These in-demand skills are must-haves for IT departments
To determine the top IT skills this year, we analyzed the following:
- Highest-paying job roles
- Highest-paying certifications
- Most challenging hiring areas
- Top tech investment areas
With skills gaps plaguing the industry, these 10 skills are must-haves for all IT departments. It’s no coincidence that these skills make up a large percentage of the IT skills gap across the industry. Decision-makers are struggling to fill these job roles. The positions also pay well because of a lack of qualified professionals.
If you’re looking to make an IT skills investment or start a new career path this year, these are the areas to consider.
- Cloud computing
- Application development and programming
- Networking and wireless
- Analytics and data management
- Systems and enterprise architecture
- Project management
- AI and machine learning
- Help desk and tech support
1. Cloud computing
Cloud skills are in high demand and cloud salaries are the highest in IT. But the main reason cloud is No. 1 is because it intersects with every other skill on this list.
Cloud has quite simply changed the game. Cloud is the ultimate enabler, opening new channels of revenue by leveraging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Other topics like data analytics, networking, project management and cybersecurity—all have been greatly influenced by cloud adoption, which continues to soar. The public cloud services market is expected to grow 17.3% this year.1
This kind of growth has made it more difficult for IT decision-makers to fill cloud job vacancies. There’s a cloud skills shortage due in part to the skills needed to ensure seamless orchestration across multiple functions. There just aren’t enough experts to fill all vacancies.
But if you are one of the lucky ones to be cloud-certified, the salaries are quite beneficial. Three of the five top-paying IT certifications are cloud-based, with Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect ranking first this year.
An analysis of worldwide identity and access management by the International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed that 55% of consumers would switch platforms/providers due to the threat of a data breach, and 78% would switch if a breach impacted them directly.2
There is too much at stake when it comes to your data. That’s why security is the top concern for a majority of organizations. Cyberattacks are escalating in frequency and sophistication. As a result, companies are scrambling to hire cyber professionals, and they’re not always succeeding.
IT security is the most challenging hiring area for decision-makers.3 There aren’t enough of them to fill open positions. And more are needed due to specialization. There are no longer cybersecurity jack-of-all trades.
But if you do have the skills, you will be compensated handsomely. Cyber-certified professionals make 41% more than non-certified peers. It’s also the second highest-paying functional area in IT.
“As the amount, frequency, and creativity of cybersecurity breaches grow, so does the shortage of cybersecurity professionals with the appropriate skills to defend the enterprise, government and military networks,” said Brad Puckett, Global Knowledge global portfolio director of cybersecurity. “This global shortage of cybersecurity professionals has created an in-demand market for anyone who wants to rise to the challenge and build career-advancing skill sets.”
3. Application development and programming
Developer jobs are expected to grow continuously in the near-term. Application developer employment is forecast to grow 31% and software developer jobs are forecast to grow 24% by 2026.4 Overall, that’s more than 550,000 new developer jobs.
Developers are responsible for web, social and mobile applications. And as more and more people conduct business on their phones, the skills to build and manage apps are increasing in criticality.
4. Networking and wireless
The market for software-defined networks (SDN) is growing quickly, due to the flexibility and adaptability they provide. While networking is the fourth most important investment area for IT decision-makers, it’s also the fifth most challenging hiring area.3 For those with an updated networking skill set, there certainly are opportunities for advancement and higher pay.
Cisco is the market leader in networking and wireless, and Cisco’s Routing and Switching certifications are some of the most popular throughout IT. This year, CCNP Routing and Switching ranks among the top 15 highest-paying certifications at nearly $107,000 a year. CompTIA Network+ also has a similarly high average salary for 2019.
IDC expects the SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network) market to grow exponentially going forward. The SD-WAN market reached $833 million in 2017 and will balloon to $4.5 billion by 2022.6 With this level of growth, networking skills are a safe and smart bet for IT professionals.
5. Analytics and data management
Analytics and data management are growing skill needs as organizations are striving to be more data-driven. This culture of information allows for better insight into patterns and trends. Thus, critical business decisions are made with data as the driving force. IT professionals with these skills are tasked with helping organizations solve problems and make more informed evaluations.
But it’s been a double-edged sword as organizations have struggled to manage the wealth of new data. By 2025, IDC estimates the world will create and replicate 163 zettabytes (ZB) of data, 10 times the number that was created in 2016.7 This new data is constantly accumulating, creating a host of storage and security risks that must be addressed. IT professionals are needed desperately to manage the data growth. It’s a top challenge for decision-makers, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that they can’t find enough qualified individuals with this specific skill set.
6. Systems and enterprise architecture
There is an increasing pressure on organizations to align departments. This has become a more complex assignment given emerging technologies. IT, for example, may be evolving at a different pace than other departments. Systems and enterprise architecture professionals are needed to ensure legacy programs and procedures align with modern practices. It’s a highly complex role that requires a lot of planning and coordination with different departments.
According to CompTIA, only 34% of firms currently build IT architecture strategies beyond 12 months because it’s difficult to predict IT environment changes.8 Though without architectural planning, investments likely won’t be prioritized correctly and long-term goals will be impinged by possibly outdated frameworks.
It’s no surprise that enterprise architects are compensated well. It’s the third highest-paying IT functional area. Business architecture certifications (e.g., TOGAF) have the highest-associated global salary.
7. Project management
As skills gaps rise—they’re up nearly 40% in three years—project planning is more vital than ever. There are a lot of roadblocks preventing projects from being completed on time and within budget. It’s a project manager’s job to create, communicate and execute a project strategy. Like it or not, IT is judged on the success or failure of projects.
Project managers ensure projects are highly visible to stakeholders. They must be able to communicate with leadership the skill needs and risks associated with a given project. It’s a delicate balance, as critical skills aren’t always readily available. IDC believes that by 2020, 90% of all organizations will have adjusted project plans, delayed product/service releases, incurred costs or lost revenue because of lack of IT skills, with losses worldwide totaling $390 billion annually.5 A good project manager keeps their focus on the big picture even as disrupters emerge and cause havoc within a department.
Project Management Professional (PMP®) is one of the most important professional certifications. It’s currently the second highest-paying certification in the U.S. ($135,798). Another project management certification, Certified ScrumMaster®, is No. 3 on the list ($135,441).
8. AI and machine learning
Thirty-seven percent of IT professionals say workloads are the worst they’ve ever seen.3 With so much to do, the scramble is on to develop programs that automate the more time-consuming, menial duties. Enter artificial intelligence, which frees up employees to focus on more consequential responsibilities. It’s no surprise that AI and machine learning were major tech areas of investment in 2018.
Cloud migration has amplified the need for automation. With a majority of organizations shifting to the cloud, manual migration tasks have been automated to save time. IDC examined the advancements in cloud migration programs, tools and services, especially from cloud service provider AWS, Microsoft and Google. Each provider has expanded their portfolio with AI-enabled automation and machine learning.
From IDC: “For businesses planning their move to cloud, many of the manual, time-consuming tasks associated with migration have been automated and reduced from days to minutes. Automation reduces the arduous tasks of manual configuration, extensive customization, and in many cases, integration.”9
9. Help desk and tech support
Of the 16,000-plus professionals we surveyed for our 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report, 11% were in help desk or tech support. This particular skill set is in-demand due to the growing amount of hardware and software that organizations are utilizing and distributing.
There’s now more of a need to bring help desk professionals in-house so they can get hands on and diagnose issues more easily. Tech support professionals are more likely to be remote, though it’s critical that they possess strong soft skills, such as communication and conflict resolution. Technical support is the fourth most in-demand tech skill.5
While both positions can be outsourced, companies are looking to bring these positions in-house to ensure a consistent message and experience.
Virtualization remains a useful way to reduce IT expenses and increase IT agility. It can also help accelerate the transformation to cloud computing.
Virtualization is a key concern for companies of all sizes—last year it was the No. 3 tech interest area worldwide. Decision-makers are still investing heavily in the concept, and staff are seeking out these skills. Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization (CCA-V) is the 12th highest-paying certification of 2019, while VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage [V6.7] remains one of our most popular training courses.
The market for virtual machine software increased by 2.9% in 2017. IDC forecasts it to increase at an average pace of 4.6% from 2017 to 2022.10
BONUS: Soft skills
Though not technically IT skills, enhancing your soft skills can benefit all professionals. Improved soft skills, such as problem solving, creativity and interpersonal communication can help enhance your tech skill set and break down departmental silos.
“Soft skills are of great value in their own right,” says Eric Bloom, adjunct analyst with IDC’s IT Executive Programs (IEP). “When they are tied to specific job types, they provide the dual benefit of enhancing employee effectiveness and promotability while enhancing employee performance by increasing each person’s ability to work effectively with others.”11
- Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Public Cloud Revenue to Grow 17.3 Percent in 2019, Sept. 2018
- IDC, Market Analysis Perspective: Worldwide Identity and Access Management, 2018 — The State of Identity, Doc #US44260118, Sept. 2018
- Global Knowledge 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
- IDC, 2019 IT Training Buyer Survey Spotlight: Impact of Skills Gap and the Need for Strategic IT Skills Development, Doc #US44842319, March 2019
- SD-WAN Infrastructure Market Poised to Reach $4.5 Billion in 2022, According to IDC, Doc #prUS44203118, Aug 2018
- IDC, Data Management: Success with a Method to the Madness, Doc # US44415618, Nov. 2018
- CompTIA, Planning a Modern IT Architecture
- IDC, Cloud Success: Migrate with a Plan to Mature, Doc #US44883619, March 2019
- IDC, Worldwide Virtual Machine Software Forecast, 2019–2022, Doc #US43407818, March 2019
- IDC, Maximizing Technical Skill Effectiveness Through Soft Skills Training, Doc # US43212717, Nov. 2017