Industry watchers expect to see network skills in higher demand as IT spending increases and companies look to better support for wireless LANs, VOIP and IP-based networks.

Forrester Research recently released data that showed the number of network systems and data communications analysts surged by 11 percent from 2005 to 2006, and the research firm expects that number to grow another 6 percent in 2007 and 6 percent by 2008. With some 178,000 IT workers filling those positions in 2006, Forrester says the market will demand close to 198,000 network systems and data communications analysts in 2008.

"This reflects the greater immediacy of investment in 2005 and 2006 in IP-based networks, wireless LANs and voice over IP," the report reads.

The number of network and computer systems administrators also increased by 7 percent in 2006, up from a 3.9 percent increase in 2005. The research firm predicts the position will continue to grow by 6.6 percent in 2007 and another 6.2 percent in 2008. That would grow the number of those positions from about 275,500 to over 311,000 by 2008.

Demand for database administrators went up close to 11 percent in 2006 as well, and Forrester expects to see another 5.6 percent increase in the number of database positions in 2007 and 6.7 percent more for 2008.

Companies are also expected to invest more staffing dollars in computer and information research scientists going forward. The job title saw a 10-percent jump in 2006, and Forrester says it will continue to grow by 6.3 percent in 2007 and then taper down a bit to 5.6 percent growth in 2008.

"With new technologies emerging to support digital business architectures, large companies are hiring the chief technology officers who can help them navigate this shift," the report explains.

IT positions that seem to be falling off in popularity include computer systems analysts, computer programming and computer operators. While the number of computer systems analysts grew less than 3 percent from 2005 to 2006, the number of jobs for computer programmers and computer operators declined in both 2005 and 2006.

Forrester predicts the number of positions will continue to decrease; computer programmers will drop 3.7 percent in 2007 and 3.5 percent in 2008, while computer operators will take a bigger hit at 7 percent decline in 2007 and 6.4 percent in 2008.

"We expect that demand will rise for computer systems analysts as SOA becomes more pressing in 2007 and 2008," the report reads. "[Computer programming positions] have been affected by a combination of greater use of purchased software and offshore custom development" and [computer operator jobs] have been affected by the "growing adoption of data centre automation tools."