9 Hot Skills for 2012

IT hiring ticks up for the third straight year, and IT pros with programming skills will be first in line for jobs.

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3. Help Desk/Technical Support

35% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, down from 43% in the 2010 survey.

As long as technology is used in the workplace, there will be a need for support staffers, be they internal or remote. And in organizations such as Lehigh Valley Health Network, help desk and tech support are points of entry for IT professionals and places to pick up the skills that can advance them into, say, a programming or systems analyst role, says Bankes.

But mobile operating systems "have added a new dimension to help desk and tech support," says David Foote, CEO of IT staffing consultancy Foote Partners. "There are so many operating systems now that the mobile platform, and especially tablets, have quickly shoved aside the old Windows/Mac OS PC desktop axis."

4. Networking

35% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, down from 38% in the 2010 survey.

Robert Half's Reed says IT professionals with networking skills continue to be in high demand and have been "for a few quarters." That demand has been fueled, in part, by virtualization and cloud computing projects. In fact, during his recent job search, Masters says he saw heavy interest in virtualization skills.

Reed says hiring managers are looking for people with "practical work experience" in the networking arena, especially if they have worked in an organization that has migrated to a virtualized or cloud-based environment. In particular, they're looking for people with VMware and Citrix experience.

As for certifications, they're important but they're "not driving the market one way or the other," he says.

5. Business Intelligence

23% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, up from 13% in the 2010 survey.

Eliassen Group's McBrierty says his firm is starting to see more demand for IT professionals skilled in BI. The uptick indicates a shift from focusing on cost savings to investing in technology that provides access to real-time data, enabling better business decisions.

That may happen at Lorillard Tobacco, says Dan Clark, manager of server and desktop technology. The $6 billion company is looking to expand its use of Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software from about 175 users to more than 2,000, he says. "This will require additional head count to develop and administer," Clark says, adding that he's especially interested in SharePoint developers.

6. Data Center

18% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months, down from 21% in the 2010 survey.

Like networking, data center operations will be impacted by organizations' virtualization and cloud strategies. In particular, Reed says, hiring managers will be looking for IT professionals with backgrounds in data center operations and systems integration.

In addition, the demands of having data available to achieve guaranteed IT service levels underscore the need for people who are experts in disaster recovery and business continuity, according to Bob Cuneo, CIO at Eliassen Group. Companies need to ensure that the systems that users depend on will be there when they need them, and those systems need to be backed up and replicated, he says.

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