Hot Tech Skills and Certifications During the Pandemic (and Beyond)

In only a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the job market and accelerated the demand for all kinds of technical skills.

For example, edge computing for the Internet of Things (IoT), security control at the device level, and “hyperautomation“/robotic process automation are just some of the areas of expertise that are hot and getting hotter due to pandemic-induced changes in consumer habits, growing security threats and industry realignments, according to David Foote, chief analyst with Foote Partners, LLC. Meanwhile, formerly hot specialties such as data privacy and carbon-reducing technology have seen slackening demand. 

To help you succeed today and tomorrow, Foote discussed the impact of the pandemic on jobs, skills and certifications based on data from the firm’s based on data from the firm’s latest IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index. He also noted that the situation is fluid, so the firm is revising its analysis daily.

Industry Outlook

Technologists should be prepared for more upheaval, Foote predicted, as the economy may continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 through 2022, potentially leading to negative growth for a few quarters and more rounds of layoffs. 

The silver lining is that the permanent shift to remote work and increased access to online learning should make it easier for professionals impacted by structural unemployment to transition into industries that are hiring or have regained some of the jobs initially lost. 

Based on an analysis of BLS data, Foote’s list of “best bet” industries for tech job seekers includes financial services companies (such as banking, insurance and consumer finance), education and large healthcare providers, which are trying to cope with an uptick in digital demand. Also, tech companies as well as professional services and major tech consulting firms such as IBM. 

Shipping, delivery and logistics firms are looking for cloud and cybersecurity specialists as well as developers, while online and niche e-commerce retailers are hiring project managers and architects along with data scientists, reseachers, and machine learning experts.

Other sectors that have been buoyed by the pandemic include biotech, telemedicine and big pharma. “Don’t overlook defense and non-defense government contractors that provide IT, professional services, telecommunications and other high-tech services,” Foote added. “Nothing has changed for them; they are still hiring aggressively.”

Non-Certified Skills on the Rise

As you know, non-certified skills often pay more than certified skills, and they can be easier to acquire. For example, A.I. is becoming a must-have skill for many in tech, but especially cybersecurity pros as more companies deploy A.I. to defend against bot-driven cyberattacks, Foote said. In fact, the rise in security threats during the pandemic has made DevSecOps a red-hot skill, as teams strive to clean-up code vulnerabilities and lock down APIs.

The following non-certified skills paid premiums equivalent to 16 percent of base salary or more (which determines the ranking) and recorded gains in market value during the first six months ending July 1, 2020.

DevSecOps
Market Value Increase: 5.6 percent

Security Architecture and Models
Market Value Increase: 5.6 percent

RStudio
Market Value Increase: 21.4 percent

[Tie] Cryptography
Natural Language Processing
Neural Networks
Master Data Management
Market Value Increase: 6.3 percent

[Tie] Cloud Foundry
Cloudera Impala
Market Value Increase: 14.3 percent

[Tie] Apache Cassandra
Artificial Intelligence
Cyber Threat Intelligence
Data Analytics
Google TensorFlow
Predictive Analytics and Modeling
Market Value Increase: 6.7 percent

Foote also mentioned the following skills, which have become increasingly important to employers during the pandemic:

  • Supervised algorithms and unsupervised learning.
  • Cloud-based Linux containers (especially with Kubernetes and Docker).
  • High bandwidth network services.
  • Cloud including cloud architecture and AWS skills.
  • Data-driven teams that merge B.I. with data science, data engineering and machine learning.
  • Remote working/digital collaboration.

Winning Certifications

The average market value for the 508 certifications tracked by Foote Partners declined 2.2 percent during the second quarter. However, the following certifications are bucking the trend, earning premiums equivalent to 10 percent of base salary or more (which determines the ranking) as well as gains in cash-market value during the first six months of the year. 

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)
Market Value Increase: 27.3 percent 

GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN)
Market Value Increase: 30 percent

Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
Market Value Increase: 18.2 percent

[Tie] GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN)
EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)
Market Value Increase: 20 percent

[Tie] GIAC Security Leadership (GSLC)
EC-Council Certified Encryption Specialist (ECES)
Market Value Increase: 9.1 percent

[Tie] Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA)
GIAC Certified Enterprise Defender (GCED)
Certified Scrum Product Owner
Market Value Increase: 22.2 percent

Six Sigma Black Belt
Market Value Increase: 10 percent

[Tie] GIAC Certified Forensics Examiner (GCFE)
Six Sigma Green Belt
Salesforce Certified Technical Architect
Market Value Increase: 25 percent

Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
Market Value Increase: 11.1 percent