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Ed Frauenheim

Staff Writer, CNET

Pay linked to specific technology abilities has dropped this year overall, but several hot skills are paying off for workers, according to a report released Thursday.

Premium pay for certified skills has slipped 0.5 percent this year, and pay for noncertified skills has fallen 4.2 percent, research firm Foote Partners said. But pay for certified networking skills has risen 5.9 percent, while pay for noncertified skills in the area of messaging, e-mail and “groupware” has increased 4.5 percent.

Skills pay is getting a boost from fears related to retaining employees, failures of so-called “offshoring” projects and aggressive hiring by the consulting industry, according to Foote.

“Our research has found unmistakable evidence of a turnaround in pay for several skills over the past six months–in particular those associated with networking, messaging, groupware and applications development,” company President David Foote said in a statement. “Overall, our findings indicate the reemergence of talent wars–but on a smaller scale than in the past and more industry-focused, particularly the IT professional services business.”

According to Foote’s research, “hot tech skills and certifications to watch” over the next year include voice over Internet Protocol networking, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional rating and Extensible Markup Language (XML) expertise.

The report adds to a mix of conflicting information about the job scene for information technology professionals, who weathered massive job cuts earlier this decade. Much of the data is positive: Online ads for tech jobs have increased, IT services companies have been hiring, and analysts are warning companies to take steps to retain prized workers as the job market tightens.

But not all the news is sunny. For example, technology workers’ confidence in the job market fell in November, according to a study released Wednesday.

Foote’s research comes from data supplied by IT, business and human resources executives covering 45,000 North American and European IT workers, and 1,860 private- and public-sector organizations.

Thursday’s report focused on the amount of an employee’s pay tied to technological skills. The pay can come in the form of a bonus or an adjustment to an employee’s base pay. Foote considers both skills validated by certifications, such as the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer credential, and skills in cases where the worker lacks a formal certification.