The most in-demand careers for the IT sector in 2021

Labour economists and tech recruiters are expecting a surge in hiring within the field in 2021.

By U2B Staff 

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Change is constant within the IT sector due to technological developments made every day and new technologies entering the market at rapid paces. With this being said, IT organisations all over the world struggle to find enough talent to meet this demand. 

The talent gap increases the pressure on the sector’s hiring practices and impacts the abilities of organisations to offer competitive salaries in a tight market. Furthermore, 2020 was a year unlike any other. Last year, we saw the global COVID-19 pandemic put the economy on hold, forcing millions into either working entirely remotely. Some have lost their jobs all together. 

A sharper focus on digital transformation, driven by the ongoing impact of the pandemic, has created clear priorities for the 2021 talent market in IT. 

“As we enter 2021, more companies than ever are embracing digital transformation. Part of this has to do with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many companies to reevaluate everything from their current tech stack to how and where their employees work,” said Art Zeile, chief executive officer of DHI Group, Inc., the parent company of technology career website Dice.


Many IT leaders will focus their resources on two critical areas – cloud and cybersecurity. This is “largely to ensure they can both fend off attack vectors that are different and more plentiful in a work-from-home environment and move to cloud-based applications where they can,” Zeile says.

Dice also reports that IT hiring will be happening on a number of fronts this year. As of the third quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate for technology professionals (3.5%) was lower than the national average and many large organisations were looking to fill more tech roles. More than 68% of the top 50 technology employers had created more job postings than the second quarter.

There is no doubt that across industries, the impacts of 2020 will be felt well into 2021, affecting the hiring strategies set in place for the year.  However, with a new year comes new trends and especially in the IT sector, it is crucial to keep up and stay informed. Here are some of the most in-demand tech positions that will need to be filled this year:

Artificial intelligence specialist

Topping LinkedIn’s recent Top 15 Emerging Jobs in the US list with an annual hiring growth rate of 74%, is the position of AI specialist. As LinkedIn explains: “AI and Machine Learning (ML) have both become synonymous with innovation, and our data show that’s more than just buzz.” A few different titles in this space, each with a very specific set of skills, has and will be in demand across industries.

Enterprises need an efficient way to scale their practices for AI implementation to accelerate their returns on investment, says Dr. Ryohei Fujimaki, founder and CEO of dotData, a maker of automated machine learning software.

Business intelligence-focused AI specialists will become important “as organisations face increased pressure to optimise their workflows, more and more businesses will begin asking BI teams to develop and manage AI/ML models,” Fujimakin says.

Software developer

Software development professionals are emerging as MVPs for the digital age. “Companies are seeking developers of all types to create new applications and software services to support the business and, in turn, provide a competitive advantage,” notes Robert Half Technology’s Salary Guide 2021.

Python developers, software development managers, back- and front-end developers, and data warehouse developers were all in higher demand as 2020 was drawing to a close, according to Dice’s analysis of job listings.

“Given the momentum behind those roles and other similar developer and manager roles, it seems likely that employers will continue to recruit these roles into 2021,” says Michelle Marian, CMO of DHI Group, Inc., parent company of Dice.

Data engineer

“Both tech and non-tech organisations know the value of software engineers and data scientists, but many are just starting to realise that they also need to hire the middlemen: data engineers,” says Scott Stephenson, founder of deep learning company Deepgram

“Data engineers are the individuals who capture raw data, clean, categorise it at times, and provide it to data scientists who then build incredible AI models.”

Data engineering nabbed the eighth spot on LinkedIn’s emerging jobs list, with an annual hiring growth rate of 35% since 2015. LinkedIn notes that industries from retail to automotive are “snapping up this hard-to-hire talent.”


Cybersecurity architect or engineer

The pandemic-fueled rush to digitise everything from supply chains, employee experience to customer channels has increased the cyber threat attack surface. LinkedIn lists cybersecurity specialists as the tenth emerging role in the US, with an annual growth rate of 30%. IT leaders will need security professionals who can analyse and address issues holistically, says Paul Farnsworth, chief technology officer of DHI Group. 

“The pandemic has forced many companies to accelerate their adoption of cloud-based services. For certain employers, that also meant automating processes as quickly as possible in order to ease the workloads of administrators and managers,” adds Farnsworth. .

Cloud architect

The rapid shift to remote work forced many organisations to rapidly adopt additional cloud services, applications, and infrastructure. In some cases, these implementations outpaced the recruiting of necessary cloud talent to plan and manage it all.

Robert Half Technology points to the cloud architect as one of the critical roles for IT in the year ahead. While the average salary for a cloud architect in the US will be US$146,000, these in-demand IT pros can earn upwards of US$200,000 a year. Pay can escalate as much as 40% in technology hubs and metro areas like San Francisco and New York.