Big data, IoT, and security are hot IT careers for 2017

Full-stack developers,and VR/AR round out the list, says Randstad USA -- but let's not forget about machine learning and AI

Big data, IoT, and security are hot IT careers for 2017
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Randstad USA, a provider of HR services and staffing, has singled out full-stack developer, big data engineer, security engineer, IoT architect, and VR/AR engineer as in-demand IT careers for 2017.

In many of those cases, Randstad has tracked exploding demand -- anywhere from 45 to 117 percent more job listings year-over-year -- and listed skills and specializations that might not seem obvious at first glance. But some of these jobs are staple positions that would be tops in most any year, and Randstad's list is as notable for what's missing as what is present.

"Big data engineer" seems like an obvious on-fire specialty for the year, and other companies have reached the same conclusion. Staffing and recruiting firm Robert Half saw starting salaries for such positions range from $135,000 to $196,000. Randstad's estimates are more conservative -- $121,950 to $159,800 -- but the number of such jobs tracked by Randstad nearly doubled over the course of 2016.

Randstad also considers big data to be highly synonymous with sensitive data, as the certifications listed for that job type include secret and top secret clearances. Given that big data security is widely perceived to be a mess, it might be a good idea to start addressing that problem from the human side rather than the technology side.

Security engineer, a position for "develop[ing] systems to prevent data breaches and keep confidential information safe," has many of the same stipulations as well. While Randstad doesn't see salaries there as high ($145,750 tops for starters) and hasn't tracked anywhere near the amount of growth (only 15 percent over the last year), it did see slightly more jobs for that position and in more markets.

Full-stack developer isn't anyone's idea of a cutting-edge IT position, but according to Randstad it's made a major jump in growth, with more than twice the number of listings over the past year. And while "full stack" may be in the job description, Randstad clearly believes the front end is pivotal; the skill set for the job prominently lists JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. It isn't clear if JavaScript in this case includes Node.js as well as browser-side development, but it wouldn't hurt to assume so.

The IoT (internet of things) is great in concept: A connected world! Smart devices everywhere! But in practice it's messy, insecure, and -- most important -- lacking for qualified, experienced people. This last is typical for any nascent or emerging field, so Randstad has tracked more than a doubling of job offers for IoT architect over the past year. (Indeed.com has seen similar movement.) IoT's skill set is somewhat reminiscent of the full-stack developer set, as both back-end (AWS) and front-end (UX) skills figure into the list.

Last on Randstad's list is VR/AR engineer, another emerging tech that enterprises and businesses are taking more seriously now that consumer-grade implementations are catching on. The jury's still out on what it'll be used for -- data visualization seems like a contender -- but there's no question smart, skilled people will be needed to build those positions. Randstad only counted 45 percent more IoT job listings over the last year, and the pay is still conservative compared to that of the other fields mentioned here, but an increase is still an increase.

What's not in Randstad's top five? Blockchain and machine learning, to name two oft-cited movers and shakers in modern IT. Blockchain tech is gradually disassociating itself from its long-standing default case (bitcoin), especially as other uses for it come to the fore and big-name IT firms invest in the underlying tech. But there hasn't yet been the kind of market-wide breakthrough in demand for it one has seen with other technologies.

Other job surveys of IT, like Indeed's, have shown machine learning/AI-related tech leading the pack when it comes to emerging technologies. It's possible some of the work done in this field can be folded into the heading of "big data," especially since ML/AI rely on data sets and not only algorithms to do their magic. But this is one field that deserves to be singled out as it grows in both size and influence.

[An earlier version of this article described how one of the recommended certifications for IoT was "Water Safety Instructor." Randstad has since informed us that this certification was included by error in that list.]

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