The IT job outlook: 5 questions answered

When's the last time you drew a deep breath and said, 'Wow, I'm glad I chose a career in tech.' Now might be just the moment

IT continues to show signs of recovery, even as the rest of the economy remains in the doldrums. Will the good news continue? And if so, what does that mean for IT jobs?

Let's get real: Probably only a handful of European bankers know for sure. Barring a global financial collapse, however, the outlook for IT jobs looks pretty darn good based on the results of recent surveys. No doubt you have questions. We've done our best to produce answers to the five most obvious ones.

Question: Will IT budgets increase this year?

Answer: It sure looks that way.

According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending will increase 7.1 percent this year to $3.7 trillion -- up from its earlier estimates of 5.6 percent. Why? Because enterprises will be spending even more on cloud migration, IT services, and telecom. Boosting productivity and cutting costs -- the No. 1 agenda item for CIOs in 2010 -- is now No. 4 on the list, according to a recent survey conducted by the Society for Information Management (SIM).

That good news should continue, at least over the short term. Half of the 220 firms surveyed by Nucleus Research say they plan to increase their IT spend for 2012, while only 10 percent plan to trim their budgets.

Question: Does that mean my job is safe?
Answer: More so than usual!

A SIM survey of 275 organizations shows staff turnover averaging just a hair over 7 percent for 2011. That's one of the lowest numbers over the last decade, says Jerry Luftman, lead researcher for the SIM survey and a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

The biggest reason: Boomers are putting off retirement due to economic woes, while restless IT nomads are choosing to stay put for the time being. Also, says Luftman, the prospects for new hires are excellent.

Question: Will my IT job be shipped offshore?
Answer: Probably not.

Two-thirds of the firms surveyed by SIM already offshore at least some part of their IT infrastructure. That number is expected to increase only slightly in 2012.

At the same time, the value of offshore contracts during the second quarter of this year dropped by 18 percent, according to sourcing advisory firm TPI. While the number of offshore contracts is relatively stable, companies are awarding fewer big contracts to outside firms. If an organization hasn't already offshored your position, odds are good it won't.

Question: Will I be taking any more of that money home in my paycheck?
Answer: Probably so.

There's good news for IT pros who've seen their pay stagnate during the recession. According to that SIM survey, two-thirds of companies intend to bump salaries up in 2012, while 27 percent plan to hold the line. Just 6 percent say they'll slash earnings for IT workers.

Question: Will I get the chance to succeed my boss?
Answer: Maybe not.

While it's certainly possible IT managers will ascend to the CIO's chair, they may have to leave their current organization to get there. The SIM survey indicates more firms are looking outside the company to hire their next tech chief. Last year, 42 percent of CIOs were hired from within the organization, the vast majority of them from inside IT. In 2011, that number dropped to 35 percent.

Better news: If you make it to the C-suite, you're likely to have more clout. More CIOs are reporting directly to the CEO than ever before -- some 49 percent of all those surveyed in 2011, up from 44 percent the year before. During the recession, more CIOs reported directly to CFOs, says Luftman, as organizations tried to keep a lid on costs.

A direct connection to the chief executive is a sign of organizational maturity, he adds. Business and IT are more likely to be aligned, giving the CIO more influence over the ultimate success of the enterprise.

This article, "The IT job outlook: 5 questions answered," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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