IT workers may have been tempted to switch to any other field -- other than banking, that is -- following a stream of depressing surveys that gloomily predict shrinking IT budgets and shrinking career opportunities.
However, hiring and placement firms who specialize in IT are feeling upbeat about the market. "IT has become different from sales or finance," says John Challenger, CEO of recruitment firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas. "It's a core area that every company needs."
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He does see the IT sector as volatile and likely to suffer from a decrease in capital investment -- a prediction echoed by consulting firms such as Gartner and Forrester Research -- but companies will still want to optimize their existing systems and will still be hiring with an eye toward that goal.
"When you look at what we see -- job postings and companies trying to match jobs to candidates -- IT is winning the day right now," says Barry Lawrence, a career expert at the recruiting site JobFox.
Recession-proof tech jobs
Lawrence's company recently published a list of recession-proof job positions, and IT positions dominated. Among the seemingly recession-proof areas: software design and development, networking and systems administration, software implementation analysis, testing and QA, and database administration.
Jennifer Mauney, a vice president at Robert Half Technology, identified several areas where her company is seeing a lot of opportunity. These include:
Virtualization: The technology is largely perceived as a cost-cutting measure, so IT managers facing smaller budgets will be looking at it more. "We're not really seeing a slowdown in that space," she says.
VoIP and wireless technologies: VoIP is perceived as another IT measure where a modest initial outlay will produce a strong ROI, so Mauney expects that sector to stay strong. It is also, Mauney says, ripe for anyone who's on the project management track in IT. "For those who are experienced, there's opportunity to get into the wireless space."
Systems upgrade and maintenance: "Those [areas] require strong help desk or desktop talent, and what we're seeing are jobs that require a combination of those skills," Mauney says.
Data warehousing and data analysis: Anyone who can work with data and build industry-specific reports is in demand, Mauney says. "We're seeing a technical side and a functional side where [candidates] understand the business facets of the reports."
Web 2.0 technologies: Mauney says the demand for people who know AJAX and Ruby on Rails is strong.