Emsi: Data Works

Labor market insight for higher education leaders

Should Your Non-Computer Science Students Take Coding 101?

May 2017

Not everyone is wired to be a web developer or software engineer, but the skills that make those occupations valuable are quickly disseminating into the rest of the workforce.

The recent rise of coding-related skills across the job market brings into question: Would something like a 101-level coding course be useful for all students?

We set out to answer two questions to help inform the conversation:

1. Are companies trying to hire individuals with coding skills for occupations unrelated to computer science? If so, what occupations are they being hired for?

2. Are individuals working outside of fields related to computer science listing coding skills on their résumés and professional profiles? If so, what occupations do they work in?

Methodology

We used job postings analytics from Analyst to understand the hiring patterns of employers. All job postings have been deduplicated to reflect unique job postings and the timeframe spans February 2016 – February 2017.

We then used alumni profiles from Alumni Insight to analyze how workers in various fields are promoting their coding skills. In this research, all profiles have been updated at least as recently as 2015.

All data surveys the entire US. To focus on coding skills, we added the following skill filters in both in Analyst and Alumni Insight: HTML, CSS, C++, PHP, SQL, JavaScript, Java, Python, and C Sharp. The results focus on job postings and résumés that list at least one of the previously mentioned skills.

What Employers Are Asking For

Question 1: Are companies trying to hire individuals with coding skills in occupations unrelated to computer science?

In short, yes.

As shown in the table below, job postings for a wide array of occupations request coding skills. A few notable clusters of occupations include marketing-related jobs, management-related jobs, engineering-related jobs, and finance-related jobs. Interestingly, occupations range from elementary school teachers to public relations specialists—careers you might not guess would have any need for coding skills.

We also see some occupations that may be misrepresented by the data. For example, Heavy and Tractor Trailor Truck-Drivers. When we dug into the full text of the job postings, very few of them actually requested coding skills. Rather, the inaccurate tagging of those skills in the job posting was done as a tactic by employers to get the attention of new candidates. Lyft, the ridesharing company, is notorious for posting jobs in unrelated occupations to attract potential new drivers looking for work. This type of behavior is one reason why job postings alone aren't fully reliable in identifying marketable skills.

What Skills Workers Have Today

Question 2: Are individuals working outside of fields related to computer science listing coding skills on their résumés and professional profiles?

Again, yes. In fact, we see trends similar to those found in our job posting analysis. Occupation clusters around business, finance, marketing, engineering, and management all have a number of workers that list coding skills on their résumé. We also see additional occupations like human resources specialists and customer service representatives that weren’t represented in the job postings.

Listing skills on a résumé or professional profile implies that workers see these skills as valuable and relevant as a part of their work experience. We’re able to quantify this with a sample of more than 65 million profiles, which offers an entirely new perspective on the labor market. It highlights what’s actually happening in today’s workforce—a step beyond the hypothetical picture that job postings paint.

Conclusion

Coding skills are valuable in occupations adjacent—and even totally unrelated to—fields related to computer science. Just as employers have started to place a higher priority on soft skills, they are also seeking workers with a broader set of technical skills: programmers who understand the business implications of their work. Writers who could help with the front-end web development of their publications. Financial analysts who can query big data with SQL.

Equipping students with these skills before they hit the job market is pivotal for colleges and universities. Even a 101-level understanding of coding concepts could give a graphic design graduate an advantage over peers when gunning for an entry-level position.

While skills data from job postings is helpful in this process, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Gone are the days of assuming a job posting perfectly details what employers need from future workers. Combining job postings data with résumé observations from today's workforce is the future of identifying marketable skills.


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