job description: The Java programming language was originally developed at Sun Microsystems and has since become one of the world's most pervasive software technologies. Java programmers develop a wide range of applications, both on the server side and facing end-users through desktops, Web browsers and mobile phones.
why you need one: Java's popularity means it lies under the covers of a wide range of enterprise applications and systems. Therefore, skilled Java developers have remained among the industry's hottest properties through the recession, says David Van De Voort, senior principal of IT workforce strategy at the consulting company Mercer. Only SAP and Oracle specialists are in greater demand.
desired skills: The problem with Java is the breadth of applications it is used for and the corresponding wealth of tool and platform choices. This can make it challenging to find developers with just the right skills to fit your company. You may have to pay a premium for someone with the skills that best match the position you're filling.
Overall, however, one of the most important traits in any Java developer is "full knowledge and confidence" with the software development life cycle, from gathering initial project requirements to programming, testing and maintenance, says Tom Hart, executive vice president, operations and technology group, with outsourcer Veritude.
how to find one: Traditional recruiting efforts such as job postings tend to work, but another key tool is employee referrals, Van De Voort says. Hart agrees. "Getting a good Java programmer to recommend a friend is vital," he adds. Veritude is also mining social networking sites to find candidates.
what to look for: Like other types of programmers, a Java developer's role "has evolved over the years from a very technical person to someone who also needs a fair amount of business acumen," Van De Voort says.
Given Java's prevalence in outward-facing Web and mobile applications, as well as on back-end servers, the work that Java developers do "tends to be closer to the customer," he continues. "You do need to demonstrate an understanding of the customer interface and work closely with internal clients on understanding exactly what the application needs to do."
elimination round: There's "nothing very shocking" about the sort of techniques you should use to make a final hiring decision, according to Van De Voort. "The thing that counts is how closely [your qualifications] meet what I need you to do. These days, employers are really interested in bringing on people who will come up to speed very quickly," he says.
salary range: US$60,000 to $140,000
growing your own: There is no question that Java developers can be trained in-house, in Van De Voort's view. "IT professionals who have been working in other environments, platforms or languages can pick up Java and do it fairly quickly. I see that happening fairly often," he says. Hart says that companies can also grab newly-graduated computer science majors and "start training the heck out of them."
Chris Kanaracus writes for the IDG News Service.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.