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MIT Technology Review

Where the Tech Jobs Are

Expanding supplies of data and cheap processing power will drive demand for IT specialists in a broad range of fields.

September 28, 2015

Jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) overpopulate the U.S. Labor Department list of occupations expected to grow the most through 2022: among the 580 occupations the department tracks, they make up 14 of the 35 fastest-growing.

Fewer than half the available jobs in categories like data science and programming are in technology industries as traditionally defined, according to the job-hunting site Glassdoor. The rest are in a range of fields that are benefiting from the falling cost of data storage and the increase in processing speeds that allows data to be crunched economically, says Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist—fields like computer-directed stock trading, electronic medical records, and even more mature industrial sectors. On Glassdoor, which aggregates job postings from across the Internet, there were recently listings for almost 13,000 software engineers, 1,568 data scientists, 1,691 programmer analysts, and 4,033 database administrators. (Overall, the U.S. economy is adding about 230,000 jobs a month.) Depending on the job title, 60 percent to 75 percent were at non-IT companies, Chamberlain says.

Job growth in fields like computer-directed stock trading and electronic medical records is being driven by expanding pools of data that can be crunched economically.

Regulatory changes have also increased the focus on data. The Dodd-Frank law imposes new reporting requirements on banks. The Affordable Care Act is driving hospitals and independent doctors toward quality management and measurement programs that depend on computing. With the population aging, the U.S. government predicts that 62 percent of new STEM jobs added through 2022 will be in health care. Partners HealthCare in Boston has hired more than 600 IT professionals to implement its new electronic medical records system.

In energy, another increasingly data-intensive field, predictive analytics software run on a massive scale recommends where to drill and how much water to use in each well. Even fields that were once the sole domain of humanities majors, like advertising, are hunting for technologists today. At the Austin ad agency T3, CEO Gay Gaddis is currently looking for user-experience designers, Android developers, and data analysts.

Over the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects, the ranks of genetic counselors, market research analysts, and information security analysts will grow by 30 percent or more. Jobs in civil and petroleum engineering will grow at the same 20 to 29 percent rate as systems analysts, and health-care reform, which seeks to have more work done by workers who make less money than doctors, will help increase employment of physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners by 30 percent or more.

“Across STEM, very few fields are declining,” says Bureau of Labor Statistics economist Michael Wolf.

Salaries and demand are both rising fast. A UCLA analysis of 2013 data published this June contended that the average tech worker in San Mateo County, which includes Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, is making more than $300,000. The unemployment rate in San Francisco is 3.5 percent. STEM jobs today pay almost double the average wage in the economy as a whole, says economist Sophia Koropeckyj, a managing director at Moody’s Analytics: “The high compensation of these jobs gives them an outsize role in promoting economic growth.”