4 IT Skills That Will Make You A Hot Prospect

By Scott Skinger, CEO and founder of TrainSignal

There are around 4.16 million information technology professionals working in the U.S. today, and that number is expected to rise by 22 percent through the year 2020. Even now, IT expertise is becoming an integral part of business strategy and decision making across all industries. Both in the U.S. and overseas, business is trending toward technology-heavy operations, which is driving people to re-train and re-brand themselves to become more valuable assets in a quickly evolving economy.

From network administrators to virtual system managers, positions are ample across the board, staking a hold in industries such as health care, education, defense and beyond. Yet, several specialized skills are particularly bountiful for those who master the art. These four overarching areas of technology are seeing massive demand from hiring managers, pushing IT professionals to skill-up and advance their competitive edge.

The people that will succeed in this new technology frontier are those who are open to blazing new trails and developing best practices for implementing cutting-edge technologies. As you consider your future in this tech-focused economy, take a look at these particular skill areas that will have employers clamoring for you.

1. Software development
The demand for talented software developers is well-known and not dissipating anytime soon. Gaining the skills to design, write and implement computer software programs is a sure-fire way to ensure you are a valued member of the team. From apps to mobile devices to the cloud, software engineering is a skill that transcends industries. To start from scratch or to brush up on programming skills, head to sites such as Codecademy and Pluralsight that offer introductory and advanced courses. While programming languages number in the hundreds, some of the most job-applicable languages to learn today are Java, Python, Perl and Ruby.

2. Security
With the rising demand for greater security at small and large companies alike, everyone is in the market for security analysts and engineers. A recent report from Burning Glass Technologies indicates that demand for cybersecurity professionals over the past five years grew 3.5 times faster than demand for other IT jobs and 12 times faster than demand for all other jobs.

As businesses invest deeply in big data and transition entirely to the cloud, the result is a greater need for privacy and security infrastructure. Inadequate security practices and the rise of cybercrime is a huge incentive for businesses to beef up their infrastructure and to do it fast. Additionally, the rising popularity of bringing your own device to work (better known as BYOD) is a security concern that has companies scrambling to find IT pros with the skills to build BYOD solutions that satisfy employees and ensure the security of vast amounts of private, internal data.

3. Cloud
The term "cloud computing" addresses all online platforms that enable communication and access to information on the Internet. Most companies have realized that a cloud-based business is not only more efficient, but is expected by customers and employees alike. According to CompTIA, more than 80 percent of companies now use some form of a cloud solution. Companies are moving in droves to shift the core of their business operations to the cloud, facilitating better customer interactions, improving internal communications and expanding their data storage capacity.

The specific IT skills needed to help move operations to an online hub are highly sought-after and are in short supply because of it. According to an IDC study, 61 percent of hiring managers are concerned about the availability of cloud skills in the marketplace. These employers are often looking for IT professionals with certifications in cloud infrastructure from major vendors such as Microsoft, Cisco and VMWare.

4. Big data
Big data experts are becoming more important as businesses expand their capacity to store, digest and use vast amounts of information. IDC predicts that enterprises are on track to buy 138 exabytes of data storage capacity by the year 2017 (one exabyte equals about 150 million gigabytes). While "big data" may be a buzzword, it's an area that all IT professionals should pay special attention to. An entire industry of jobs is emerging requiring specialization in storing, analyzing and executing on big data. By 2015, 4.4 million jobs will be created by this emerging field, but only a third of those jobs will be filled, according to a Gartner study.

Jobs in big data require a broad range of skills, but some that are particularly important to become familiar with are Hadoop, NoSQL, MongoDB, Cassandra, HBase and Pig. As big data becomes the backbone of major business decisions that determine the allocation of millions of dollars, expect this sector to innovate quickly, opening up a variety of IT job opportunities.

The best thing any aspiring or experienced IT pro can do is to constantly learn about where their industry is headed and train in a broad range of IT skills. Even if those skills don't seem to be directly relevant to a current position, IT jobs increasingly require an understanding across multiple types of technologies. For example, network management positions now have a much higher demand for the security skills to build a network infrastructure that is robust and void of vulnerability. The most successful IT pros have a hybrid of skills. That's what allows them to develop the most innovative and effective solutions. Remember, the more comprehensive and current your knowledge is, the more you can bring to the table and the more valuable (and employable) you are in any industry.

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