Network skills in high demand

IT professionals proficient in networks could find themselves in demand next year, because a majority of CIOs polled cite network administration among the most sought-after skills.

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IT professionals proficient in networks could find themselves in demand next year, because a majority of CIOs polled cite network administration among the most sought-after skills.

US research released by IT staffing and consulting company Robert Half Technology shows that nearly one in five of 1,400 CIOs polled by an independent research firm cited networking as the single job area in which they expect to see the most growth. Seventy percent of CIOs also ranked network administration as the second-most in-demand skill, behind Windows administration, which topped the list with 73% of CIOs seeking such skills.

Database management came in as the third-most in-demand skill, with about 60% saying they see an impending need to find expertise around Oracle, Microsoft and SQL Server. Firewall administration ranked fourth, with approximately 55% seeking those skills; and wireless network administration rounded out the top-five sought-after skills.

According to Robert Half's executive director Katherine Spencer Lee, network managers also can expect to see their salaries increase by an average of 7% in 2008, as companies delve into such technologies as Web 2.0 and depend more on network infrastructure to support the new endeavours.

"We are seeing a lot of demand for the people working to sustain day-to-day operations and maintain the network infrastructure," Lee says. "As companies work to connect more people and to use new technologies to open up their environments to everybody and everything, they need strong network skills to ensure they do it right and well."

The need for network skills doesn't surprise technology industry watchers, who say network expertise serves as a foundation for any new technology effort. "IT professionals need to have a broad understanding of IT and its role within the business, and that means be able to tie the basics – the good old network and security skills – to emerging trends such as wireless, Web 2.0 and virtualisation," says Neill Hopkins, vice president of skills development at the Computer Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA.

Other jobs considered hot include helpdesk and user support, with 15% of respondents expecting more demand for those skills. Applications development came in third, with 14% reporting that job as hot going forward. Eleven percent expect positions requiring data and database-management skills will be in demand. And rounding out the top-five hot jobs was Internet/intranet development, with close to 10% of CIOs saying those positions are on their radar.

About 13% of the IT leaders polled said they expect an IT staff hiring increase in the first quarter of next year, 3% plan to cut staff and 82% said they expect no staff changes for the next three months.

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