Here is good news for college seniors with technology skills: The entry-level job market for IT workers looks solid in 2012.
"If you're in IT, you couldn't be coming out of college at a better time," says Matt McGee, vice president of technical staffing services for Cincinnati-based Pomeroy, who points out that the unemployment rate for the U.S. IT industry was 2.7% in November. "You can get a job somewhere, but you need to choose wisely. ... You need to get someplace where you can see a growth path and where you're going to learn a lot over the next year or two."
Dice.com reports a shortage of IT workers in 18 states and Washington, D.C., with the biggest gap between job postings and recent grads in California, New Jersey, Texas and New York.
This shortage is likely to drive entry-level IT salaries up in 2012, experts say.
"We've seen falling entry-level salaries for the last few years, but that's boding for a turnaround," says Alice Hill, managing director of Dice.com. "It was $47,000 in 2010. ... My advice to new college grads is to negotiate hard. Don't just take a job. Really try to get a good salary as you start your career in tech."
Traditionally, entry-level IT positions have involved customer service, such as help desk or desktop support. Job openings in these areas appear to be holding steady.
"Most of the entry-level work is going to be some form of interacting with other people, such as a desktop support technician," McGee says. "If you have some good interpersonal skills and the ability to learn from a technical standpoint, you're desired in a service desk. ... With a college education, you can be a team leader or a process analyst."
"Entry-level workers don't need previous experience because they'll be trained on-the-job in the first few weeks," says Elizabeth Sias, recruiting manager for Randstad Technologies, a Boston IT staffing company. "Some companies will pay for employees to get the CompTIA certifications before they start working. Those certifications are very thorough and very well rounded and not too expensive compared to some of the other certifications in the IT industry."
But tech support roles aren't the only option for college seniors to pursue. There is also strong demand for application developers in such emerging areas as smartphones and social media. Because these technologies are new, employers are willing to consider recent college grads who are hobbyists.
"You don't have to have years and years of experience developing apps for smartphones or social media, because they've only been out and really popular for a few years," Sias says. "I use Facebook as an example. It's developed with a language called PHP. If you can get the basics of that language down, there are entry-level positions for companies like Facebook to develop Web pages."
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