Four IT jobs at the vanguard of the next wave in tech

Few professions require its adherents to be as flexible and adaptable in order in order to remain employed as IT. For the steadfast, these four roles currently hold the greatest promise.
Written by Erin Carson, Senior Contributing Editor

For those in the IT industry, an ongoing concern is taking the temperature of the jobs scene. Is it time to learn a new skill? Or a whole new skill set? Global Knowledge's SVP of Enterprise Solutions Michael Fox sees the current landscape as somewhat fluid in terms of the need for employees to expand their capabilities in response to the big forces shaping the industry.

"IT jobs are moving away from being a back office, black-box kind of group of people into being pervasive throughout the business," he said.

Those forces — the cloud, big data, security, and mobility to name a few — are driving some of the roles that are either emerging or gaining ground. Here are four to watch.

1. Data scientist

Back in 2010, Google's Eric Schmidt dispensed a startling fact at a technology conference in Lake Tahoe: In two days, we create more data than has existed from the beginning of civilization up until 2003.

It's no wonder that 'data scientist' is one of the most talked-about emerging IT roles, requiring the ability to think analytically, to know what questions to ask, how to use the data to answer those questions, and how to communicate the findings — especially within the company.

The New York Times recently ran a story talking about how much time (a lot) data scientists currently spend "wrangling data."

"Data scientists, according to interviews and expert estimates, spend from 50 percent to 80 percent of their time mired in this more mundane labor of collecting and preparing unruly digital data, before it can be explored for useful nuggets," the newspaper wrote. The hope is that as tools get better, things like automation will allow data scientists to wade through the data faster, and thereby get to the insights the data might hold faster.

The hitch, according to John Reed, senior executive director at financial recruitment specialist Robert Half, is that most companies cannot yet justify the job as a must-have role: "Your Fortune 500 might [have it], but it's just not one that you would see as often as you would some of the others," he said.

A search of Glassdoor turns up more than 3,000 new job postings for data scientist in the last week.

Speaking more generally to data, and the idea that society isn't about to stop producing it, Reed noted: "In the next two or three years, you'll see more and more companies saying 'Yeah, that's not a fad, that's not a flavor-of-the-day, it really is an important area to focus on that will benefit the organization'."

2. IT architect

A post from Dice.com describes an 'IT architect' as someone who can see how various technology pieces fit together, and integrate them. With forces like data, security, and the cloud shaping the industry, that means there are evolving spaces for people who, according to Dice.com, are "complexity managers", able to handle security architecture, cloud architecture, and data architecture.

Robert Half's Reed talked in particular about the big data architect as a role that's gaining momentum. He also noted that, as with data scientist, this might be another example where larger companies are more likely to have the role, compared to smaller businesses that might not be able to justify it — yet. "If you go back a few years, those roles basically did not exist," he said.

3. Mobile software developer

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the role of software developer is projected to grow 22 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is twice the national average.

It's obviously being powered by the explosive growth of mobile computing. "A few years ago, there definitely were those roles out there — mobile app developers and people creating business applications that could run over mobile devices; but now it's much more in the mainstream, much more frequently seen in the marketplace," Reed said.

A blog at Robert Half Technology discusses the demand for mobile app developers in particular. "Candidates with mobile app development skills are hard to find, and this is largely due to the lack of relevant mobile application development training and curriculum offered by higher education today," said Robert Half Technology's metro manager, Kelly O’Connell. Because of this, she said, the market is more competitive and the salary offerings are increasing.

According to Dice.com's president Shravan Goli, software developer is the the fifth most requested skill set on the site.

4. Security analyst

Another area that is clearly not going away is security. "It seems like every month, there's some huge security breach that happens at a high-profile organization," said Robert Half's Reed.

Security breaches are clearly bad for customers, but also harm the image of the affected businesses. "They're investing more in their network and data security to protect their confidential information, to protect their data, to protect their systems, keep people from hacking in, so more and more organizations are investing in roles around IT security," said Reed.  

Within security, there are several burgeoning roles. SANS' list of the top 20 information security and cybersecurity jobs included roles like information security crimes expert, forensics expert, CISO/ISO or Director of Security, and even software developers who are particularly security-savvy.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the rate of job growth for role like information security analyst well exceeds the national average at 37 percent compared to 11 percent.

One title discussed by Enterprise Solutions' Michael Fox was cloud security administrator, and how the more traditional security jobs are shifting to meet the demands of the cloud. "By and large, people are not going to go wholesale to the cloud, they're actually going to introduce cloud as part of their environment," he said. That means they have to worry about data that's inside and outside the 'four walls of the enterprise' — how it's encrypted, transported, and stored.

"I think you're seeing the traditional homogenous security roles become more specialized and more focused," he said.

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