9 Information Technology Skills Employers Love to See
“Do I have what it takes?”
This is a nearly existential question we all ask ourselves at some point. While this calls to mind athletic feats like your ability to make a game-changing play, this gut-check line of thinking is also relevant when contemplating a future career.
Questions like, “Am I skilled enough for this job?” and “Is there a way for me to get a leg up on the competition?” naturally come with the territory of career planning—and that’s no different for those looking to get established in an information technology (IT) career.
When you consider the breadth of roles and expertise found within the IT field, it can feel a little overwhelming trying to figure out where you should focus your efforts.
The good news is we can offer you some insight into what employers are looking for. We’ve scoured thousands of IT job postings from across the country to highlight some of the most commonly sought-after skills and competencies. While the list below is by no means comprehensive, it's a good starting point to narrow down your IT career and education focus as we break down both the technical and “soft” skills employers are seeking.
Which IT skills are in demand?
While the needs of IT employers are certainly not uniform, there are definitely trends you can see in job posting data. Here’s a closer look at some of the most commonly sought-after skills for IT professionals.
Technical IT skills in-demand
1. Software development principles
While perhaps not a surprise, software development principles top the list of skills employers are seeking. Understanding how modern software is built, tested and repaired is an important foundational building block for a wide variety of programming and software-related careers.
This is a fairly broad grouping of skills that includes knowledge of software development, software engineering, quality assurance and development process methods like Agile and Scrum.
2. Systems design and implementation
Another skill pillar for many IT roles is systems design and implementation. This cluster of capabilities focuses on designing, implementing, configuring and troubleshooting large-scale IT networks and systems, and it applies to careers at all levels of expertise.
This includes skills related to systems administration, network administration, network architecture, cloud computing, systems integration, disaster recovery planning and more.
3. SQL databases and programming
Structured Query Language (SQL) databases play a central role in many business operations. Databases allow organizations to categorize, analyze and organize vast quantities of data. This can be used in a variety of helpful (or downright critical) ways—whether that’s for order processing information for a large online retailer or for a holistic analysis of marketing efforts and their ROI.
This is a valued skill set for database administrators, business analysts and software developers whose work may depend on a seamless interface with database systems.
4. Technical support
Another critical skill set that’s widely sought after in IT is the ability to provide effective technical support. It doesn’t take long in the IT field to understand that end-users possess a wide spectrum of tech capabilities, from power users to those who employ the single-fingered “hunt-and-peck” typing method.
With this array of technical abilities comes a need for skilled IT support professionals who can help users navigate and resolve technical hardware and software issues in an easy-to-understand manner. While much of this skill set applies to direct user-facing support roles, it can also serve IT professionals in more advanced roles—being able to diagnose a business issue and prescribe a solution in terms professionals outside IT can understand is a major asset for IT leaders.
5. Project management
Whether you’re creating new software, building an office’s network infrastructure or updating important technical systems, IT projects can be complex and challenging to keep on track. Project management skills are valued. That can include everything from a basic understanding of different project management methodologies and processes as an individual contributor to outright knowing what it takes to deliver an important enterprise-scale technical project on time.
6. Scripting languages
Scripting languages are undoubtedly some of the most useful and versatile skills to master. Web developers, business analysts, database professionals, systems administrators, software developers and more can use scripting languages to automate complex and often tedious tasks that would otherwise become unmanageable.
Soft IT skills in demand
Of course, technical ability is only part of the picture. Employers also value well-rounded candidates with soft skills to match their technical know-how. Here are the top three soft skills IT employers are seeking.1
1. Communication skills
Being capable of effective verbal and written communication is a nearly universal requirement for IT jobs. IT professionals spend a considerable amount of time explaining to, guiding and assisting users as they navigate technology issues or concepts that may be out of their depth.
There’s value in being able to do so in a professional and empathetic manner. Some users may be frustrated or overwhelmed by technical jargon, and that can apply to business and organizational leadership as well.
While the level of collaboration required will depend on the specific role you’re in, IT is still a highly collaborative field. Many IT projects are complex and require collaboration between professionals from different areas of expertise. With that can come conflicting priorities or preferences, and IT professionals need to be able to navigate these sometimes-challenging points of friction in order to do what’s best for the team or project overall.
3. Problem solving
Another crucial soft skill that hiring managers in IT are going to be looking for is problem solving. Not every problem you’ll encounter in this field has a by-the-book solution or how-to guide to spoon-feed you the answer—so your ability to research and identify potential fixes is crucial.
Building experience in tech support roles can be excellent practice for just this. While many issues may be routine, others will inevitably leave you stumped and searching for answers. Knowing where to turn and how to methodically rule out potential sources of trouble is a lifelong skill for IT professionals.
Do you have what it takes to work in information technology?
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the job market after seeing what companies are looking for in IT applicants. Even if some of these sought-after skills are not your strong suit just yet, it’s important to understand the variety of potential IT career paths you can pursue. To help with that, check out “ Careers in Technology: 9 Options to Explore.”
1 Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 3,842,086 information technology job postings, Sept. 1, 2021 – Aug. 31, 2022).
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