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Careers: IT's Doing Fine, Data Scientists, Data Engineers Doing Even Better

Starting salary growth in IT is poised to outpace all other job segments -- including legal and finance/accounting. Which positions are most in demand?

It's great to be a technologist in search of employment. That's the biggest takeaway from IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology's new 2017 Salary Guide. According to Robert Half, job-seeking IT professionals should benefit from a projected 3.8 percent increase in salary and compensation in the coming year.

A Job-Seeker's Market for Technology Specialists

Technology is poised to outpace all other job segments -- including both legal and finance/accounting. Which technology job positions are most in demand?

If you guessed data scientists or big data engineers, you're right.

"With skilled professionals in high demand and short supply, more employers are willing to negotiate compensation with potential hires," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, in a prepared release.

It's very much a job-seeker's market, McDonald says: "To remain competitive, especially in the technology and finance fields, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of salary trends for specific roles in your area and move quickly when making offers. Top candidates are receiving multiple job offers and will lose interest when faced with a lengthy hiring process."

In the technology segment, data management and analytics skills are in especially high demand. According to Robert Half, ongoing upgrades and implementations will help boost IT hiring, and mobile and big data initiatives -- along with a renewed focus on security -- will be important sources of job creation in 2017.

Even though almost all technologists will be in demand, some will be (much) more in demand than others, according to the staffing specialist. "With a shortage of qualified technology candidates, in-demand positions, including data scientists, big data engineers, and network security engineers, are projected to see even greater salary gains in the coming year."

Data Scientist Salaries Still On Top

Robert Half projects that average starting salaries for data scientists will increase by 6.4 percent in 2017, with salaries running a very wide range -- from $116,000 on the low end to almost $164,000 on the high end.

This is the second biggest percentage increase for a starting salary among all job roles -- trailing only "compliance manager," which is projected to increase by 6.9 percent. (Compliance managers command much lower starting salaries, on average, than data scientists, ranging from almost $99,000 to $127,000.)

Another IT job role that's of interest to BI and data management practitioners -- particularly those designing (or embedding) BI/analytics apps for operational use -- is user experience (UX) designer. Starting salary for UX designers should increase by 6.1 percent, with salaries ranging from $76,000 on the low end to almost $100,000 on the high end.

Studying Pays Off

There's one other wrinkle in the new guide: in the technology segment, IT workers have often advanced to professional positions without college degrees. This is no longer the case. According to Robert Half, a four-year degree is now a "must have" for most professional positions.

Among all U.S. workers with college degrees, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the unemployment rate at 2.5 percent. For college graduates with in-demand skills, certifications, etc., it estimates the unemployment rate at a miniscule 0.5 percent.

The overall unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, according to the BLS.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at evets@alwaysbedisrupting.com.


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