D.C. Is a Tech Candidate’s Market

D.C.

What’s New This Quarter

The story remains the same: The federal government simply can’t find enough cybersecurity professionals to lock down everything that needs to be locked down, and security watchers say that we must make cybersecurity a national imperative much like aerospace technology, nuclear science and biotechnology have been in the past.

Sam Visner, vice president and general manager of CSC Global Security, told NextGov that not enough is being done to make current cybersecurity efforts effective. “We have uncoordinated initiatives, but not a national strategy coupled with a national program,” he said. “The advance of the cybersecurity capability to keep up and secure broadly is asymmetrically slow. We don’t have nearly enough people to secure those environments.”

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Given that circumstance, you’d think that cybersecurity salaries would be skyrocketing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least for mid-level workers. According to a survey by the SANS Institute, salaries for the largest group of respondents–those who hold security positions in the $80,000-$99,999 annual salary range—have moved little since a 2008 survey. “This pay range should be higher, given the tough nature of the job IT security professionals shoulder, and the specialized skills and business acumen required in such positions,” the Institute said in a report. More seasoned professionals are doing better, and entry-level workers can expect an average salary of $73,697, which certainly isn’t bad.

On a related note, the Department of State revealed that it uses a unique retention bonus program to hang onto cybersecurity experts who may be eyeing a move to the private sector. The bonuses range from 9 to 14 percent of salary and are distributed every pay period. In order to get into the program, workers must earn additional certifications.

Additionally, the government may try to improve its IT acumen by establishing an awards program for excellent IT acquisition staff, including cash prizes. House legislation would direct the Office of Personnel Management to develop a program “to recognize excellent performance by federal employees and teams in the acquisition of information systems and IT.” The bill would also require, “such policies to include guidance regarding the award of cash bonuses and other incentives.”

Meanwhile, an annual data breach report from Verizon found that almost 60 percent of cyber incidents reported in the public sector over the past three years were caused by government employees—and that’s not even counting Edward Snowden. Most of the insider incidents were clumsy errors such as emailing documents to the wrong person, but 24 percent were classified as unapproved or malicious use of data by public servants.

Finally, Washington Technology has ranked its annual Top 100 contractors in the government market according to their IT, systems integration, telecom, professional services and other high-tech revenue. This year’s winners:

  1. Lockheed
  2. Northrop Grumman
  3. Raytheon
  4. Boeing
  5. General Dynamics
  6. Hewlett-Packard
  7. Booz Allen Hamilton
  8. Leidos
  9. Computer Sciences Corp.
  10. Dyncorp International

Skills in Demand

“Washington, D.C., companies continue to look for IT talent, particularly within the service, financial services and government services sectors,” says Chris Brinkman, Washington, D.C., regional vice president of Robert Half Technology. “Web developers, network administrators, and mobile applications developers remain in high demand. More than ever, employers seek candidates who can identify business needs and articulate solutions to stakeholders.”

Heather Raines, D.C.-based recruiting director for Randstad, calls the D.C. IT job market “sizzling hot” and says the area’s unemployment rate for IT remains nearly non-existent, making it truly a candidate’s market. “Our clients are continuing to ask for IT candidates who have experience with bleeding-edge technology such as Web-related roles in mobile Web development like Android and iOS, Ruby on Rails, network security and cloud architecture,” she says. “We’re also seeing demand for experts who can upgrade ERP systems such as PeopleSoft, MS Dynamics and SAP/Business Objects.”

Fifty nine percent of the Washington, D.C., technology executives surveyed by Robert Half say that network administrationis among the skill sets in greatest demand within their IT departments. Desktop support and database management follow.

Local recruiters also see continuing demand for software developers in such areas as .NET, SharePoint, ERP and Java. Network administration, database management and all forms of cybersecurity are also typically strong categories.

Salary Trends

According to the 2014-2013 Dice Salary Survey, the average salary for a Washington-based IT professional is $97,588, unchanged from the previous year and 11 percent above the national average of $87,811. Robert Half Technology reports that 22 percent of Washington, D.C.-area technology executives expect to expand their IT teams in the second half of 2014, up an impressive 9 points from the previous survey. Another 66 percent plan to hire only for open IT roles.

“It may surprise many, but one of every 10 private sector workers in Virginia works for a technology company, the highest concentration in the nation,” says Matthew Kazmierczak, the TechAmerica Foundation’s vice president of research and reports.

Leading Industries

  • Government
  • Defense Contracting
  • Outsourced Government Services
  • Banking
  • Healthcare

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