Want a pay boost? Pick up a new skill.
Which one? Go, Scala, and big data skills like Apache Spark and Hadoop are all good places to start, according to PayScale, a salary-tracking site for IT and other industries. PayScale used its pay-tracking database to determine which job skills provide the largest average boost in pay, and presented the results in its 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report, "Leveling Up: How to Win in the Skills Economy."
Go and Scala help bring it on home
It's no surprise that IT skills were among the most highly valued; that's been consistently true, even during the economy's rockier years. Of the 25 skills ranked by PayScale that provide an average pay raise of 11.4 percent or better, all but two of the top 10 were IT skills.
The biggest winner, which delivers an average pay jump of 22.2 percent, was Scala, the functional language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine and is being retooled to run more directly on its host hardware.
Google's Go language also cracked the top five. Coming in at No. 3, it brings users a 20 percent pay boost. Ruby slipped in at No. 20 with a 12.3 percent boost.
Python didn't make the top 25 list but did show up elsewhere in PayScale's surveys. It was shown to deliver varying pay-raise levels, depending on the job title. For example, in a management function (as a "software development manager"), Python provided an average boost of 14.2 percent, and in sciences, around an 11.6 percent boost. But when Python was used in jobs under the "Architecture and Engineering" rubric, it only provided an 8.2 percent boost.
Machine learning and cloud in the mix
Any skills that were involved in machine learning or big data seem guaranteed to bring home bonus bacon. Natural language processing (NLP) ranked No. 4 (with a 17.9 percent boost), the ever popular Apache Spark was No. 5 (with 17.7 percent), and the catch-all "algorithm development" was No. 6 (with 17.3 percent). MapReduce, Apache Cassandra, and Hadoop ranked below the top 10.
Machine learning as a general subject only ranked No. 22 (with an 11.9 percent boost). That might reflect that the term itself is broad and overarching, and it factors in a great many jobs, with some commanding better pay than others.
Cloud computing only figured in the top 25 in a single, generic reference to Amazon Web Services (ranked No. 18, with a 12.6 percent boost). For AWS to be the sole example of cloud tech isn't too surprising -- for many people AWS is the cloud, and it commands fierce loyalty from those who have chosen it.
Mobile tech appeared in the ranking represented primarily by Apple technologies. The iOS SDK (No. 24, with an 11.4 percent boost), Objective-C (No. 23, with 11.7 percent), and Apple Xcode (No. 14, with 13 percent) were the big three. Apple's Swift language didn't make the list -- it's relatively new -- although at its rate of uptake, that's bound to change next year.
Not all of the top IT-related skills are pathbreakers. Cisco UCCE/IPCC -- as old-school an IT skill as it gets --is a perfect example in the No. 2 slot, with a 21.1 percent increase.