Head to the big city for Java jobs

If one of your considerations in planning a .NET or J2EE project is finding developers with the right skill set, your location may be a factor.

That’s according to Pam Gleeson, director of recruiting for Number Six Software, who is based in Virginia herself but recruits developers nationwide for Number Six consulting projects. The market for .NET vs. Java employment shows some interesting regional differences, she says. “It depends on which part of the country you’re looking at,” Gleeson says. One interesting trend she’s found: “The commercial side in the Midwest has embraced the .NET market much more aggressively than any other area.”

Looking at half a dozen major job markets, Gleeson says, shows that openings for Java developers outnumbered .NET openings by 3 to 1 in most markets, including Washington, D.C., and Boston (San Francisco runs about 2.5 to 1, Java to .NET openings). In the Midwest, however, Java and .NET jobs are closer to even, with 1.5 Java job openings to every .NET opening.

Gleeson, who’s been a technical recruiter for about 20 years, predicts that the imbalance will shift gradually as .NET further expands into the market. For now, she says the discrepancy between Java and .NET job openings simply reminds her of the lag time she’s seen with “any kind of emerging technology,” in which there’s a delay before adoption.

In terms of what you can expect to pay for developers, simple supply and demand rules the market. “.NET salaries are running 10 to 15 percent higher” in some markets, Gleeson says, simply because there aren’t as many .NET developers to fill available jobs. “We’ve had less demand here [in Washington, D.C.] for .NET, so that makes it more difficult to find those people. That’s market-conditional.”

That may change as some Java developers read what may be the writing on the wall and expand their skill sets to include .NET. Again, Gleeson sees a familiar pattern over the years that reminds her of COBOL programmers moving to client-server technologies, “then into PowerBuilder, then over into Visual Basic, then into C++…”

It’s possible that there will be a growing need for .NET developers, perhaps soon. Gleeson says she’s seeing more .NET business now than a year ago, and “I think in a year or two, you’ll see even more demand for .NET people and .NET positions.”
For one thing, there are signs that the federal government, long a Java stronghold, is starting to embrace .NET in some areas. “Here [in Virginia],” Gleeson says, “we’re driven by the federal government. With every emerging technology, I’ve seen the federal government take 18 months to catch up to the private side.”

A good strategy for a manager having trouble finding just the right skill set, Gleeson suggests, might be to hire available experienced developers in your area, or hold onto the ones you have, and then make an investment in professional development. “Consider [training] experienced people,” Gleeson says. “They probably can retool even faster than someone coming out of school, since they understand the business implications… Maybe augment your staff with one great hire, a go-to person with [a critical] skill,” she suggests, and plan to retrain the remainder of the staff.

Back to feature: There’s More to Java vs. .NET Than Technology

About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at [email protected].