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Network skills in demand, pay well in down economy

CIOs continue to seek network, desktop and Windows skills and some might pay top dollar for specific high-tech talents, despite the ongoing economic downturn.

IT executives polled separately by IT staffing and consultancy firm Robert Half Technology and staffing firm Bluewolf revealed that the need for specific IT skills doesn't lessen because the economy is bad. Robert Half Technology surveyed 1,400 CIOs about their hiring plans for the second quarter (8% intend to add staff) and discovered the skills considered most in demand right now.

Desktop support ranked as the most wanted skill sets for 76% of CIOs, with network and Windows administration taking the second and third slots with 65% and 64%, respectively. Database management is considered hot for 55% of respondents, and telecommunications support and wireless network management was selected by 47% and 46% of CIOs polled, respectively. Rounding out those skills seen as in demand are Web development/Web site design (39%), virtualization (35%) and business intelligence (31%).

On the lower end for in-demand skills are ERP implementation (23%), .Net development (22%) and Linux/Unix administration (21%). Other lesser sought-after skills include XML development and Java development, both receiving 21% of CIO responses. And open source development and CRM implementation earned 19% each.

“Help desk/technical support and networking tied as the job areas experiencing the most growth, each cited by 15% of CIOs,” according to Robert Half Technology.

Separately Bluewolf projected that salaries for those with networking expertise will spike in the coming months. The staffing firm's IT Salary Guide 2009 revealed that network managers could experience salary increases of as much as 14%, with pay ranging between $70,000 and $110,000 — which is up from the high end of $95,000 in 2008.

“Investments in several key areas, including network administration and security, business intelligence, wireless communications and Web applications have and will continue to drive aggressive hiring,” according to Bluewolf.

The data in Bluewolf's salary study is based on data gathered from roughly 300 clients (with $200 million or more in revenue) for many different job openings, amounting to an estimated 4,000 positions. The staffing firm primarily operates in the New York tri-state area and specifies pay in such areas generally tends to run up to 50% higher than the national average.

Bluewolf's research also found that pay for project managers in 2009 will decline. “Project managers will earn an average starting salary of between $85,000 and $125,000 annually, a decrease from last year's high range of $150,000,” the firm found.

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