2012 Technology Jobs Outlook

2012 Technology Jobs Outlook

When the ball drops in Times Square to launch 2012, information technology professionals will take a deep breath and ponder whether the new year’s wave of disruptive technology will lift their careers or leave them high and dry.  
As in recent years, the IT job market, while featuring many areas of strong demand for top technology talent, is decidedly mixed.

From a college campus, here’s a nothing-but-blue-skies perspective: “Our 2011 fall job fair was the second-largest ever, with 240 companies, all hiring,” says Jim Turnquist, director of career services at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan.

But workers at some major IT firms are suffering. In November 2011, Adobe Systems announced plans to cut 750 positions, citing a reduced 2012 revenue forecast.

Enough about layoffs. Where will information technology professionals find those areas of strength? Let’s start by looking at the industries and technologies that will lead the way.

Select Industries Will Bring on IT Pros in 2012

In 2010 and 2011, government spending -- especially Recovery Act projects -- drove much IT hiring. In 2012, government mandates -- in the form of regulatory requirements -- will spur significant technology hiring.

“We’re finding the only industry where there’s real hiring is healthcare, especially for electronic records conversion,” says Victor Janulaitis, CEO of MIS consulting firm Janco Associates in Park City, Utah. “If a CIO can show a quick payback on technology, then there’s some hiring -- but none for maintenance or training.”

John Reed sees a broader trend in IT spending on compliance. “The healthcare and financial services industries are very strong, being heavily regulated and dealing with massive amounts of data,” says Reed, executive director of staffing firm Robert Half Technology in Menlo Park, California.

Harvey Bass, CEO of IT recruiter Stascom Technologies in Sparta, New Jersey, says the range of industries that will hire IT talent aggressively in 2012 is even broader, including the life sciences, telecom, transportation, infrastructure and energy.

Employers Will Be Looking for These Hot Tech Skills

In 2012, skills in key computer technologies, especially in software, will be in much demand. “At IT firms, virtualization, business intelligence and mobile app developers are really strong,” Reed says. “App developers are really hot right now, then .Net, Java, PHP, Silverlight and SharePoint.”

Bass adds to the list of in-demand technology jobs: sales application engineers, CRM specialists, security experts, backup and recovery technicians, field application support specialists and service technicians.

Social media will exert ever-broader influence in the new year. “People are needed to integrate social media into the enterprise IT ecosystem, to link a company’s social media presence to its Web presence,” says Terry Erdle, executive vice president for skills certification at industry trade group CompTIA in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Substantial technology hiring will also occur where enterprise concerns are irrelevant. “Small companies are looking for people who have the skills to do more than one thing,” Turnquist says. “They want to hire an IT person who can program, do systems administration and deal with customers.”

IT Labor Demand Varies with Location

Demand for IT talent will show significant geographic variations in 2012.

“The strongest markets for technology hiring are San Antonio; San Francisco; Silicon Valley; Seattle; New York City; Baltimore; Greensboro [North Carolina]; and St. Louis,” Erdle says.

Regional trends are less clear, with one possible exception. “The Midwest is picking up again,” says Turnquist. “A lot of that is the auto industry.”

With US-based business harboring increasing concerns over communications problems with outsourcers in Asia, offshoring may be somewhat less of a concern to American IT workers in 2012. In addition, “costs are rising overseas, so offshoring is a blurrier decision than it was five years ago,” Erdle says.

Will Younger IT Professionals Continue to Fare Better?

If you think you’re hearing more stories about older IT professionals having trouble finding tech jobs, you’re right. While the unemployment rate for male computer and math professionals between the ages of 25 and 54 declined from 5.1 percent in 2009 to 4.3 percent in 2010, their age-55-and-up counterparts saw their jobless rate rise from 4.9 percent to 8 percent over the same period, according to a Janco analysis of BLS data.

Employers couch their concerns partly in terms of labor costs. “You can get someone younger for $90,000 who would want $120,000 if he were older,” says Janulaitis.

Another discouraging trend: More employers seem to be excluding the long-term unemployed from serious consideration. “Companies that are hiring primarily want employed people,” Bass says. “If someone is out of work for six months or more, they start to get behind on the technology.”

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