Digital Forbes

Data: The Core Competency To A Growing Set Of Occupations


Rob Sentz, Contributor

June 12, 2014

Let’s try something. You’re playing Pictionary. You select doctor. What will you draw? A stethoscope, obviously. If you get painter, you’ll sketch a paintbrush. Judge? A gavel. Accountant? A big calculator. Web developer? Computer, maybe some headphones.

You get the point: We identify occupations with the requisite tools of the trade. And these are all familiar occupations with familiar tools. But in today’s economy, there’s a whole crowd of new (and existing) occupations with a new tool, one that isn’t quite so easy to draw. The tool is data, its occupations are legion, and it is reshaping a lot of jobs out there.

The data epiphany has been likened to the invention of the microscope: For the first time, we can see an entire world that we could only guess at before. And with this insight comes the demand for people who know how to interpret what they see. Based on a quick analysis of CareerBuilder’s Supply & Demand Portal, there were three data-oriented jobs for every one active job candidate in the past year. New technology has hugely improved computing power, data storage, and software creation, all of which helps us turn the data into more actionable information so that businesses and consumers make decisions based on knowledge rather than gut feeling. And thanks to the Great Recession, traumatized industries are in dire need of reevaluation–reevaluation that cries out for data.

So, many companies are now feeling their way around in this new era of data. But it isn’t highly institutionalized or systematized yet, and everyone is writing their own playbook. To get a better picture on how this is playing out in the labor market, let’s examine the sorts of jobs that are likely trying to mastermind how to use data for their organizations. How have they grown since the recession? What are they focused on? Do certain cities show more specialization for these jobs?

To find out, we narrowed the 800 standardized occupations (as classified by the BLS) down to 52 where data use is either already a core competency or else quickly becoming one. Over the next decade, these are the kinds of jobs that will almost certainly become even more defined by data as their go-to tool.

The data-oriented occupations fall into seven main categories:

  1. Management
  2. Business & financial
  3. Computer & mathematical
  4. Life, physical, and social science
  5. Education, training, and library
  6. Health care practitioners & technical
  7. Office & administrative

The higher-skill, higher-wage job growth is generally found in the top three: (1) management, (2) business & financial, and (3) computer & mathematical occupations. The next three–life sciences, education occupations, and health care–don’t have as many data jobs by comparison. As for office & administrative (a very large category), it hasn’t grown as much and its wages are much lower.

Of the 52 occupations, the top two are information security analysts and market research analysts. Both are projected to grow by an impressive 17% (2010-2014) and both solidly represent intense (and increasing) data work: one focused on protecting and maintaining companies’ precious internal data, the other focused on using data to improve how and where companies sell.

Information security analysts, part of the computer and mathematics family, are data shepherds who protect their company’s data from hackers. Look for this to be a huge deal in the foreseeable future. There are close to 80,000 information security analysts across the U.S. today—a projected jump of 11,500 jobs since 2010. Cities like D.C., Baltimore, and Birmingham have high concentrations of these jobs.

Market research analysts, part of the business and financial family, have been a consistent player on top jobs lists for quite a while. Neil Howe also shed some interesting light on this in his recent article. These analysts monitor and measure data so that companies can develop and sell the right products to the right people. There are about 450,000 market research analyst jobs nationwide, nearly 65,000 of those added since 2010. Cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle have high concentrations of these jobs.

Following these two, the top occupations are statisticians, operations research analysts, mathematicians, logisticians, computer systems analysts, archivists, actuaries, and cost estimators. From 2010 to 2014, they are each projected to grow by at least 10%.

Taken as a whole, these 52 occupations are expected to increase by 6% through 2014 (nearly 835,000 new jobs) and pay an average of $28 per hour, almost $10 higher than the national average for all occupations.

Three perennial job-creating all-stars— Washington, D.C., San Jose, and San Francisco—have the highest concentration of these jobs. We also see some unusual suspects, with Bridgeport and Richmond among the leaders in jobs per capita.

The New York City metro has the most jobs (776,000) and is also projected to add the most (nearly 39,000). The cities with the highest expected percent growth from 2010 to 2014 are Provo, San Jose, and Austin (each 18-19%). San Jose, D.C., and Boston have the highest average wages.

Management Occupations

The data-focused management occupations we selected are projected to grow by an average of 6% and add nearly 182,000 new jobs from 2010 to 2014.

  • General & operations managers (145,000 new jobs, 8% growth)
  • Financial managers (24,600 new jobs, 5% growth)
  • Purchasing managers (4,330 new jobs, 6% growth)
  • Transportation managers (7,100 new jobs, 7% growth)
  • Compensation managers (740 new jobs, 4% growth)

These jobs pay very well (averaging $46 per hour) and typically require a bachelor’s degree, except for transportation managers which usually require related work experience. General & operations managers have the most jobs (over two million) as well as the highest growth rate.

Cities with higher concentrations and solid projected growth are Austin (18% from 2010 to 2014), Houston (16%), and San Jose (15%). D.C., Bridgeport, Hartford, and San Jose have the highest concentration.

Business & Financial Occupations

In its article “Working With Big Data,” the BLS notes that businesses increasingly base their decisions on data: “Businesses need workers to collect relevant product data and analyze that data in the context of the industry…. Big data can also help businesses run more efficiently.” This is especially true for market research analysts, as we’ve already seen.

Data also plays a major role in financial occupations: “Analysts study transaction data to look for fraud and other security breaches. They also monitor investment portfolios and alter them to compensate for increased risk and unexpected price changes.”

These occupations, which typically require bachelor’s degrees, pay significantly less than the management jobs—an average of $30.60 per hour.

We included 11 business and financial occupations. Accountants & auditors have the most jobs (over 1.3 million) and are projected to add nearly 84,000 from 2010 to 2014. Management analysts (49,000 projected new jobs, 7% growth) and market research analysts & marketing specialists (65,000 projected new jobs, 17% growth) have also done well since 2010. Cost estimators and logisticians are both expected to grow by 10% or more and together add more than 35,000 jobs.

The notable cities for business and finance occupations are similar to what we saw for management. D.C., San Jose, and San Francisco all have high concentrations. The city with the fastest projected growth is Raleigh (20%). New York and Los Angeles are both projected to add 18,000 new jobs from 2010 to 2014.

Computer & Mathematical Occupations

Not surprisingly, the fastest-growing occupation group is computer and mathematical occupations. These include computer & information research scientists, computer systems analysts, information security analysts, database administrators, network & computer systems administrators, actuaries, mathematicians, operations research analysts, and statisticians.

The group is projected to gain 122,000 jobs from 2010 to 2014 (11% growth). The typical education level is either a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. Average earnings are just over $40 per hour.

D.C. and San Jose have twice the concentration of computer & mathematical occupations that what we’d expect with MSAs their size. Austin (26% projected growth since 2010), San Francisco (24%), and Houston (19%) are also major hubs.

Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations

This smaller group includes economists, survey researchers, urban & regional planners, anthropologists & archeologists, social science research assistants, and life, physical, and social science technicians. From 2010 to 2014, these are expected to see modest 5% growth with 6,400 new jobs.

The typical education level for economists, urban planners, and anthropologists & archeologists is a master’s degree. Social science research assistants and life, physical, and social science technicians tend to have associate’s degrees. Average pay is around $27 per hour.

Some of the notable cities for these jobs are Albany (where the concentration (4.64) is more than four times greater than the typical region), D.C. (3.57), and Boise (2.04).

Education, Training, and Library Occupations

This next group is even smaller, focusing on storing and cataloguing education materials like books and historic artifacts. Archivists are expected to grow 12%. Wages are around the national average (about $22 per hour). Archivists, curators, and librarians all tend to have master’s degrees. Library technicians commonly have postsecondary vocational awards.

While data is playing a greater and greater role in education and training decisions, many of the occupations actually doing the work are harder to identify or aren’t found under this SOC grouping. So the four main occupations we will consider are archivists, curators, librarians, and library techs.

Total employment for the group is about 285,000. Archivists and curators are projected to grow 12% and 7%, respectively, but since these are smaller occupations, this doesn’t amount to many new jobs. Employment for librarians is projected to stay flat since 2010, while library technicians are projected to gain 3,400 jobs (3% growth).

Health Careers

As the BLS observes, data-use has spiked across the entire health care sector: “The move towards electronic health records generates even more new uses for patient medical data…. In addition, remote patient monitoring is becoming increasingly popular, and a way to organize and evaluate data from…video feeds [from surgeries and other medical procedures] is now necessary.”

We focus here on just one occupation: medical records & health information technicians. This occupation accounts for 192,000 jobs nationally and is projected to add 10,400 new jobs (6% growth) from 2010 to 2014.

Medical records and health information technicians usually require a postsecondary non-degree award or certification. Wages average $16 per hour.

The cities with the highest concentration are Tulsa (1.91, or 91% higher than the national average), Tucson (1.73), Boise (1.69), and Wichita (1.57).

Office and Administrative Jobs

These jobs are tasked with managing, analyzing, and storing data—now more than ever. From 2010 to 2014, these 16 occupations are projected to grow from 5.28 million to 5.53 million (241,000 new jobs, 4% growth). Most require only short-term on-the-job training.

The two biggest occupations are bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks and receptionists & information clerks. Bookkeeping accounts for almost half of the group’s growth, but the fastest-growing are payroll & timekeeping clerks (13,500 new jobs, 8% growth) and weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplers, recordkeeping (5,600 new jobs, 8% growth).

The catch-all category of data entry keyers and information & record clerks is actually projected to lose jobs since 2010, though we might attribute some of that to re-categorization and a growing number of automated data systems replacing manual data entry.

The cities with the highest concentration are Buffalo (1.3), Jacksonville (1.26), and Tampa (1.24).


The upshot? Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and author of The Talent Equation, offers the following insight: “Occupations are evolving, and we are seeing data analysis in more job descriptions. More and more companies are using data to serve clients, recruit talent, and extend market reach. They are using it to improve productivity and performance and arrive at smarter business decisions. This is a trend that grows stronger each year, which in turn is creating a deficit of workers who are proficient in analyzing data and extracting insights that companies need.”

Businesses that want to thrive in our competitive, ever-changing economy must take advantage of all this new data. Consider data just like a paintbrush, a computer, or a microscope: it is a tool that helps us get stuff done far better than we could without it. But if you’re hyper-focused on getting data for mere data’s sake, then you’re missing the point. You can’t just grab the tool; you must also have the people to wield it. Businesses need workers who can take advantage of the many new (and often undefined) resources that transform data from raw facts into useful information that can help companies create better results—for themselves, their clients, and the entire economy.

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