Some IT skills see pay hikes during downturn

Java, Linux, virtualization and business process skills among those seeing an increase in pay

Budget dollars may be tight for most companies, but that doesn't mean enterprise IT departments can do without the technology skills, talent and certifications they need to better navigate a down economy.

Research released this week by Foote Partners shows that some skills continue to pay well, despite the recession. The research firm's data showed that pay for 60 skills and certifications declined in the first quarter, yet another 46 skills and certifications experience increases in pay during the same time period.

"This is not at all unexpected," said David Foote, the firm's co-founder, CEO and chief research officer, in a statement. "First, pay for skills is, by its nature and purpose, more dynamic than salaries. Employers use it tactically and strategically to attract and retain talent. And second, the fact is that premium pay for skills is even more important during tough economic times when fear and uncertainty about job security clouds the judgment of IT professionals."

Foote Partners tracks pay for 371 certified and noncertified IT skills, and its first quarter research shows that pay for certified skills in Java/J2EE, SE and ME experienced a 20% increase in the past three months. Pay for PHP skills rose 14.3% during that same period, while pay for certified Linux skills increased by more than 28%. Pay for certified skills in Apache HTTP Web server and Sybase Adaptive Server each increased by 25% in the first three months of 2009, and pay for HTTP skills rose by 20%. Certified skills such as unified communications/messaging and Microsoft SQL server also saw pay increases by about 9% each.

As for noncertified skills, Foote Partners research saw similar trends. Pay for Linux skills rose by more than 28%, while Apache and Sybase noncertified skills saw 25% increases in pay. Pay for Java and HTTP skills increased by 20%, while IT professionals with PHP, SAP and Unix noncertified skills experienced a more than 14% pay increase. Pay for various noncertified skills in virtualization also saw an increase of more than 12%, according to the research firm.

The shift in pay for specific skills points to IT hiring manager being more strategic regarding in-house talent and potential external sources, Foote explained.

"There's a lot of hiring and reshuffling of talent right now. It's not a 'deer in headlights' situation like it was for many during the last recession," Foote said. "Companies have serious labor requirements and many are aggressively stepping up, using compensations wisely to meet the demand for specific skills."

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Denise Dubie

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