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IT job opportunities persist, even as recession deepens

As the national job market continues to founder, with total jobless claims reaching a record high of 5.5 million, IT professionals can take solace in a recent report from Forrester Research Inc. analyst Andrew Bartels. The report shows that there are IT job opportunities out there, with some skills more in demand than others. (CIO wasn’t on any of the lists.)

The Forrester report predicts that total jobs in IT will drop by only 1.2% this year. Indeed, compared with past recessions, the impact on IT “will be relatively mild” this time around. That’s largely due to the bloodletting IT has been going through since the 2001 tech recession. Most IT departments are already quite lean, Forrester notes.

After three consecutive years when IT jobs grew more than 2.5%, 2009 will be a down year. This is especially true for IT occupations at IT vendors, where jobs are expected to fall almost 3% in 2009. On the other hand, IT jobs in IT departments will decrease by only 0.7%. Still, both these numbers are substantially less than the 4+% job shrinkage after the dot-com bubble burst in 2001.

The good news is that a number of IT occupations will add jobs in 2009, according to the Forrester analysis of Labor Department figures. Some of the IT job opportunities are as follows:

  • Systems analysts, the largest U.S. IT occupation, will grow from 580,000 jobs in 2008 to 600,000 in 2009.
  • Network systems and data communications analyst jobs will increase from 230,000 in 2008 to 240,000 this year.
  • Network and computer systems administrators, an occupation that has seen steady growth over the past decade (even during the tech bust) will increase “slightly” in 2009, due to continued growth in networks and systems that have to be managed.

Conversely, job opportunities in four areas will decline: software engineers for applications and for systems, computer research scientists, database administrators and help desks.

It’s the network, stupid

The job picture tells you a lot about what IT departments will look like in the future, according to Bartels.

The areas of growth and the areas of contraction reflect the changing face of IT. Network analysts are in high demand because of the rise in mobile technology and workers who are either based at home or on the road. Companies need IT experts who understand the security and communications requirements of a workforce that is becoming more and more extramural.

The part of IT that is contracting — computer programming, computer operations and research — tells you how much outside vendors (commercial software companies as well as outsourcing providers) have co-opted these responsibilities.

We are curious to know if your experience matches the job data described above. Is the recession hurting the IT job picture in your company? Have you been laid off?

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