Majority of IT professionals want to upgrade skills to progress careers - but 41% want to leave IT

Nine out of 10 IT professionals believe upgrading skills and qualifications is important to progressing their careers - but nearly half of them hope to leave IT altogether.

The majority of IT professionals believe upgrading skills and qualifications is important to progressing their careers, according to research.

A survey of 2,200 UK IT professionals by recruitment consultancy Kelly Services showed 91% believe upgrading skills and qualifications is "extremely important" or "important" to career progression. But the survey also suggested almost half (41%) of respondents expect to switch careers out of IT in the next five years.

"As individuals take greater control of their careers in IT, there is a likelihood of employees moving in and out of the workforce for both professional and lifestyle reasons," said Dominic Graham, head of professional and technical services at Kelly Services.

The survey showed two-thirds of IT professionals (63%) aspire to a senior position. However, reasons given for avoiding executive roles included work-life balance (40%), concern about pressure and stress (28%), inadequate skills (10%) and lack of ambition (8%).

Separate research by recruitment firm Badenoch & Clark said that demand for C#, .Net and Java skills remains high as companies seek to upgrade existing systems. The report said companies are also migrating to Microsoft Exchange 2010 and Sharepoint.

"Employers require more third-line technical support as a result of the increase in companies migrating to Exchange 2010 and making use of Sharepoint," said Matt Gascoigne, operations director of IT at Badenoch & Clark.

"Upgrades to existing systems and new implementations are keeping IT recruitment activity bubbling away with only a small reduction in the number of permanent vacancies month on month".

Badenoch & Clark's research showed testing roles are also increasing.

"As employers move to an automated test environment more and more development projects are moving to the delivery stage. There are more vacancies for testing roles at all levels as a result," said Gascoigne.

In the public sector, NHS trusts are seeking Cerner and RiO experts to complete major projects, such as patient administration system upgrades and implementations.

"The knock-on effect is an increased workload, albeit short term, for testers, trainers and data migration professionals with Cerner and RiO experience," said Gascoigne.

There is a general shortage of strong candidates across the market due to a high volume of recruitment, particularly in the financial services, he added.

According to research by contractor service provider Giant Group, IT contractors are becoming increasingly confident about opportunities in the financial services sector as banks and insurance firms step up their IT spending.

Information security and business continuity skills will also be in high demand for 2011, according to the latest Barclay Simpson Interim Market Report.

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It’s interesting to see that so many people aspire to a senior position, and could explain why so many organizations have a top-heavy org chart. I’m not really surprised that so many people expect to move out of IT in the next five years. I suspect that the reasons for leaving IT would closely match those given for avoiding executive roles - work-life balance, concern about pressure and stress, inadequate skills, and a lack of ambition. The percentages might align fairly closely as well.
At a certain point, there is really only two paths. Either you choose to be a senior individual contributor with advancing technical skills, or you seek to become a managerial level employee with more people management skills. Both are fine, but there's only so many opportunities for management, and there are only so many opportunities for being a senior level individual contributor. For me, I've managed this dichotomy by applying mostly for jobs in small companies, where I can make more of a contribution. As mcorum says below, work/life balance also plays a role in this, too.
@Michael Larsen:
"applying mostly for jobs in small companies" - yes, or going independent.
I initially took contracts because this way for me it was easier to enter the job market in Canada but then I really started to enjoy fast pace and diversity of experiences.
As any form of self-employment though, work/family balance at times is a tricky question.
I'm currently upgrading my skills in more than one area. Then again there are days when I think about a total career change. I have always want to start my own little lunch counter. Starting over and in a tough market will just have to put this on hold a bit longer.