The Speed of Skill Change: What Colleges Need to Keep Up | Burning Glass Technologies

Preparing students for the workforce requires higher education to keep up with a constantly moving target, because skills in demand are constantly shifting, even for jobs that have been around a long time.

Consider, for example, research on changing job skills conducted by Harvard economists using Burning Glass Technologies job data. We’ve created the chart below based on that analysis, showing how much certain jobs have changed since 2007. Employers have significantly changed what they require in job postings for these roles.

skills in demand fast changing professional occupations

The key question for higher education is, can colleges keep up? When enrollment marketers and counselors are talking to prospective students, do they have a real picture of where careers are going?

The challenge is acute because of how new skills reshape the job market. New skills create new jobs of course: there was no need for mobile app developers until the smartphone was invented. But new skills also reshape current jobs. Look at the list above again: all of those fast-changing professions are roles that have been around for many years.

You can see this pattern in the growing demand for the ability to analyze and manage data. Big data has certainly created new jobs, such as data scientist and data engineer. Yet Burning Glass analysis shows that two-thirds of the impact of data skills will be in existing fields like marketing, supply chain management, and other roles that require data-based decision making. There’s a reason why data skills carry a salary premium across a range of careers.

skills in demand salary premium data

The speed with which data skills have overtaken these jobs also makes them difficult to spot. In 2010, there were only a handful of data science job postings, most of them in academic or Wall Street. And most of the tools now used in data science, such as Tableau, didn’t even exist. So even if an institution was farsighted enough to have a data science program back then, it might well have been teaching skills that would rapidly become out of date.

To keep up with these changes—and to show the value of a degree to prospective students—enrollment marketers have to keep a much closer eye on the job market. With more than 40% of college graduates underemployed in their first job, showing your institution’s programs provide a smooth path to a career can make all the difference. Burning Glass products like Career Insight™ allow enrollment marketers to show how their programs keep up with the market and how that can give graduates an edge.

To find out more about Career Insight™ and Burning Glass education products, contact us today.