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Trends in tech: 5 growth areas

Employment in the technology industry is expected to grow at nearly five times the UK average over the next decade.

If you're an IT professional looking for your next role, the future looks bright. Employment in the technology industry is expected to grow at nearly five times the UK average over the next decade.

The vast majority (91%) of IT leaders are planning to increase tech investment in the near term, with new projects including business intelligence, mobile solutions, application development, information risk and security, and virtualisation initiatives, according to the Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide.

The continuing skills gap means that experienced, niche technologists are able to demand the highest salaries. In case you were wondering, the roles UK CIOs currently find most difficult to fill are in software development, security, networking, applications development and data/database management.

If you're thinking about specialising, here are five tech areas tipped for growth in 2015 and beyond.

Risk-based security and self-protection

High profile cyber-attacks on the likes of Sony Pictures have illustrated the need for companies to tackle security challenges head-on. It's not just huge corporations at risk. With the proliferation of 'ransomware' viruses, which lock and encrypt systems and demand a ransom fee to recover the material, organisations of all types and sizes are turning to cyber security companies.

Some 93% of CIOs who responded to the Robert Half survey indicated that the number of security threats detected by their firms has either increased or stayed the same in in the past year. As a result, an average of nearly one fifth (19%) of a company's IT budget is being allocated to security.

'Security is a huge focus right now,' says ThoughtWorks recruiter Amy Lynch. 'People are increasingly aware of the risks they face. Part of this involves understanding the business and data you hold, the threat landscape and capability of the attacker, and having a technical understanding of the systems you operate.

'One of the roles we have at ThoughtWorks, for example, is lead ethical hacker. Other roles that are in demand include product architect strategist, security analyst, and security engineer.'

Edward Bell, Managing Director of Cordant Dynamic, a specialist recruiter for technology professionals, points out that organisations will increasingly recognise that it's not possible to provide a 100% secure environment, adding: 'As companies begin to apply more-sophisticated risk assessment and mitigation, employment in this area should grow rapidly.'

Advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics

Big data has made an impact on all sectors of business, and as a result, skilled professionals are able to demand some of the best salaries in the sector.

'Analytics will take centre stage as the volume of data generated increases and vast pools of data are available to be analysed,' says Edward.

'Organisations need to manage how best to filter the huge amounts of data coming from the IoT (Internet of Things), social media and wearable devices, and then deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time. Analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere, and will require roles such as data and Business Analysts.'

Mobile and cloud computing

As the convergence of mobile devices and cloud computing continues, demand for centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered to any device will increase, which means significant job opportunities.

No longer an emerging technology, cloud computing has now passed its tipping point, with 82% of IT leaders indicating that the economic benefit outweighs the potential risk.

To manage workloads associated with cloud technology, many businesses have upskilled their existing staff, allowing them to expand their current roles, which has aided in succession and retention planning strategies. Others have been hiring contractors to manage initiatives, with many transferring knowledge to permanent teams throughout the course of the project engagement

'More companies are choosing to move their daily business services to the cloud, and need to tailor cloud services to their own operations,' says Amy. 'As a result, cloud specialists are in short supply, and we're seeing experienced professionals able to demand increasingly high salaries.'

3D Printing

The rise of 3D printing is expected to create a whole new category of jobs. From designers to non-technical positions, many jobs that will be created or get a boost from the technology.

'Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 98 percent in 2015, followed by a doubling of unit shipments in 2016,' says Edward. '3D printing will reach a tipping point over the next three years as the market for relatively low-cost 3D printing devices continues to grow rapidly and industrial use expands significantly.

'New industrial, biomedical and consumer applications will continue to demonstrate that 3D printing is a real, viable and cost-effective means to reduce costs through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and short-run manufacturing.'

Smart machines

Smart machines were once the stuff of science fiction, but futurologists suggest that robots and drones will replace up to a third of all workers by 2025.

'Deep analytics applied to an understanding of context allows systems to understand their environment, learn for themselves, and act autonomously,' says Edward.

'Prototype autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors already exist and will evolve rapidly, ushering in a new age of machine helpers.'

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