Which Data Center Skills are In Demand?19 min read

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Blog

2023 saw big changes in the skills market. Formerly high-paying salaries fell in demand while others surged. So, what were the year’s most sought-after data center and technology skills? How are salaries keeping up with inflation? Are pay rates for AI and machine learning in line with the current AI technology frenzy? And, which skills are most likely to be in demand in the data center in 2024?

There are a number of reports around listing the key skills. While their findings vary, they all have AI in common. Here are some of the highlights:

According to Skillable surveys, the data center skills most in demand are IT infrastructure library/ITIL (53%), AI trust, risk and security management (AI TRiSM) (51%), composite AI (46%),  IT service management/ITSM (45%), and generative AI (44%), database management (40%), artificial intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) (37%), and database design (33%).

“Tech workers who get these fundamental skills right create a strong foundation to work with emerging technologies like AI and the Internet of Things (IoT),” said Sarah Danzl, Chief Marketing Officer at Skillable. “Hands-on training should be required today, as it’s not only the most effective learning modality and only way to truly validate that tech workers can do the required tasks.”

AI skills come up in study after study. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Outlook Report, named AI and machine learning (ML) specialists as the fastest-growing job segment. A Gartner poll showed more than half of executives have generative AI projects in the works, with 10% in production. And the Skillsoft IT Skills and Salary Report found AI and ML to be the biggest areas of focus for IT leaders, with 43% saying their teams’ AI and ML skill sets were relatively poor. A third of them admitted to struggling to find qualified AI and ML talent.

“With AI accelerating disruption at an unprecedented pace, the need for workforce training has never been more obvious and consequential,” said Orla Daly, Chief Information Officer, Skillsoft. “Organizations are at a critical point where they need to be deliberate and proactive about building skills and capabilities – especially related to AI – or risk falling behind in the coming year.”

Research from Gartner poll largely aligns with this. Foote found the highest paying non-certified skills to include AIOps, MLOps, other AI skills in general, big data analytics, DevSecOps, risk analytics, security architecture, Apache Zookeeper, and neural networks. These are hot areas for data center staff to consider.

“The deepening threat landscape and rapidly evolving high momentum technologies like A.I. are forcing organizations to move more quickly in filling specific gaps in their job architectures”, said David Foote, chief analyst and research officer of Foote Partners. “Employers have lately been investing heavily in A.I. in both salaried jobs and skills premiums.”

The company has recently added seven new A.I. and machine learning job titles to its IT Professional Salary Survey and several A.I. related skills including: Convolutional Neural Network; Artificial Intelligence Model Optimization; Computer Vision; Stable Diffusion; AI Chatbot, Midjourney; ChatGPT; and Large Language Model/LLM tuning.

“All of these are averaging cash pay premiums equivalent to between 12% to 20” of base salary,” notes Foote. “Six A.I. certifications were just added this month averaging between 6% and 12% in cash pay premiums. We are also seeing data privacy skills and certifications surging in market value for the first time, signaling concerns about escalating cyber attacks and concerns about compliance with new laws and regulations.”

Among the certifications showing a pay gain of 10% or more over a six-month period in 2023, Foote Partners listed GIAC Security Leadership, Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge, Certificate of Governance on Enterprise IT, GIAC Security Operations Manager, Salesforce Certified Technical Architect, AWS Certified DevOps Engineer, and Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect.

Cloud Skills Remain in High Demand

Those possessing certifications in the cloud can expect to be well rewarded – and on the radar of headhunters. Cloud qualifications by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and others are in high demand. Anyone who can combine hands-on data center experience with top level cloud skills will be in a strong position to pick and choose job options and negotiate a high salary.

Among the top paying and most popular IT certifications listed by Skillsoft are: Google Cloud’s Professional Cloud Security Engineer, Microsoft Certified – Azure Fundamentals, ITIL 4 Foundation, Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, Cisco CCNA, Google Cloud Professional – Cloud Architect, AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, Nutanix Certified Professional – Multicloud Infrastructure, CompTIA A+, Google Cloud Associate – Cloud Engineer, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, and AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional. Just about all of them pay in excess of $150,000 on average and Google Cloud’s Professional Cloud Architect certification pays more than $200,000.

“Cloud and cybersecurity certifications remain longstanding perennial favorites,” said Greg Fuller, Senior Director, Skillsoft’s Codecademy enterprise business. “Looking at IT talent and skills as a whole, demand far outweighs supply.”

Cybersecurity Remains Lucrative

Many of the top paying certificates in the Skillsoft list were for cybersecurity. These include ISACA’s Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC), CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and ISC2 Certified in Cybersecurity. Data center personnel are encouraged to brush up on their security skills in the months ahead.

“The cybersecurity landscape is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by a significant shortage of cybersecurity talent and the retirement of professionals well-versed in legacy technologies like Active Directory,” said John Hernandez, President & GM, Quest Software.

Areas in Decline

Not everything is rosy on the data center skills and certification front. Indeed’s 2024 Jobs and Hiring Trends Report found that job postings for software development, information design and documentation, IT operations, and help desk are in steep decline. Software development listings, for example, are down by more than 50% at the end of 2023 compared to the previous year. Now is not the best time to be a developer.

Some of this drop in value may be a result of the upsurge in AI and generative AI. Indeed noted that these technologies are starting to reconfigure some areas of the job market. In support of this is the fact that job postings mentioning terms related to generative AI surged by 20 times over the course of 2023.

Foote Partners also found declines in some skills and certifications. These included areas such as applications development, programming languages, databases, project management, process certification, web/eCommerce development, SAP, enterprise business applications, messaging and communications, IT architecture, and systems and networking.

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Immersive software, innovative sensors and expert thermal services to monitor, manage, and maximize the power and cooling infrastructure for critical data center environments.


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Drew Robb

Drew Robb

Writing and Editing Consultant and Contractor

Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications, including eSecurity Planet and CIO Insight. He is also the editor-in-chief of an international engineering magazine.

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