10 great job markets for techies

The New York area, Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley each have thousands of tech openings, according to a leading job board. For those with the hottest skills, pay is setting post-bubble records.

By Anne Fisher, Fortune senior writer

(Fortune) -- No question about it, technology careers suffer from an image problem. A study by Dice.com (www.dice.com), a leading job board that's exclusively for techies, says that 94% of tech professionals are happy in their work, and 88% would recommend a tech career to others. They're far more concerned with issues like keeping their skills up-to-date (82%) than with outsourcing (41%) or layoffs (37%). Yet, the study says, "those outside the industry don't see technology as appealing when compared to other industries."

That's partly because the 2001 recession hit the tech world particularly hard. "When the technology bubble of the late '90s burst, there were lots of layoffs, and many of those who lost their jobs didn't have enough experience to find new ones as the technology industry cooled," observes Dale Welch, a partner in Winter, Wyman & Co. (www.winterwyman.com), a Waltham, Mass., recruiting firm.

As a result, young people stayed away from the field in droves, which has led to what Welch calls a "lost generation" of techies. So many frustrated job seekers moved on to other careers that "we're facing a dearth of software engineers and developers with 2 to 8 years' experience," Welch says. That's likely to continue: The number of college students majoring in computer science has dropped 40% in the past decade.

Meanwhile, the tech job market has come roaring back almost to its pre-2001 heights, and skilled techies can pick and choose among job offers. Pay has gone up accordingly. A new survey of 1,000 tech employers by staffing firm Yoh (www.yoh.com) shows tech wages overall at their highest point since the dot-com bubble burst. Tech consultants now command an average of $83.72 per hour, hardware engineers earn $75.68, and ETL developers pull down $66.52. (To see the full study, go to www.yoh.com/YohIndex.)

But as with any job boom, some geographical locations, and some sets of skills, are hotter than others. Based on the number of openings posted on its site earlier this month, sorted by zip code, here is Dice.com's list of the top 10 metropolitan areas for tech jobs:

1. New York/New Jersey - 11,044 postings

2. Washington, D.C. - 7,971 postings

3. Silicon Valley - 6,755 postings

4. Los Angeles - 4,546 postings

5. Chicago - 4,241 postings

6. Boston - 4,167 postings

7. Philadelphia - 3,156 postings

8. Dallas - 3,084 postings

9. Atlanta - 2,987 postings

10. Seattle - 2,309 postings

The skills most in demand, again based on the number of job listings on the site: among operating systems, Windows and Unix, with 16,573 and 14,870 job postings respectively. Oracle database experience is wanted for 17,354 jobs, and SQL for 14,880. The hottest programming languages are J2EE/Java, with 13,690 job postings, and C/C++, with 11,862.

Overall, Dice.com reports a 119% jump in tech job postings over the past two years. Says Dale Welch at Winter, Wyman: "Competition for tech talent is intense, and it doesn't look like it will lessen anytime soon." For talented techies battered by years of layoffs and cutbacks, it's about time. Top of page