Is a Job in Security the Cure for Job Insecurity?

Jan 5, 2005

Michael Pastore

At various times in the past four years, many IT professionals have suffered from job insecurity. And as we turn the calendar to 2005, a long-term cure for such a problem might be a job in security.

Anything and everything related to high-tech security is a good place to be in the technology job market in 2005, according to experts. Jeff Markham, branch manager for Robert Half Technology's San Francisco office, said network security will be a crucial need for organizations in 2005.

''This was the biggest year ever for viruses and spam,'' Markham said. But network security will also include jobs that involve intrusion detection and penetration audits. ''A lot of the way we define security is on the database side — securing confidential information like credit card numbers and the personal information of customers.''

Security positions are not only in demand, but employees in security jobs may be somewhat more secure themselves, because organizations remain reluctant to outsource security jobs overseas and hire temps. ''Generally, security positions are full-time and not contract,'' Markham said.

Another trend Markham sees in security is companies that are taking in-house people they know and trust, and getting them certified for security. That opens up other tech jobs. Jobs that were combined during leaner times are also starting to open up, creating even more jobs.

''Much of what we saw during the downturn was this compression of IT departments,'' Markham said. ''Quality assurance may have been compressed into developers' jobs; security may have been compressed into network admin jobs. We're seeing more of a decompression.''

Another aspect of security jobs are those that require a security clearance. Given the amount of money spent on homeland security and defense, jobs that require a security clearance will be big in 2005, said Scot Melland, president and CEO of also runs, a job board focused exclusively on candidates with active U.S. government security clearances. ''We saw a 185 percent increase in jobs that require some kind of security clearance [in 2004],'' he said.

In addition to jobs that require a security clearance, Melland expects big job growth in secure networking and Linux in 2005, especially Linux developers and administrators. saw a 150 percent increase in jobs that required an open source background in 2004.

''Linux has now become mainstream since IBM wrapped its arms around it two years ago. It's become an acceptable enterprise operating system,'' Melland said. Datacenters are moving to Linux because it's inexpensive. ''Even as technology spending has come back in the last 12 months, saving money is still the key.''

Robert Half Technology's poll of 1,400 U.S. CIOs found that 11 percent plan to add IT staff early this year and 2 percent anticipate cutbacks. It also found networking to be the most popular area for jobs in 2005.

Robert Half's Markham predicts networking will do well this year because support for Windows NT ended Dec. 31 and organizations will be switching to Windows 2003 systems. Such a migration requires skilled workers.

The same survey found that Internet and intranet development jobs will be among the least active areas for hiring in 2005 because organizations already have an online presence developed. Markham noted, however, that such Web development positions are still needed in specific markets. ''In certain parts of the country it's still something that's in demand,'' he said, adding that San Francisco is one of them. ''I think true, raw Web development and intranet development is pretty low.''

The Recovery Heads West

In 2004,'s Melland said, the hot markets for IT hiring were New York City and Washington, D.C. In 2005, he predicts we're going to see a lot more action in secondary markets, like Boston and Atlanta. The recovery of the IT job market has been very East Coast-centric, Melland said. The defense industry has led the way in D.C. Finance has done the same in Boston. Overall, Melland said, three big industries are driving tech job creation as 2005 begins: healthcare, financial services, and defense/aerospace/homeland security.

''Today, Washington, D.C., is one of the largest technology markets in the country,'' he said. In the last six months, the recovery has moved west, which Melland said tells him it's a more broad recovery of the technology market. The West Coast jobs are coming from technology companies; defense in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas; software and hardware companies in Seattle and the Bay Area; and healthcare everywhere.

CIOs also seem to have an idea of exactly what skills they want in their new employees for 2005.

''One thing we're seeing is even though CIOs are predicting expansions and more hiring, what they're looking for is very pinpointed,'' Markham said. ''They want certain combinations of skills that may not be easy to find in one person.''

The result is what Markham calls top-loaded demand for IT workers with specific skills and experience. Executives and boards want to see profits and cost-savings from IT, and this benefits senior IT people with a track record of making things work in the past.

''I think recent college grads have it tough right now,'' Markham said. ''It really is kind of a senior IT market right now.''

But things are getting better for recent graduates, said Melland. ''Definitely two years ago, and even this past year, the number of entry-level jobs has increased,'' he said. Salaries for entry-level jobs are also up as 2005 begins.


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