by Kayla Matthews, tech journalist and writer

With the end of 2018 nearing, many people are starting to think about how to improve their circumstances in 2019. Often, that means entering a tech career or acquiring skills for better marketability.

This list provides some excellent starting points for people interested in a first-time tech career or a tech career change. The skills here fill immediate needs and have notable growth prospects, as well. For those with a goal of landing a tech job in the year ahead, these are six skills employers need most.

1. Data Analysis
According to a forecast by the World Economic Forum, data analysts and scientists represented the top emerging careers. Although the findings made projections through 2022, there’s no harm in people getting prepared now and beefing up their data analysis skills.

A study by IBM expects a 364,000 increase in the number of openings for data professionals, suggesting people with data analysis skills could anticipate excellent job security. Moreover, many data analysis roles have three-figure salaries, meaning there’s a substantial payoff for getting the necessary training.

2. Software Development
Information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 24 percent increase in job market growth for software developers. That’s much faster than the average growth rate of only 7 percent. Like the salary expectations for data analysts, software developers can also earn over $100,000 per year, according to BLS data.

The demand for people with software development skills exists in the United Kingdom, too. A look at job postings in the region for 2017 revealed 242,020 postings requiring software developers or programmers — more than any other tech position examined during the research.

That study also polled tech executives to get their opinions on the tech skills shortage. Most thought 2018 would be the same as or worse than 2017. Since the skills shortage is not improving, and there is a demand for people with development backgrounds, these things bode well for job seekers in 2019.

3. Cybersecurity
As the global society becomes increasingly high-tech and connected, the potential attack points for cybercriminals increase, too. ISACA, a nonprofit group, released a report that predicts a cybersecurity skills shortage comprising two million open positions by 2019.

Addressing the gap is crucial, especially considering the growing number of new threats like ransomware attacks on cloud providers and dangers that compromise Internet of Things devices.

Salary data from PayScale.com reports cybersecurity analysts in the U.S. earn an average of $75,794 annually. Although educational institutions get blamed for not making cybersecurity careers seem attractive or accessible, it’s essential for workplaces to assist their workers by providing cybersecurity upskilling opportunities.

4. Cloud Computing

Gartner analysts believe the worldwide public cloud computing market will grow 17.3 percent in 2019. That percentage reflects the continuation of an upward trend expected to last through 2021.

Also, research from 2016 showed experience with certain cloud computing services could boost a person’s salary possibilities to more than $113,000 annually. Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon CloudFormation were two with the highest earnings potential.

These findings collectively emphasize why it’s so useful for people to consider learning more about cloud computing in 2019. The efforts could cause long-term gains in overall competitiveness.

5. Artificial Intelligence

Identifying the severity of the artificial intelligence (AI) talent shortage is not always straightforward, but analysts around the world tend to agree one exists. When JF Gagné published The Global AI Talent Report 2018, it attempted to find people who were academic experts in AI, working in the field or both.

The findings indicated most people with AI skills either live in the United States or moved there for work purposes after getting trained in other countries. It also found the government investments for AI in China were more extensive than those the U.S. government contributed. Additionally, Asia and Europe have substantially fewer AI professionals than the U.S.

Since there are not enough AI experts to fill open positions, some well-qualified candidates earn salaries of more than $1 million, particularly at big tech companies. People who are eager to expand their tech skills may be doing so in hopes of salary increases — as 62 percent who responded to a recent survey mentioned. The massive earnings potential makes AI roles especially attractive.

6. Networking

Networking professionals help keep all IT components running smoothly, so it’s not surprising they’ll likely be necessary far beyond 2019. The BLS predicts an increase of 24,000 for these jobs through 2026, and a 6 percent growth rate during that time. Also, BLS data shows the 2017 average salary was $81,100. However, that amount could increase, depending on a person’s industry and experience.

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