IT careers: 10 most in-demand IT jobs now

What IT jobs are in demand, even during the pandemic? What industries have to move quickly to ramp up new applications and capabilities? Here's data and advice from recruiters
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The IT job roles most in demand aren’t quite what they were a few months ago. Still, people who position themselves properly can find jobs now, recruiters say. The shape of the IT job market is changing not only because of the pandemic (and the stay-at-home orders that accompanied it), but also because of seismic changes in the economy.

For example, Amy Knox, branch manager for Miami at Robert Half Technology, says the travel and tourism industries her region is heavily dependent on have been devastated – and the companies that plan to survive are having to reorder their priorities.

Where the IT jobs are: Leaders are prioritizing projects having to do with infrastructure, security, and automation.

Any project having to do with infrastructure, security, and the rise of corporate networks is at the top of the list, closely followed by the need for greater automation, Knox says.

“I was speaking with someone at a South Beach (Miami) hotel who told me ‘These priorities were on my five-year plan, but now we’re having to get them done in months,’” Knox says. One example: Priority projects for the hospitality industry include systems to allow guests to check into their rooms and order services with a minimum of human interaction.

[Which IT jobs will position you well for the future? Read also: 5 flourishing and 5 fading IT careers. ]

The economic misery is not spread equally, however. Knox reports the mortgage, finance, healthcare, and insurance industries hiring steadily. Thus IT job candidates may need to show the ability to switch industries – for example, working for a healthcare organization rather than a cruise line – to find opportunities, she says.

Top 10 IT jobs in first quarter 2020

According to the Dice jobs report for the first quarter of 2020, here are the top 10 most in-demand roles, along with year-over-year increases in the number of job postings:

1.  Software developer: 36 percent

2. Network engineer: 17 percent

3. Systems engineer: 8 percent

4. Senior software developer: 23 percent

5. Java developer: 52 percent

6. Software QA engineer: 26 percent

7. IT project manager: 28 percent

8. Application developer: 19 percent

9. Computer support specialist: 27 percent

10. Business analyst: 24 percent

This same survey shows trends in IT job postings and how they changed between February and March, for example, with about a 20 percent surge in demand for cybersecurity engineers but a drop in demand for front end development skills associated with developing and designing websites. Dice sees that reflecting a tendency for more companies to focus on protecting what they have rather than creating dazzling new websites and applications. DevOps engineer postings also rose, by six percent, in the same timeframe.

[ Read also: 7 top DevOps engineer interview questions for 2020. ]

Christian Diez, a technical recruiter with Ledgent Technology, sees he is seeing plenty of demand for developers, often reflecting needs related to the pandemic shutdown. For example, with workplaces and schools shut down, software skills for e-learning are hot, he says. “Schools and educational companies are dealing with the need for learning online and virtual schooling.”

In the long term, some recruiters predict system and network administration and help desk careers may be fading. But at the moment, there is a very healthy demand for people who can keep things working at a time when both technical and administrative systems are under great stress.

After the pandemic hit, Knox says she was initially surprised to see increased demand for help desk and support personnel, “but with everyone being remote at home, call volumes have doubled or even tripled.”

Also, companies still have new application functionality they need to put into production. “In the consumer-facing industries, it’s all about ‘How do I generate revenue while still allowing my business to adhere to social distancing and navigating through the phases of opening up?’” Knox says.

[ Read also: IT career goals 2020: Most-wanted technology and core skills. ]

How to negotiate the IT job offer now

To get the employees they want, employers are willing to pay — but not necessarily to overpay, Knox says. A small number of companies she deals with are going too low with their offers, thinking job seekers will be able to take whatever they can get. Most employers are just looking for a little more flexibility, she says.

“Candidates are also showing more willingness to be flexible,” Knox says.

And what can candidates expect in return for this flexibility? Well, a work-at-home lifestyle might be more within reach for those who prefer it, as companies that previously insisted on chaining employees to their cubicles have been forced to explore other ways of getting work done. Even as the economy reopens over the next few months, many employers will be keeping workplaces less crowded.

“Many of the companies in the Fortune 500 range are considering that, trying to allow more options or a hybrid model, where only certain people come into the office on certain days,” Knox says.

Another one of her hotel clients is planning not to renew the lease on its administrative office space and make work-at-home the norm for many of its employees.

“I think it’s a little early to say whether that’s going to be the majority of companies or not,” Knox says. Some certainly say they will always have an in-person work culture.

Don’t count on a virtual interview process in all cases. Of those firms hiring now, about half still want to meet candidates face-to-face and onboard them in a relatively traditional way, Ledgent Technology’s Diez says. 

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free Ebook: Managing IT with Automation. ] 

David F. Carr is a writer, speaker, student of digital business, and the author of "Social Collaboration for Dummies." He previously served as an editor for InformationWeek, Baseline Magazine, and Internet World and has written for Forbes, CIO Magazine, and Defense Systems.