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Computer, Data-Science Skills Worth Extra Across Job Market, Analysis Finds

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Many of the fastest-growing, highest-paying jobs require computer-science skills and the ability to work with data--but they aren't programming jobs, and they don't require a computer science degree.

That's the conclusion from a recent analysis of roughly 1 million online job postings between 2014 and 2016, conducted by Burning Glass Technologies, a job-market analytics firm, and Oracle Academy, the philanthropic arm of technology giant Oracle.

"The programming and analysis skills that are central to computer science can open doors for job seekers well beyond the traditional confines of the IT department," according to the November 2017 report, titled "Rebooting Jobs: Computer Science Skills Spread in the Job Market."

Two examples: employers are willing to pay a premium for marketing professionals who know how to create and manipulate databases, as well as for designers familiar with software for creating mobile apps and motion graphics.

Schools and the Future of Work

Across the K-12 sector, educators and policymakers are increasingly wrestling with the question of what knowledge and skills today's students need for tomorrow's uncertain economy. Education Week's recent special report on Schools and the Future of Work took an in-depth look at related questions, including how technology is likely to affect the long-term labor market, and the importance of cultivating adaptability and "lifelong learning" in young people.

Computer science is a big part of that discussion. As tech companies, advocates, and two successive U.S. presidents have called attention to the need for "computer science for all," the K-12 sector, colleges and universities, and informal "bootcamps" have all pushed for new legislation, standards, curricula, and tools that can support more computer-science education.

The new Burning Glass/Oracle Academy report offers some nuance on how those efforts are likely to affect young people when they enter the labor market, at least in the near term.

Overall, the groups found a growing share of all occupations now demand some coding or computer-science skills (defined as "specific programming languages, data-analysis techniques completed through computer-based methods, and IT-related skills, such as software development or networking.")

Twenty percent of living-wage jobs now value such skills, and those jobs pay an average of $20,000 more per year than other jobs that don't, the analysis concluded.

"Jobs in health care, life sciences, and marketing all ask for coding skills now," Burning Glass CEO Matt Sigelman said in an interview. "In all corners of the market, we're seeing the same trends."

The 'hybridization' of skills

Much of the Burning Glass/Oracle Academy report, though, focuses not on the job market at large, but on five specific fields: data analysis, engineering and manufacturing, design, marketing, and programming, and information technology.

What's notable about those fields?

All are ripe with in-demand, high-paying jobs, most of which require a mix of specific computer science skills and domain-specific expertise.

"We're seeing a distribution of coding-related tasks across jobs," most of which don't require a computer-science degree, Sigelman said.

Employers in the business field, for example, are willing to pay a premium for data analysts who know the basics of machine learning and can use related techniques to generate insights from large datasets. But just 17 percent of the business analyst positions analyzed required a computer science degree, Burning Glass and Oracle Academy found.

Similarly, marketing employers are looking for employees who know the basics of software engineering, can build and manipulate databases and are familiar with "agile" product-development processes. Employers are also willing to pay extra for graphic designers who are experienced with user-experience design and software tools such as AngularJS.

At the postsecondary level, Sigelman said, such information can help students across a range of majors and disciplines pinpoint the specific computer-science skills that will be most useful and valuable in their desired careers.

As for K-12 students and schools?

The idea, Sigelman said, should be on graduating young people with a foundational understanding of computer science that can help launch them in whatever specific direction they choose as they get closer to work.

"In order for students to have a [living-wage] job in the 21st century, they will need the modes of thought and analysis that align with computer-science education," he said. "But we can't say right now, 'Hey, this specific skill or coding language will add $10,000 a year to your salary post-graduation.'"


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