Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

The Most Valuable Keywords to Have on a Tech Resume

Brian A Jackson/

Silicon Valley CEOs (and many from farther afield) are constantly complaining that good technical talent is expensive and in short supply. There’s something to their concerns. At every education level, jobs requiring STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) skills in the US take far more time and money to fill than just about anything else, according to a new study from the Brookings Institution.

Researcher Jonathan Rothstein, together with Burning Glass, a labor-market data analysis company, collected data on thousands of American job ads, the dates they opened and were taken down, and the skills that they require.

Google, for example, took an average of 97 days to fill computer-related jobs (primarily software engineers), 56 for sales, and 79 for management in the San Jose area (which encompasses Mountain View, where the firm’s headquarters are). About half of the jobs in Rothstein’s dataset that were posted for 70 days required high levels of STEM knowledge.

The dataset also tracks required skills, and identifies which ones pay off most handsomely. Computer skills make up a large portion. The average salary value of a skill is calculated from the averaged advertised salary of jobs that mention any particular ability.

Rothstein passed the detailed data on to Quartz, and we made the graphs below to show the average salary value for each skill. (We confined ourselves to skills with more than 2,000 job ads in the dataset.)

Some caveats: This isn’t a perfect dataset. It scrapes from a large set of job advertisements, not all of which include salary data. Some of the skills broken out are catch-alls, broad tags like “big data,” “machine learning,” and and “data modeling,” rather than skills with particular techniques or programming languages. Others, like “IT management,” “process management,” and  “concept development” seem like proxies for managerial positions, which likely accounts for why jobs with these “skills” have higher high salary figures.

What’s more, these descriptions don’t identify the primary skill a job is hiring for, just those skills that were mentioned prominently in the listing. So some less consequential skills likely come out on top. And it will always be a combination of skills rather than any one that employers look for. But the data do provide a useful window into some of the specific skills and areas of knowledge that are in greatest demand. First, the data for computer-centric skills:

Many of the top paying skills are related to big data (NoSql and MongoDB for example, beyond the catch-all “big data” tag), and likely come in concert a lot of the time. A few others are web-related, and the popular core languages that form the backbone of the web economy, such as Python, make the list.

Some skills are tied to a particular company’s software (like the HP load-testing software Load Runner), and specializing in these can be a risky move, given how quickly once-essential software can be replaced by newer alternatives.

Here are the data on all skills combined, including medicine, biology, and management. Though tech skills take up some of this list too, others, especially finance and banking skills, make a strong showing:

The data set also gives an idea of the demand for each skill, based on how long it takes to fill a job that requires it (i.e., how long each posting remained up). Here are the tech job skills that on average take the longest to fill. The average non-STEM posting is usually open for 33 days, and a STEM job requiring a professional degree stays open 50 days on average. Overall, tech jobs stay open 15 days longer on average than non-STEM jobs:

See the full study here.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here. 

(Image via Brian A Jackson/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.