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Networking, Web Development Top CIOs' Job Skill List

RHI Consulting survey finds 24% of executives rank networking and Web development skills as the most valuable.

Layoff fears haunt many IT workers these days, but those skilled in the areas of networking and Web development may have the least to worry about. Networking specialists ruled over other IT workers in a survey of 1,400 CIOs released Wednesday by RHI Consulting, with 24% of executives ranking those skills as the most valuable. Workers skilled in Internet and intranet development ranked second, with 18% of the vote.

The increase in mobile workers and system-security concerns are among the most significant factors fueling demand for networking skills, according to RHI Consulting. The national IT recruitment firm also says the popularity of XML-based software has driven up demand for Web developers. Even though the hype surrounding the Web has quieted considerably from a year or two ago, companies have become extremely reliant on the Web, particularly as a tool for collecting and disseminating internal information from such areas as human resources and finance, says Kathleen Harris, director of RHI's permanent-IT-placement division. "One area CIOs are most concerned about is keeping up the company intranet," says Harris.

High demand also correlates to high pay--in most cases. According to InformationWeek's recent nationwide salary survey of 20,000 IT professionals, non-management workers who specialize in wireless infrastructure had the highest median total annual compensation--$95,000--which is consistent with RHI Consulting's findings about demand for workers who can support mobile workforces. But those who ranked the third highest in demand--help-desk and end-user support workers, with 15% of the vote--receive some of the lowest salaries. The median total compensation for those workers is $51,000, according to the InformationWeek survey, which is $20,000 less than the median compensation for all IT worker categories combined. "People generally start out at the help desk, and it's a position that inherently has a high-turnover rate," says Harris, which explains both the lower salaries and the high demand. Most help-desk workers eventually move into higher-paid areas, such as server support, which leaves CIOs with unfilled entry-level jobs.

Data and database-management skills ranked fourth, with 12% of the vote, and is a leading area of job growth due to the increase in data collection for business-intelligence purposes, according to RHI Consulting. Those skills were followed by applications development, with 12% of the vote; project management, 7%; and systems analysis, 3%. Nine percent of respondents marked "other" on the survey.

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