As far as IT jobs go, the writing is on the wall: If you're worried about your job going overseas without you, get into security.
That's one message to be culled from Foote Partners LLC's most recent survey of 38,000 IT pros in North America and Europe. In the Quarterly Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index, the New Canaan, Conn.-based research firm reports that pay for standalone IT skills has dropped a whopping 23% during the last two years, while certification pay has lost about 11% of its value in the same time period.
Why the drop? Look offshore. The lure of cheaper labor in developing countries has eaten into the pay of onshore IT workers for the third straight quarter, according to Foote's index. The segments that have fallen off the most, such as application-development skills, are the ones most vulnerable to offshore outsourcing.
"We think offshore outsourcing has had this impact based in part on anecdotal evidence," said David Foote, the firm's president and chief research officer. Many of the IT execs Foote and his staff interviewed said that offshore outsourcing was a must in order to keep their firms flexible. Based in part on those interviews, Foote concluded that the overseas competition is playing a major role in the health of stateside paychecks.
Certifiably hot and cold
But there are some bright spots. Certain certifications seem to be a kind of financial safe harbor -- namely project management (up 6.7%), security (up 1.1%) and systems and network administration (up .4%). The brightest certified spot is the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), which showed a 25% increase in value from 2002 and a 38% increase from 2001. That's the biggest increase among all the 56 certifications covered by the Foote survey.
"Security has become less about technology and more about understanding regulation and private-public partnerships," Foote said. "[Security] is the place you want to be two years from now, because there will be more regulation and more threats in the next two years."
Other certifications declared "hot" in the Foote survey include Citrix Administrator, Linux, and the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert.
Massive drops in value for a handful of certification types, such as webmaster/Internet certs (down 22.7%), beginner certs (down 13.6%) and database certs (down 9.4%) are largely responsible for the overall 5.6% dip in bonus pay for certified professionals in 2003. Other certified losers include the Siebel Certified Consultant, Cisco Certified Network Associate and Sun Certified Developer -- Java.
Average median premium bonus pay for standalone skills has dropped 7.6% from 2002, according to the index. Again, steep declines in certain areas, such as messaging and groupware (down 12% from 2002 and 37% from 2001), enterprise applications (down 9.8%), networking and internetworking (down 9.4% from 2002 and 23.6% from 2001) and app-development tools and languages skills (down 8.5% from 2002 and 25.4% from 2001) helped drag down the overall percentage.
Even the top performers in the technical skills arena showed declines compared with 2002. Operating systems skills were down a shade more than 2%, followed by e-commerce (down 5.7%) and database skills (down 6.7%).
Other hot skill areas in Foote's index include Linux, WebSphere, VoIP, Gigabit Ethernet and all flavors of XML. Database skill areas, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and project-level security aren't exactly hot, but Foote did classify them as "strong," while .NET, Progress and IBM DB2 skills are "cooling."
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