6 hottest IT skills for 2010

A slowly reviving economy will have organizations hiring in a few key areas, looking for IT pros with a mix of skills

Pent-up demand for new projects. Veteran employees leaving the company. Who could complain about such pressures in the waning months of 2009, when the year was spent under a cloud of economic misery?

Certainly not Shane Kilgore, IT director at Randall-Reilly Publishing Co. in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He was dismayed to see two talented software developers give notice recently. One had five years under his belt and the other had 10, but Kilgore took their departures as a sign that the economy is taking its first steps toward recovery. He plans to hire a few new developers this year, not only to replace the ones who left, but also to work on new products that will be in demand when -- as many economists predict -- the recovery gains headwind this year. (Read more about the outlook for IT compensation and hiring in Computerworld's Salary Survey.)

"Things have been frozen because of the economy," Kilgore says. "But if we don't get new products out there, we won't have enough places for customers to put their money."

Still, with signs pointing to recovery and even job growth in 2010, companies such as Randall-Reilly are planning to hire only in key areas, and even then, they will favor people with skills that span multiple disciplines. In many cases, companies will still resist bringing on full-time employees, says Tom Silver, senior vice president for North America at Dice Holdings Inc., which operates Dice.com and other careers Web sites. "One thing we see companies do is bring people in on a project basis, and then as business comes back, they hire them full time," Silver says.

According to Computerworld's 2010 Forecast survey, this year's hiring plans certainly aren't at 2009 levels. Less than 20% of the 312 IT executives polled said they plan to increase IT head count in the next 12 months, compared with 26% in the previous year. And nearly 20% said they plan to decrease their IT head count.

For IT professionals who are either looking to get back into the workforce or mulling moves to greener pastures, here are the six types of skills most in demand among survey respondents who said they expect to hire IT workers in 2010.

1. Programming/Application Development

Among companies that plan to hire, the top reason for doing so is to meet demand for new systems and projects. That could be why programming/application development is the skill set that's most in demand, by far, according to Computerworld's survey.

"We're actually seeing new projects get the green light," says Dave Willmer, executive director of IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology. Quite possibly, he says, these were projects that were canceled at the end of 2008, only to be revived for 2010. The wave of new projects is also leading to demand for application developers who can double as business analysts and project managers, Willmer says. (Read Willmer's recent column, "IT hiring poised for skills-driven rebound.")

Specifically, companies will look for developers with knowledge of .Net, Java, Web development, open source and portal technologies such as Microsoft Corp.'s Sharepoint, says Willmer, who is a Computerworld columnist.

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