Careers: What's Hot for 2013

If you could ask for an IT skill for the holidays, what would it be? Network architects and mobile app dev specialists are just two of the types of skill that will be in demand next year.

If you could ask for a skill or certification for the holidays, what would it be?

More important, which should it be? Had you your druthers, you'd probably want to pick from among a sextet of skills for Xmas, says IT staffing specialist Robert Half Technology.

According to Robert Half's new 2013 Salary Guides report, companies will pay triple-digit salaries for mobile developers, network architects, business intelligence (BI) analysts, and user experience (UX) designers in the coming year.

Robert Half also projects increased demand for digital or online "presence" specialists -- i.e., interactive creative directors and interaction designers, two non-traditional IT skill areas.

What's driving this? According to Robert Half, it has everything to do with presence: companies are rushing to revamp their digital presences, which means exposing new services -- in new, device-specific UXes -- to consumers. These services aren't autonomous or self-sufficient, however. Companies are instead yoking them to their existing IT infrastructures, exposing applications or services that were once exclusively browser-based (or in some cases, firewalled away) via native apps optimized for specific mobile platforms.

As a result, companies are revamping or extending their IT infrastructures to support new workloads or to address revised performance requirements.

Regardless of what's driving it, Robert Half reports, it makes for a very strong job-seeker's market -- provided, of course, a candidate possesses the requisite skills.

"Salaries are rising for candidates who can help organizations leverage new technologies to increase efficiencies, gain business insights, and produce superior customer experiences," said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group, in a prepared statement. "In some cases, there's a shortage of individuals available to fill these highly specialized positions, which is driving up starting compensation levels."

Take mobile app dev specialists, for example. The driver here, obviously, is rising popularity of smartphones and tablets, says Robert Half: it projects a near-double-digit increase in starting salaries for mobile applications developers, with overall compensation starting at almost $93,000 and (in most cases) maxing out at close to $134,000. Not bad.

BI analysts should fare about the same, with projected salary increases of just over 7 percent and compensation ranging from $94,000 to $133,000.

Network architects have been in constant demand for the last decade.

Not surprisingly, they'll continue to be a hot commodity: Robert Half projects about a 7 percent increase in starting salary, with network architects earning about $102,000 to start and close to $150,000 at the high end of the spectrum.

These are all relatively established IT job categories -- even that of the mobile app dev professional. "Interactive creative director," on the other hand, is a relatively new job type. According to Robert Half, such professionals are charged with developing and managing a company's interactive content creation efforts. As more companies establish digital presences, this means exposing interactive roles.

Although these pros will see a modest 5 percent bump in starting salary, theirs is the most lucrative job category: base compensation starts at $96,000, but the salary ceiling is $160,000, Robert Half says.

Interaction design is a related field. "The best interaction designers step into the shoes of a company's customers and maximize their online experiences," said Robert Half, in the same release. This job role should likewise see a modest increase in base salary (5 percent), with compensation starting at $52,000 and effectively topping off at $78,000.

Also related is UX design, for which starting salaries are projected to grow at about the same rate (4.8 percent). UX designers should be able to command base compensation of close to $74,000, with a ceiling of about $111,000, according to Robert Half.

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