooling off

Even as the need for some tech skills rises or stays steady, demand for others is cooling off. Staffing firm Robert Half Technology sees the biggest declines in mainframe and midrange computing skills like Cobol and AS/400 as the migration away from mainframe computing environments to Web and mobile systems continues, says John Reed, senior executive director at RHT.

Mainframes aren't disappearing, of course, but employers won't be paying top dollar for mainframe support. "I have mainframe guys on my team who clearly have not begun to recognize that they haven't maintained skills that are marketable outside of a small subset of the world," Abla says.

And while quality assurance is still very important in the software development life cycle, demand for QA specialists has slumped a bit as organizations are asking software developers to do their own QA work. As a result, "we have seen a decrease in [demand for] black box testing skills to a degree," Reed says.

Demand is also declining for skills tied to other technologies that seem to be on the way out, such as Windows XP, BlackBerry OS and desktop publishing tools used by technical writers, Reed says.

Nonetheless, Abla says, many job seekers still tout outdated experience. "There are people saying, 'I'm Microsoft certified and a good Windows server admin.' That was interesting five years ago, but not now," he says.

The same goes for many IT professionals who specialize in networking and operating systems. "You see people that have 'camped' there and haven't noticed the changes in the industry. Their resumes and experience show they've sat around and are now asking to be picked up and moved forward," Abla says. "It's not likely that I'm going to do that for them."

Changes in the skills that are in demand are happening more rapidly than ever, Abla warns. "You don't get five years to figure it out," he says. "You get months to figure it out."

In the last quarter of 2013 alone, the market values of some noncertified IT skills declined 10% or more, according to Foote. He says there have been notable declines in the value of a variety of disciplines, including application development specialties such as agile programming and rapid application development (RAD); Oracle application server and database expertise; skills related to e-procurement and other management processes and methodologies; Mac OS X expertise; LAN and IPX/SPX networking skills; expertise in systems such as VMware's vCloud, IBM's Tivoli, and SAP and other ERP applications; and e-commerce development specialties involving the use of Microsoft Commerce Server, XHTML MP and JavaBeans/EJB 3.0.

But Foote points out that "just because something's going down in value doesn't mean it's not desired; it just means that supply is catching up to demand."

Abla, who consults for EMC at dozens of large corporate IT departments in Texas, brings up yet another concern when it comes to keeping skills up to date: the danger that some IT roles might be removed from the enterprise entirely.

"I've got a number of customers saying they want to be out of the IT business altogether in the next three to five years," he says. "They want their application development people to get what they need from a service or cloud provider, and then go develop the app without having a staff of people managing servers and storage."

Reed says such a shift would be premature for many companies, but IT professionals shouldn't ignore the possibility. "If you're in a role that will be impacted by [a technology trend] such as cloud, you must build that skill set out so you remain relevant in the job world," he says. "The IT jobs market is evolving. If both employer and employee don't evolve with it, you'll be left in the dust."

Next: The 'always-on' IT culture: Get used to it

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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