The safest tech jobs in a recession

Disc and spanner
IT security and maintenance jobs should be safer than most

Since the dotcom boom and bust of the late 90s, techies have enjoyed the best part of a decade on the green side of the fence, with growth in every sector year on year.

Almost five percent of the UK workforce are IT wage slaves of some description, with three quarters of folks working with a computer in their daily grind. So, when Google makes cuts and Microsoft starts laying off staff, you know it's time to start worrying.

Fortunately, our investigation suggests there are more than just one or two bullet-proof careers in technology.

A recent survey by research company Markit Economics for KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation suggests that, despite the largest downturn in demand for new staff since 1997, software programmers are still sought after.

The big growth areas are in web application development, with PHP, .net and C++ expertise particularly prized. We'd hazard an educated guess that you can add AJAX and JavaScript into that mix. Web applications need people with database programming skills, too - so if you have MySQL on your CV, congratulations, you can consider yourself employable.

Security remains safe

Experts claim that IT security remains a safe sector, too. "The Information Systems Audit and Control Association have identified information security officers and IT security and audit staff as the safest jobs in a recession," says Vernon Poole, Head of Business Consultancy for Sapphire Technologies Ltd. "2008 will go down as the year of the greatest number of security breaches - so protecting information is vital to be seen as 'trusted'".

One of the key reasons Poole identifies for these "breaches", are victims of the recession taking revenge, "People are losing their jobs," says Poole, "So the security checks and balances need to maintained because disaffected staff could be tempted to deliberately sabotage their former employers".

Some IT workers may be better off accepting shorter contracts - if their skills are sufficiently in demand. If your job is aimed at cutting costs, then you might be in luck, too, claims Paul Williams, IT Governance Adviser to Protiviti: "Staff involved in projects designed to enable short to medium term costs savings and efficiencies may be safe, at least until the project concludes, whilst staff involved with longer term strategic initiatives may be deemed more at risk."

Support and maintenance

You'll also be safer if your job is making sure that everyday systems stay up and running. That's people like network administrators and IT maintenance staff. If your job involves tweaking HTML or looking after archives, though, watch your back. "Staff supporting business critical front line applications may be relatively secure whilst those supporting less critical applications may be deemed dispensable," says Williams.

Ironically, people at the lower end of the IT industry, those working in the trenches fixing PCs and installing software for home users are among the safest in the midst of recession. Most technology manufacturers are reporting a downturn in sales - which means there are more old machines in living rooms and spare bedrooms. And the older the machine, the more likely it is to need upgrades and repairs.

Not everyone sees a silver lining, though. "I don't think there are any safe jobs today!" says David Hobson, Managing Director of Global Secure Systems Ltd. "I would think anyone involved in 'future projects' will be particularly vulnerable, as businesses postpone new developments and focus on getting the maximum from current investments".

Even if you do find a P45 on your desk one Monday morning, take heart from the fact that recruitment agencies are still actively wooing the technorati, at a time when many other folks are contemplating a spell on Jobseeker's Allowance.


Now read 10 ways to turn your old tech into cash

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