IT salaries take 2005 leap

Find out why IT salaries this year are higher than last and which job skills are back in vogue.

The dampening effect that offshore outsourcing had on IT salaries a year ago has dried up and there is a demand for IT professionals who can manage large projects at home bases, according to Foote Partners LLC, a New Canaan, Conn.-based research firm that tracks skills pay for IT workers.

Companies that overestimated offshore outsourcing savings have started to bring business critical systems and projects back in-house. As a result, IT pay increases that stalled when projects went overseas have started to climb again as those projects returned.

"The pendulum is absolutely swinging back, has swung back, to the other side," said David Foote, the firm's co-founder and president. "Companies have become much more aware of the perils of offshoring and the difficulties in doing it."

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At the same time, a host of non-technical skills, such as team building and communication, were among the most "highly prized" on a recent Foote survey.

"We think now the premium is not on the skill you're hiring, as much as the person," he said. "Companies are starting to recognize people with experience, certified or uncertified."

In more technical realms, Foote listed architects, integrators, wireless engineers, and customer relationship management (CRM) professionals among the "Jobs to Watch." Foote said those job titles made the favorites list because they have enjoyed consistent growth in pay and number of jobs, and are the least likely to be outsourced, Foote said.

The hottest growth in non-certified technical skills in the first six months of this year -- when compared to the same period last year -- was for SQL Server; WebSphere; Microsoft .NET; SQL Windows and Active Server Pages. Those skills enjoyed additional pay premiums over the past year.

Other non-certified skills that enjoyed pay increases over the past six months included networking, which saw a 5.1% rise; database skills, which grew 4.3%; and application development tools, which grew 2.1%.

The Foote survey, which collected data on almost 170 skills from 50,000 IT workers in North America and Europe, found that overall pay for non-certified technical skills rose an average of nearly 5% in the last year. Salaries for non-certified technical skills outpaced certified skills, reversing a four-year trend.

Despite that, a trend in hiring is showing up in the form of industry-specific certification requirements, Foote said.

The same way Microsoft initially offered its Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer course, then further specialized that certification by adding messaging and security certifications, Foote believes companies will soon offer industry-specific certifications, like an SAP banking certification or Oracle database manufacturing certification.

"Anytime you become more specialized in an area, it will drive up pay because they're looking at fewer candidates," Foote said.

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