Tech job forecast for 2014: Hot, and getting hotterDecember 27, 2013: 9:42 AM ET
Companies plan to hire more IT staff in the year ahead, and pay them bigger salaries, too. For the computer science class of 2014, the outlook is sunny.
FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I read your column about how women can get ahead in the information technology field, so I'm curious. What advice have you got for guys like me? I'll be graduating in the spring with a bachelor's in computer science, minor in business. I have a couple of good internships behind me, where I got to develop programs that companies are still using. I'm about to start seriously job hunting, so I'm wondering what the IT job market will look like over the next year or so, and how to best position myself to get hired. Any thoughts? — Brian in Berkeley
Dear B.B.: The year about to start looks bright for people with tech skills, especially if they have picked up the right ones, and who bring with them at least three to five years' experience. (Internships do count, the more hands-on the better.) Consider: Dice Holdings, which runs tech job site Dice.com, reports that 55% more employers — a record high — say they're ready to hire large numbers of techies, up from 42% in the second half of 2013.
Moreover, so many opportunities are opening up now that companies increasingly need to offer higher salaries than in the past, both to hold onto current tech employees and to attract new ones. "A year ago, the tech job market didn't look like this. For employers, it's only going to get harder," says Rona Borre, CEO of Chicago-based tech recruiters Instant Technology.
That's good news for you, of course. Borre adds, "IT people are getting multiple offers and picking and choosing among them — not only to get more money, but to go with the employers who are on the cutting edge, who can offer the latest and greatest technologies."
The skills most in demand: Software development. Wanted Analytics, which aggregates job listings from all over the Web, reports that help-wanted ads for software developers are up 120% over last year, and Borre is seeing the same trend. "Development, whether mobile or web or back-end support, is where the driving need is now," she says.
Mobile apps are another hot area. "People with three years' experience in mobile apps are considered senior now," notes Borre. "There is also a huge demand for people who can help companies move to the cloud. And there's always demand at big companies for people who can run SAP and other large-scale ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems."
But beyond your knowledge of specific tools and programs, Borre has three suggestions for you about how to launch a career in information technology. First, she says, "Accessibility of information is more important than ever, so be ready to show a prospective employer a project you created or completed" — whether it's that software program you developed as an intern or a computer game or mobile app you created at school. "If you can bring examples of your work, companies will have a job for you," says Borre.
Second (and in common with the advice to women in that earlier column you cite), start building a network of fellow techies. "Especially right out of college, but really at any point in your career, it's important to get involved in groups on LinkedIn and be active with local user groups," Borre says. "You might also look for local volunteer groups where you can use your skills, or hone new ones." Getting lots of exposure to what your peers are doing is not only interesting and fun, she notes, but could open the door to future job opportunities.
Most important, Borre says, go into job interviews with a clear idea of what each employer does and what its goals are — and how your tech skills can help them get where they're trying to go. "Employers want innovation that will further their business. They want to hire people who understand the role technology plays in the bigger picture.
"So being able to play that dual role of tech person and business analyst is what moves people's tech careers forward now," she says. "The days of the tech guy or gal sitting alone in the corner are over." Noted.
Talkback: If you're in IT, have you noticed an upward trend in demand for your skills? What skills have served you best in the current job market? Leave a comment below.