Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The latest IT Job trends report from the North Carolina Technology Association reports that advertised information technology job openings are at two-year highs across the state. Plus, the IT jobs picture is one of the brightest in the still-struggling private sector where unemployment remains in high double digits – if you count people who have given up looking for work.

So where can you find a job if you are looking – or perhaps hoping to transfer to greener pastures?

The Skinny talked with Michael Farasy, director of business operations for tech talen firm TEKsystems, to get some answers.

What are the hottest emerging skill demands – big systems and virtualization – and why?

TEKsystems’ IT Executive Outlook Survey revealed some of the hottest, most in demand skills that IT leaders find it difficult to fill positions for. Enterprise Architects and Cloud Architects are by far the most difficult IT skill sets to fill with over 65 percent of IT leaders rating the difficulty a seven or above on a one to 10 scale.

Other hot skills that emerged from the survey included, BI Specialists, Security Specialist, Network Architects, .NET Architects, ERP Techno Functional Analysts and Database Administrators.

Sales and marketing are up by well over 200 percent – why? Does this imply more sales opportunities and thus that IT sector spend is increasing?

IT sector spend is increasing and should continue to increase through the end of 2011. In our recent IT Executive Outlook Survey of IT decision makers, TEKsystems found that nearly 50 percent expect their IT budgets to increase in 2011 compared to 2010.

Demand for systems engineering and support continues to be hot – what does that tell you about the market?

It tells us that hiring and project initiatives are robust and firms aren’t necessarily letting the economic downturn prevent them from moving forward implementing new programs. Systems Engineers typically work on large, complex projects and coordinate efforts of lower-level engineers which again points to robust growth. Large projects could include some of the hot topics in IT such as ERP and Cloud implementation projects or those of a similar vein that impact the entire enterprise.

Job openings are now higher than in August – the high point for 2010 – and are quadruple the total of March 09 – so is the IT job market truly back? Is further expansion ahead?

The Q1 2011 IT unemployment rate was reported at 4.7 percent a YOY decrease of 1.4 percent, which would indicate a tightening of the IT job market and an increase in demand for skilled IT workers. Although the IT unemployment rate will most likely remain extremely low throughout 2011 we could see an ebb and flow as uncertainty permeates the market place and firms continue to hire with caution.

Also found was that IT budgets for companies in the Financial Services, Healthcare, Retail and IT industries are significantly more likely to increase in 2011.

Additionally our survey found that the majority of IT leaders expect IT salaries to increase in 2011, suggesting companies are aware of the competition for specialized skill sets and are willing to make investments in top talent. Among the skill sets expected to have the most dramatic salary increases in 2011 are Project Managers, Security Specialists, Database Administrators and Enterprise Architects.

Other key points uncovered in our survey include the types of initiatives companies are planning to implement in the coming year. Demand will be highest in Mobile Application initiatives where 54 percent of IT leaders cite implementation plans over the next 12 months. Business Intelligence and Desktop Virtualization projects follow closely, cited by 45 percent and 42 percent of the survey respondents respectively.

(For a detailed look at the IT jobs report, read here.

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