Big Data, Java and Other Developer Skills: Top Hiring Priorities

A Dice survey shows growing demand for big data skills, and developers—particularly those with Java, mobile and .NET talent—continue to be much sought after.

When it comes to job prospects, big data may be bigger than many think. For the first time, jobs related to big data ranked high among the top IT skills on hiring executives' wish lists for 2013, a new study from career site shows.

Big data jobs such as data analysis/analytics, which did not even make it into the top 10 last year, ranked fourth in the type of talent or skill set hiring managers and recruiters consider a top priority for 2013, according to the findings of Dice's survey of more than 1,000 tech-focused recruiters and hiring managers. Data analysis/analytics came in behind Java/J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) developers, in first place both this year and last; mobile developers, which rose to second place from third last year; and .NET developers, which climbed to third in 2013 from fourth in 2012.

Some tech industry watchers may be skeptical about big data because the concept is relatively recent, broad and abstract, but demand for data analysis/analytics jobs is emerging, said Managing Director Alice Hill. "To me, that does not say 'hype,'" she said. "Opportunities range from data analysts who work with complex streams of data and compile trend reports, to high-end data scientists at the Ph.D. level with a strong background in natural language processing and forecasting analytics."

The ability to sift through and manage the vast amounts of data, or big data, that organizations generate has become a competitive advantage in nearly every industry. Gartner analysts project that by 2015, 4.4 million IT jobs will be generated globally to support big data; however, they warn that the talent required to fill the available positions is insufficient and that only a third of the 1.9 million big data jobs are likely to be filled.

With just a little more than 900 job postings, data analytics/analysts is still a small category on Dice, but the trend resembles that of cloud and mobile when they first emerged, which is "a good indicator of its trajectory," Dice's Hill said.

While big data job postings on Dice more than tripled year-over-year, more than one in five of the 77,000 jobs posted on Dice included a reference to the need for Java capabilities.

Although demand is high for specialized developer talent in areas such as Java, mobile and .NET, the more general category of "software developers" slipped to fifth place as a hiring or recruiting priority for 2013, down from second in 2012.

"The message for IT pros is to look at ways you can specialize in your job—ways to add value, even at the entry level," Hill said.

Dice, which expects tech hiring to be on a steady path in the first half of 2013, cited IT job growth across industries and regions. In Dice's January report, eight of the top 10 cities for IT employment, posted year-over-year increases.

Although down 8 percent year-over-year, New York City took the No. 1 position as it continues its rise as a major rival to Silicon Valley, Dice reported. Washington, D.C./Baltimore ranked second and Silicon Valley third; each posted 3 percent growth. Chicago (up 8 percent) and Los Angeles (up 5 percent) rounded out the top five.