Java and security skills offer IT job security

A new survey reveals what buzzwords IT hiring managers are looking for when they hunt for candidates

For those who wondered whether Java had a future now that it's under the Oracle umbrella, fret no more. A recent survey by job-hunting site found that the people who are hiring IT pros put Java/J2EE at the very top of their hiring criteria.

The survey's findings map -- in this case -- to the job listings, said senior vice president Tom Silver. "On our site, there are over 14,000 postings looking for Java and J2EE developers, and it's a 58 percent rise from this time last year."

[ The employment outlook isn't so rosy at Microsoft, which plans to ax hundreds of jobs in its move to a cloud computing strategy | Cut straight to the key news for technology development and IT management with our once-a-day summary of the top tech news. Subscribe to the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]'s annual survey had 600 responses from HR managers and independent recruiters; of its respondents, approximately 45 percent were direct employers, meaning they're looking for people to work at their specific company. Of those direct employers, perhaps half are companies with more than 500 employees.

What are the remaining nine terms that the 600 survey respondents supplied as the most wanted in their hiring? In order: "security," "software developer," "SAP," "database administration," ".Net," "Oracle," "SharePoint," "C#," and "active federal government security clearance."

While the demand for Java programmers among the survey respondents is clearly reflected in's listings, not all terms match so tidily. For example, though "security" comes in as the second most in-demand IT skill for tech jobs, there are only 2,700 security-related positions on Silver explains the gap between what hiring managers say they want versus what's mentioned in the job listings by pointing out that the more specialized a skill set, the smaller the overall demand may be -- but the existing demand is urgent since finding candidates who match that highly specific skill set is difficult.

The tenth most popular term, "active federal government security clearance," points to this as well. A clearance is not a career asset directly related to IT, but it can boost your odds of finding an IT job in a stable-to-growing pool of employers. According to Silver, demand for IT jobs has been steady in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore metro area, thanks to the federal government and companies that support the government. If you have an active federal government security clearance, recruiters and companies want you -- more so when you have IT chops to go along with that clearance.

What's the big deal about an active clearance? It's a time-saver; the process to obtain any level of security clearance involves a lot of time, paperwork, and background checks. If you can save a prospective employer all that effort and you're a developer, you're in luck.

Three burgeoning areas of IT interest didn't crack the top 10 this year: Neither cloud computing nor virtualization made it on to the list. Silver says has seen "very, very small" growth in demand for both cloud computing and virtualization -- due in part to most IT departments functioning in survival mode during the downturn. However, demand for both areas may pick up toward the end of the year.

There also isn't yet a recognized need for mobile developers. Silver says, "Anecdotally, we're hearing a bit from our customers that this is becoming increasingly important, but we're not hearing much about demand yet."

One reason: It's possible that companies looking to get into the mobile development game are leaving it to highly motivated employees who are already in-house. This is not unlike Web development back in the mid- to late-1990s -- stay tuned to see if the mobile enterprise industry breaks out the same way Web development did.

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