3 of the most in-demand and influential IT positions in 2018

Many IT skills , such as cybersecurity, are in great demand among employers.

Skilled IT personnel have been in short supply for years, a situation reflected in the many substantial incentives offered to prospective hires by employers, as well as in the growing affinity for solutions prioritizing machine intelligence over human input. The 2018 Tech Salary Report from Dice provided some additional details on this ongoing trend in many technical domains:

  • One-third of tech professionals received a bonus last year, with an average payout of more than $10,000. There's also been upward pressure on contracting rates, which climbed 5 percent year-over-year in 2017 to $72.32 per hour. Contractors are essential contributors to IT modernization, supplying the additional manpower and expertise (especially in cybersecurity) that many companies lack in-house.
  • At the same time, there hasn't been much movement in average salaries, with only a 0.7 percent jump from 2016 to 2017 following a 1.3 percent decrease from 2015 to 2016. Possible explanations include increased employer focus on alternative incentives and the automation of some functions. For example, 69 percent of Dice's respondents reported having the same or greater willingness to relocate for a position as in 2016, perhaps indicating a rise in relocation packages.
  • There is also significant variance in salary depending on skill set and geographic location. The most in-demand skill in Dice's survey was Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), with a specialist's salary of over $127,000, compared to a $92,712 average for all IT jobs. While the tech sector is frequently associated with Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, that metro region saw only a 0.4 percent increase in salaries in 2017, compared to a 4.6 percent uptick in the New York City metropolitan area.

Not all tech skills are in equal demand, plus employers have deployed a variety of techniques (from IT staffing services to the implementation of highly automated security systems) to land and retain skilled talent across the country. As a result, the IT employment landscape is rapidly shifting even as one of its topline indicators - average salary - suggests that not much is changing. Let's dive into some of the most in-demand skills and how they have influenced technical employment.

1. PaaS and DevOps engineers

We mentioned PaaS earlier as one of the most widely sought-after IT skills, at least in terms of the typical salary it can command per Dice's numbers. PaaS is best understood as a niche component of a broader strategy for how software is created and consumed - namely cloud computing. Cloud services have accounted for a growing portion of all IT budgets in recent years. Spiceworks projected that more than one-fifth of budgetary expenses went toward these solutions in 2018.

With PaaS, development teams can produce and manage software releases without having to maintain the underlying infrastructure, since it is instead hosted in the cloud. In practice, this means streamlined processes for handling critical tasks such as security patch management, which have become central concerns in 2018 with the revelation of the sweeping Meltdown and Spectre bug affecting virtually all major CPU architectures.

PaaS also complements practices such as DevOps. DevOps emphasizes collaboration between the previously siloed programming and operations groups, ideally leading to accelerated release schedules and easier quality improvements for software. According to Glassdoor, DevOps engineer was the second best job to apply for in 2018, with a median salary of $105,000 and 80 percent satisfaction among position holders. It's not always an easy role to fill, which is why help from IT staffing providers along with customized IT consulting is often useful.

DevOps and PaaS help accelerate software development.DevOps and PaaS help accelerate software development.

2. IT security analysts

One of the chief benefits of implementing PaaS and adhering to DevOps is the increased flexibility in responding to changing security objectives. Having on-demand infrastructure (from PaaS) and a collaborative process (via DevOps) is useful in fixing application flaws and ensuring everyone in the organization is aware of security-related best practices.

However, effective cybersecurity requires much more than speed and collaboration. It also needs proactive threat detection, automated response and capable human oversight. Unfortunately, there aren't enough available personnel to fill all the open security positions, which could number in the millions by 2021, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

An ESG/ISAA report, "The Life and Times of Cybersecurity Professionals," also found that majorities of chief security officers (alternatively known as chief information security officers) are regularly contacted by recruiters to consider other positions. Meanwhile, IT security analysts reported lacking sufficiently large teams or adequate opportunities for training to keep up with rapidly evolving threats.

"Given the size of the supply shortfall, it will likely take years for enough skilled security workers to become available."

Given the size of the supply shortfall, it will likely take years for enough skilled workers to become available. Until then, companies will need to leverage staffing services as well as automated tools to ensure they have the resources to keep ransomware, distributed denial-of-service attacks and other threats at bay.

3. Data scientists

Data science is a domain combining many different fields of knowledge, including mathematics, computer programming, machine learning and communications. Individual data scientists might contribute to projects such as manipulating information in languages/tools like Scala, Java and SQL, configuring and optimizing data storage solutions, setting up unsupervised machine learning algorithms to parse vast data sets such as photo libraries, and coordinating IT strategy with C-level executives and project managers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has estimated that the more general category of computer research scientists will see 19 percent growth from 2016 to 2026, or much faster than the average for all professions. They also draw median pay of more than $111,000, well above the industry average reported by Dice. The BLS specifically cited the fact that "many companies report difficulties finding these highly skilled workers" as a driver of employment growth.

Indeed, finding the right fit for every job is not easy, especially in a sector that evolves as quickly and has such a high bar to entry as IT. Working with Paramount Software Solutions is the best way to make sure your staffing needs are reliably met for the best possible security, productivity and growth within your organization. Learn more about our customized IT consulting, staffing services and data storage solutions by contacting us today.