How We Define ‘Emerging Occupations’

The conventional way to define ’emerging occupations’ is to use the official list of ‘new and emerging’ occupations put out by O*NET, a government-funded source of occupational information.  Unfortunately, that list is mostly composed of many older and unexciting occupations, such as allergists and immunologists, investment fund managers, radiologists, securities and commodities traders, and surgical assistants.  These and many other occupations on the list have been around for many years, and really don’t deserve the term ‘new and emerging’.

Moreover, the O*NET list includes quite a few occupations for which there are currently very few or none job listings nationally. For example, “nanotechnology engineering technician” is on the O*NET list…but as of September 12, there were no want ads nationally for such a job title. The same thing is true for “climate change analyst.”

Conversely, the O*NET list does not include many obvious emerging occupations such as social media and digital marketing. Notably missing, in addition, is anything to do with mobile, wireless, smartphones, or app developers.

So we do not use the O*NET list. Instead, our definition is that an emerging occupation is new enough that it has not yet developed clear career paths or clear job titles. In other words, it’s hard to tell from a job title whether you are appropriate for the job. Moreover, in an emerging occupation, you can expect to have to help define your job yourself, even after you have started.

Take “information security specialist,” an ever-more important job in today’s world of nasty data thefts and perpetual attacks on corporate IT systems. Just to look at the title, you have no idea whether you would be better off with a coding background, or a criminal justice background. After all, given that many data break-ins are based on social engineering, the latter might be more important than the former, depending on the job.

Information security specialist is a classic example of an emerging occupation, where the nature of the job is in so much flux that it has outrun the job title.

In a future post, I’ll describe how one searches for a job in an emerging occupation.




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