The 10 Most Sought-After IT Skills

Despite continued outsourcing of IT jobs to overseas contractors, the market for talented IT professionals is still growing. The key to getting hired is having the skills that are in demand. Based on input from recruiters, analysts, CIOs and other hiring experts, here are the top 10 skills that IT professionals should cultivate for the years to come

1. Microsoft .NET Development

As companies push more applications to the Web, Microsoft's .NET is becoming a critical platform and development skill. In fact, programmers skilled in Microsoft .NET can command a 10 percent premium over those who lack it. Expertise in .NET can be useful to Web developers and designers, as well as to software engineers and developers .

2. Microsoft SQL Server Development

Behind every good Web site is a database, and SQL Server is the database platform of choice for many companies. Companies need programmers who can write code, including stored procedures, database scripts and triggers. Often, SQL Server skills are helpful to database administrators, application architects and application developers.

3. Windows Administration

If you have expertise in Windows, you're in demand. Active Directory experience is even better. Windows administration is the technical skill most in demand among IT departments, and it is especially valuable for system administrators, desktop-support analysts and help-desk personnel.

4. Network Administration

Experience with Cisco Systems Inc. products is especially sought after. The ability to maintain, troubleshoot and optimize routers, hubs and switches is the ticket to a career in network administration, systems administration and network engineering. Network-security certification is a big plus.

5. Wireless-Network Management

As 802.1X networks and wireless devices — such as tablet PCs, portable email gadgets and smartphones — have become more prevalent, so has the need for professionals adept at managing them. More than half of IT managers report that wireless expertise is among their most sought-after skills.

6. SAP Skills

The continuing growth of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) projects keeps SAP experts in demand. The field has a shortage of highly qualified contractors due to the complexity of the subject matter.

7. Web-Development Skills

As more corporate applications are migrated to the Web, demand for programmers who can make the conversions is increasing.

8. Web Application Development

Social networks such as Facebook are releasing APIs (application programming interfaces) that enable third parties to develop applications that take advantage of the networks' underlying functionalities. As more companies embrace Web tools, demand for programmers with this expertise will increase.

9. Project Management

Some of the best jobs do not rely primarily on technical skills. CIOs are looking for people who have guided complex projects from the conceptual stage through completion. This field also includes quality-assurance personnel who test components of a new system before it is rolled out.

10. Help Desk/Technical Support

As companies expand their applications portfolios, more and more trained support personnel will be needed. The complexity and customization of these applications means that much of that support will be in-house, not outsourced overseas. For multinational companies, multilingual support personnel will be in special demand.

IT professionals with the aforementioned skills can expect to find more job offers and, in some cases, significantly higher salary offerings than those who lack these skills. As enrollment in computer-science programs declines and baby boomers start to retire, there is a growing shortage of highly skilled workers.

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