Network Jobs Watch: Emerging Hiring Trends, In-Demand Skills, and Essential 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.

CompTIA updated its Network+ certification to include more extensive coverage of modern network environments, factors related to physical network installations, and know-how to better secure and harden networks.

Software-defined networking (SDN) and SD-WAN are covered in the updated Network+ exam, or N10-009. According to CompTIA, “the program introduces infrastructure as code (IaC), which is considered a transformative approach that leverages code for improved provisioning and support for computing infrastructure.”

The updated Network+ certification program also now integrates zero-trust architecture and other forms of network fortification. Read more in the full story: CompTIA updates Network+ certification

June 2024

Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched two new certifications in artificial intelligence for IT professionals looking to boost their skills and land AI-related jobs. The additional know-how will help practitioners secure jobs that require emerging AI skills, which could offer a 47% higher salary in IT, according to an AWS study.

AWS Certified AI Practitioner is a foundational program that validates knowledge of AI, machine learning (ML), and generative AI concepts and use cases, according to AWS. Candidates who are familiar with using AI/ML technologies on AWS and who complete a 120-minute, 85-question course will be able to sharpen their skills with fundamental concepts as well as use cases for AI, ML, and genAI. The exam will cover topics such as prompt engineering, responsible AI, security and compliance for AI systems, and more.

AWS Certified Machine Learning Engineer—Associate is a 170-minute exam with 85 questions that validates technical ability to implement ML workloads in production and to operationalize them. Individuals with at least one year of experience using Amazon SageMaker and other ML engineering AWS services would be good candidates for this certification. The exam will cover topics such as data preparation for ML models, feature engineering, model training, security, and more.

Registration for both new AWS certifications opens August 13.

June 2024

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 businesses continue to seek cybersecurity talent, the current supply of skilled workers will not meet the demand in 2024, according to recent data from CyberSeek, a data analysis and aggregation tool powered by a collaboration among Lightcast, NICE, and CompTIA.

There are only enough available workers to fill 85% of the current cybersecurity jobs throughout the U.S. economy, according to CyberSeek data, and more than 225,000 workers are needed to close the cybersecurity skills gap. The data also shows that job postings for all tech occupations declined by 37% between May 2023 and April 2024.

“Although demand for cybersecurity jobs is beginning to normalize to pre-pandemic levels, the longstanding cyber talent gap persists,” said Will Markow, vice president of applied research at Lightcast, in a statement. “At the same time, new threats and technologies are causing cybersecurity skill requirements to evolve at a breakneck pace, forcing employers, educators, and individuals to proactively anticipate and prepare for an ever-changing cyber landscape.”

Positions in the highest demand include network engineers, systems administrators, cybersecurity engineers, cybersecurity analysts, security engineers, systems engineers, information systems security officers, network administrators, information security analysts, and software engineers, according to the CyberSeek data.

“Building a robust cybersecurity presence often requires changes in talent acquisition strategies and tactics,” said Hannah Johnson, senior vice 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 seeing more attrition than their large enterprise counterparts, while salaries in midsized companies are also rising faster than they are in large enterprises. Salary levels in midsized enterprises increased 5.46% versus 2.56% in larger enterprises, according to Janco Associates.

May 2024

New research and survey results from IDC show that a growing lack of in-demand IT skills could be negatively impacting businesses’ bottom lines.


The IDC report, Enterprise Resilience: IT Skilling Strategies, 2024, reveals the most in-demand skills at enterprise organizations right now. Among the 811 respondents, artificial intelligence tops the list, cited by 45% of respondents, followed closely by IT operations (44%) and cloud solutions-architecture (36%). Other skills in demand right now 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 the IT leaders at North American organizations said the lack of these skills has delayed digital transformation initiatives, most by an average of three to 10 months. Survey respondents detailed the negative impacts of lacking skills in their IT organizations:

Considering these survey results, IDC predicts that by 2026, 90% of organizations worldwide will feel the pain of the IT skills crisis, potentially costing up to $5.5 trillion in delays, quality issues, and revenue loss. “Getting the right people with the right skills into the right roles has never been so difficult,” says Gina Smith, PhD, research director for IDC’s IT Skills for Digital Business practice, said in a statement. “As IT skills shortages widen and the arrival of new technology accelerates, enterprises must find creative ways to hire, train, upskill, and reskill their employees. A culture of learning is the single best way to get there.”

May 2024


A lack of specific technology skills worries IT executives, who report they will not be able to adopt new technologies, maintain legacy systems, keep business opportunities, and retain clients if the skills gap persists.

In a recent survey by online professional training provider Pluralsight, 96% of technologists said their workload has increased due to the skills gap, and 78% also reported that they abandoned projects partway through because they didn’t have employees with the necessary IT skills to successfully finish. While most organizations (78%) said their skills gap has improved since last year, survey respondents reported that cybersecurity, cloud, and software development are the top three areas in which a skills gap exists. IT executives surveyed said they worry the skills gap in their organizations will make it difficult to:

Pluralsight surveyed 1,400 executives and IT professionals across the U.S., U.K., and India to learn more about the technical skills gap and how organizations are addressing a lack of expertise in specific technology areas.

May 2024

Network automation continues to challenge IT leaders, and one factor is a lack of skills on staff.

When research firm Enterprise Management Associates surveyed 354 IT professionals about network automation, just 18% rated their network automation strategies as a complete success, and 54% said they have achieved partial success. The remaining 38% said they were uncertain of the level of success achieved or admitted failure with their network automation projects.

More than one-fourth (26.8%) of the respondents pointed to staffing issues such as skills gaps and staff churn as a business challenge. “The most challenging thing for me is the lack of network engineers who can contribute to automation,” said a network engineer at a midmarket business services company in the EMA report. “The community is small, and it’s hard to find people who can help you solve a problem.”

April 2024

IT certification and training group CompTIA is expanding its product and program roadmap to meet the growing demand for AI-related skill sets.

AI is becoming critical to existing job functions. At the same time, new roles are starting to land on employers’ radar. “Two entirely new job roles—prompt engineering and AI systems architects—are emerging. These positions align with the AI priorities of many organizations,” said Teresa Sears, vice president of product management at CompTIA.

Millions of IT professionals will need to acquire new AI skills to meet the needs of the job market, said Thomas Reilly, CompTIA’s chief product officer, in a statement. “We intend to create a range of certifications and training offerings spanning the complete career arc, from foundational knowledge for pre-career and early career learners to advanced skills for professionals with years of workforce experience.”

February 2024

The number of new IT jobs created in calendar year 2023 flattened with just 700 positions added, which signals continued concerns about the economy and growing demand for skills focused on emerging technologies. For comparison, 2022 saw 267,000 jobs added, with industry watchers attributing the dramatic difference to tech layoffs and other cost-cutting measures.

According to Janco Associates, despite companies adding some 21,300 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2023, the overall increase for the entire calendar year still comes to just 700 new positions.

“Based on our analysis, the IT job market and opportunities for IT professionals are poor at best. In the past 12 months, telecommunications lost 26,400 jobs, content providers lost 9,300 jobs, and other information services lost 10,300 jobs,” said M. Victor Janulaitis, CEO at Janco, in a statement. “Gainers in the same period were computer system designers gaining 32,300 jobs and hosting providers gaining 14,000.”

January 2024

Robert Half reports that the job market will remain resilient heading into 2024. According to the talent solutions provider’s recent survey, more than half of U.S. companies plan to increase hiring in the first half of 2024. While the data is not limited to the IT sector, the research shows 57% plan to add new permanent positions in the first six months of the year while another 39% anticipate hiring for vacant positions and 67% will hire contract workers as a 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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