Navigating the Evolving Landscape of Network Jobs: Trends in Hiring, Skills, and Certifications

Network and infrastructure roles continue to shift as enterprises adopt technologies such as AI-driven network operations, multicloud networking, zero trust network access (ZTNA), and SD-WAN. Here’s a recap of some of the latest industry research, hiring statistics, and certification trends that impact today’s network professionals, infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders, and data center teams. Check back for regular updates.

Cisco’s new AI certification aims to help prepare IT pros to design, provision, and optimize networks and systems needed for demanding AI/ML workloads. Unveiled at its Cisco Live conference in Las Vegas, the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)-AI Infrastructure certification is a vendor-agnostic, expert-level certification. With it, tech professionals will be able to design network architectures optimized for AI workloads, and “they’ll be able to do this while incorporating the unique business requirements of AI, such as trade-offs for cost optimization and power, and the matching of computing power and cloud needs to measured carbon use,” wrote Par Merat, vice president of Cisco Learning and Certifications, in a blog post about the new cert.

According to Cisco, the new CCDE-AI Infrastructure certification addresses topics including designing for GPU optimization as well as building high-performance generative AI network fabrics. Those seeking this certification will also learn about sustainability and compliance of networks that support AI. The skills will be needed across organizations, according to the Cisco AI Readiness Index, which found that 90% of organizations are investing to try to overcome AI skills gaps. Read more here: Cisco debuts CCDE-AI Infrastructure certification

June 2024

As the quest for cybersecurity expertise intensifies across industries, the gap between available talent and industry needs is set to widen in 2024. This projection is based on information from CyberSeek, a project supported by a trio of collaborators: Lightcast, NICE, and CompTIA.

Data indicates that only 85% of cybersecurity positions in the U.S. can currently be filled by the available workforce, with over 225,000 additional professionals required to bridge the observed skill gap. Furthermore, there was a 37% decrease in the total number of tech job listings from May 2023 to April 2024, according to the same source.

“While the demand for cybersecurity roles is adjusting back to pre-COVID levels, the chronic shortage of qualified cyber professionals remains unchanged,” explains Will Markow, the Vice President of Applied Research at Lightcast. “Additionally, continual changes in threats and technology are rapidly altering the skill sets required in cybersecurity, necessitating quick adaptation by businesses, educational institutions, and professionals to stay ahead in this ever-evolving field.”

Among the most sought-after positions are network engineers, systems administrators, cybersecurity engineers, cybersecurity analysts, security engineers, systems engineers, information systems security officers, network administrators, information security analysts, and software engineers, as highlighted by the CyberSeek initiative.

“Building a robust cybersecurity presence often requires changes in talent acquisition strategies and tactics,” said Hannah Johnson, senior vice(click the link button [Open] and switch to the Link tab) president, tech talent programs, CompTIA, in a statement. “That can include upskilling less experienced cybersecurity professionals for more advanced roles, or hiring people who demonstrate subject matter expertise via professional certifications or other credentials.”

June 2024

Recent employment data shows that the median salary for IT professionals is now $100,399, with total compensation (including bonuses and fringe benefits) reaching $103,692. Management consulting firm Janco Associates, Inc. reported that IT salaries have risen by 3.28% in the past 12 months, even while the unemployment rate for IT workers hits 5%. Executives continue to see the biggest paychecks with total compensation packages increasing by 7.48% and median compensation reaching $184,354.

“Salary compression” is another trend Janco Associates noted. This occurs when new hires are offered salaries at the higher end of the pay range for existing positions, often getting paid more than current employees in the same roles.

Midsized enterprise companies are experiencing higher turnover rates compared to their larger counterparts, and likewise, salary increases are occurring more quickly in midsized companies than in large enterprises. Specifically, salary growth in midsized enterprises was recorded at 5.46%, in contrast to a 2.56% increase in larger enterprises as noted by Janco Associates.

May 2024

Recent studies and surveys conducted by IDC indicate that an escalating shortage of coveted IT skills is adversely affecting company revenues.

The findings from IDC, detailed in the report Enterprise Resilience: IT Skilling Strategies, 2024, highlight the most sought-after skills in enterprise environments at present. The survey of 811 participants identified artificial intelligence as the leading skill, mentioned by 45% of respondents, with IT operations closely behind at 44%, and cloud solutions-architecture at 36%. Other critical skills include API integration (33%), generative AI (32%), cloud solutions-data management/storage (32%), data analysis (30%), cybersecurity/data security (28%), IoT software development (28%), and IT service management (27%).

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of IT leaders in North American organizations report that a shortage of specific skills has caused delays in digital transformation projects, typically ranging from three to 10 months. These leaders highlighted several negative effects due to the skill deficiencies in their IT teams:

Based on these findings, IDC forecasts that by 2026, 90% of organizations globally will experience significant impacts from the IT skills shortage, which could result in up to $5.5 trillion in delays, quality issues, and lost revenue. “Securing the right individuals with the necessary skills for appropriate roles has become exceedingly challenging,” states Gina Smith, PhD, research director for IDC’s IT Skills for Digital Business practice, in a statement. As technology advancements continue and IT skill gaps expand, organizations need to creatively recruit, train, and enhance the skill sets of their workforce. Establishing a culture of continuous learning is essential for addressing these challenges.

May 2024

The shortage of specific technological expertise is a major concern for IT executives, who fear that without addressing this gap, their organizations will struggle to adopt new technologies, maintain existing systems, capture business opportunities, and retain customers.

In a recent survey conducted by Pluralsight, a provider of online professional training, it was found that 96% of technologists have experienced an increase in workload due to a prevailing skills gap. Furthermore, 78% of these professionals admitted to discontinuing projects because they lacked staff with essential IT capabilities required for completion. Although a majority of organizations (78%) acknowledged an improvement in their skills gap over the past year, they identified cybersecurity, cloud technologies, and software development as the primary areas still affected by the skills shortage. IT leaders expressed concerns that this gap might impact their ability to:

Pluralsight’s research involved 1,400 executives and IT professionals from the U.S., U.K., and India to assess the severity of the technical skills gap and how it is being managed by different organizations.

May 2024

Network automation remains an area of difficulty for IT executives, primarily due to the insufficient skills available among their teams. Challenges in network automation persist, often impeding success.

When research firm Enterprise Management Associates surveyed 354 IT professionals regarding network automation, only 18% considered their network automation strategies completely successful, while 54% acknowledged partial success. The other 38% were either uncertain about their success levels or recognized failures in their network automation initiatives.

Over a quarter of participants (26.8%) highlighted staffing problems like skills shortages and high turnover rates as significant challenges. A midmarket business services company’s network engineer reported in the EMA study, “The toughest part for me is the shortage of network engineers who are adept in automation. It’s a small community, and it’s difficult to find individuals who can assist with issues.”

April 2024

IT certification and training organization CompTIA is developing its products and programs further to cater to the rising need for AI-related expertise.

AI is increasingly integral to current roles, while simultaneously, novel positions are appearing on the employment landscape. “Positions such as prompt engineering and AI systems architects are coming to the forefront, coinciding with the AI objectives of numerous organizations,” remarked Teresa Sears, vice’s president of product management at CompTIA.

According to Thomas Reilly, CompTIA’s chief product officer, millions of IT specialists will have to develop new AI expertise to satisfy burgeoning job market demands, in his remarks. “Our goal is to generate a spectrum of certifications and training resources that cover the entire career trajectory, from fundamental knowledge for those pre-career and early in their careers to advanced competencies for seasoned professionals.”

February 2024

In 2023, the increase in new IT job opportunities significantly slowed, with only 700 positions added. This marks a stark contrast to 2022 which saw 267,000 jobs introduced. This slowdown is attributed to ongoing economic worries and a heightened focus on skills associated with emerging technologies, shaped in part by the tech industry’s layoffs and cost reduction strategies.

According to Janco Associates, although there was a net increase of 21,300 jobs in the last quarter of 2023, the year ended with only 700 additional positions overall.

“The IT job market and opportunities for IT professionals are currently not very promising. In the previous year, the telecommunications sector lost 26,400 jobs, content providers saw a decrease of 9,300 jobs, and other information services dropped by 10,300 jobs,” stated M. Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco. He also mentioned that there were some positive developments, with computer system designers adding 32,300 jobs and hosting providers increasing by 14,000 jobs.

January 2024

Robert Half has reported that the job market is expected to stay robust into 2024. The talent solutions firm’s latest survey indicates that over half of U.S. companies are planning on expanding their workforce in the first six months of 2024. Although the survey isn’t exclusive to the IT industry, it reveals that 57% of the surveyed companies expect to create new permanent roles, 39% are looking to fill vacant positions, and 67% intend to hire contract workers as a part of their staffing strategy.

Specific to the technology sector, 69% of the more than 1,850 hiring managers surveyed reported they would be adding new permanent roles for those professions. Still, challenges will persist into the new year, according to Robert Half, which reported 90% of hiring managers have difficulty finding skilled professionals and 58% said it takes longer to hire for open roles compared to a year ago.

December 2023

Cloud expertise and security know-how remain critical in building today’s networks, and these skills pay top dollar, according to Skillsoft’s annual ranking of the most valuable IT certifications. At number one on its list of the 20 top-paying IT certifications is Google Cloud-Professional Cloud Architect with an average annual salary of $200,960.

In addition to several cloud certifications, there are five security, networking, and system architect certifications on Skillsoft’s top 20 list:

November 2023

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