Report: Top Requested Job Skills Are Changing Rapidly

Over one-third of the top 20 skills requested in postings for the average U.S. job have changed since 2016, and 1 in 5 skills is an entirely new requirement for that job, according to a new report from Boston Consulting Group, Emsi Burning Glass and The Burning Glass Institute.

The report, Shifting Skills, Moving Targets and Remaking the Workforce, draws on data from more than 15 million online job postings from 2016 through 2021, examining and comparing how rapidly and significantly skill requests evolved over time within specific roles. Among other things, the five-year data showed a marked acceleration in the pace of change, with nearly three-quarters of jobs having changed more from 2019 through 2021 than they did from 2016 through 2018. The report further shows that sectors such as finance, design, business management, HR and IT have changed faster than others. And in the fastest-changing jobs – including accounting supervisor, advertising manager, marketing associate, software developer and solar engineer – almost 80% of the top 20 skills either are new or have changed significantly in importance.

The report also outlines four major trends in skill change:

  • Digital skills in non-digital occupations: Even beyond IT, roles across industries increasingly demand technical fluency and abilities, including data analysis, digital marketing and networking.
  • Soft skills in digital occupations: Verbal communication, listening and relationship-building are quickly becoming just as important as programming skills in many digital occupations.
  • Visual communication: The use of data visualization has grown across companies, becoming increasingly important even outside of traditional data occupations.
  • Social media skills: Many jobs now demand social media knowledge to keep pace – and managing this evolution will be complex for C-suite and HR leaders.

“This report provides hard evidence of an important trend: The average worker is going to have to learn new skills just to keep the job they have, much less get ahead in their careers,” says Bledi Taska, chief economist and executive VP at Emsi Burning Glass and a co-author of the report. “Staying informed on changing skills while recognizing and acting on their implications will be key to success for both employers and employees.”


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