The 9 most endangered species in IT

The IT job landscape is evolving quickly. Here's how to avoid IT extinction

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Hardware has gotten so inexpensive that it's cheaper to replace something that's broken than to waste time and money fixing it, adds Dennis Madderra, chief operations officer for Simpletech Solutions, a managed IT services firm.

"With workstation prices falling, and more and more applications running from virtualized platforms or Web-based interfaces, waiting for a tech to replace a failed power supply or video card is quickly becoming more expensive than just replacing the box entirely," he says. "Why not replace the box with a freshly imaged computer and be off and running in minutes rather than hours?"

How to avoid extinction: Consider taking a horizontal leap to server maintenance, says Madderra. "Anyone who can quickly diagnose hardware issues and errors on a server will have work for years to come."

Endangered IT species No. 4: The Lesser-Spotted System Administrator (Networkus rebooti)Like worker ants or soldier bees, System Administrators have played a small but vital role in the IT ecosphere by keeping the lights on and the bits flowing. Now their numbers are in peril, as admin jobs that haven't been outsourced already may soon find a home in the cloud.

Jerry Kelly, North American CIO for holding company Diversified Agency Services, says email admins, for one, may soon be found only in museums.

"Ask any startup if they want to build and manage their own email server," says Kelly. "They will stare at you like you're crazy. Most IT directors want to get email out of their environments even more. If your company hasn't moved email to either a private or public cloud, there is a good chance they will soon. Either way, the traditional email admin role at a company will end up like the dodo."

Low-level administrator jobs will be tougher to come by, particularly at small and midsize firms, says Brian Finnegan, associate professor and faculty chair of IT at Peirce College in Philadelphia. While they won't disappear entirely, these tasks will migrate to cloud companies where the demands are higher and the competition stiffer.

"Network, storage, and related infrastructure administration jobs -- the kind of work that keeps the bits flowing through the pipes in individual organizations -- are available with the cloud providers, but you need to be ready for the big leagues," he says. "Those that do remain will require engineer- and architect-grade skills. Working in the server room at your small or midsize company is a world apart from working in a server room at Google or Rackspace."

How to avoid extinction: Become a security wonk or a data analytics expert, two tech fields that are flourishing and will for some time to come, says Purdue's McCartney.

Endangered IT species No. 5: The Pink-Crested Credentialist (Certificatus maximus)Trailing a long list of technical certifications behind it like a vestigial tail, the Credentialist can still be found in its natural habitat -- usually the HR department of a company it wants to work for. But it has been marginalized by IT pros with actual skills and experience, says Mike Meikle, CEO of the Hawkthorne Group, a boutique management and technology consulting firm.

"This species is known for taking so many certification courses you can't figure out how they manage to get actual work done -- besides installing Transcender software," he adds.

The days when you could slap some Cisco or Microsoft certifications onto your ré³µmé ¡nd write your own ticket are long over, says Lenny Fuchs, owner of My IT Department, which provides contract tech services to small businesses.

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