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5 key takeaways from an analysis of the U.S. IT labor market

November 2, 2022 , By Abhilash Panthagani, Associate Director, Strategic Research

Higher education is experiencing the worst talent crunch in recent memory—and it is particularly acute for IT departments. Other industries are poaching higher ed IT talent at an unprecedented rate, and vacancies are mounting as higher ed institutions struggle to recruit talent from the market—especially when matching out-of-industry salaries and benefits is a non-starter. While the data we analyze in this blog post reflects the U.S. labor market, this trend holds true in the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand.

To compete in today’s cutthroat IT labor market, higher ed leaders must be aware of the latest labor market trends from higher ed and across industries to inform how they advertise jobs and recruit talent. EAB analyzed national job postings for IT professionals in the higher education industry compared to all other industries between July 2021 and June 2022 and discerned five key takeaways from the IT labor market data.

1. Higher ed offers fewer remote work opportunities than other industries

Among job postings for IT professionals, 8.37% of postings in the higher education industry advertise remote work compared to 18.94% of postings in all other industries combined. Most higher ed IT job postings do not advertise whether the position allows remote work, suggesting that all other industries offer significantly more remote positions.

  • 8.37%

    of higher ed IT job postings advertise remote work

  • 18.94%

    of IT postings in all other industries advertise remote work

Higher ed IT shops are losing potential applicants and current staff by offering fewer remote work opportunities, considering approximately 80% of higher ed HR and IT employees state that “their ideal work arrangement is at least a partially remote environment.

2. Higher ed is still focused on system administrator and technical support positions instead of software engineers and developers

Compared to all other industries, higher ed more frequently advertises “system administrator” and “technical support specialist” positions and requests “technical support” and “information systems” skills. All other industries more frequently advertise “software engineer” and “software developer” titles and request “software engineering” and “software development” skills.

However, for remote-specific postings, “software engineer” is the most frequently advertised title across industries. Given the demand for software engineers, CIOs must be more open to flexible work options to compete with all other industries for these roles.

3. Higher ed job postings fail to advertise opportunities to work on specific emerging programming and software tools

While programming languages are the most in-demand skills across industries, employers in all other industries more frequently request skills in specific programming tools and software (e.g., “Docker,” “React.js,” “Node.js,” “JIRA,” and “RESTful API”) in job postings. Higher ed often requests skills that require the use of specific programming tools and software, like “application programming interface,” but lags in advertising the latest trends in IT skills. In fact, the higher education industry more frequently advertises non-technical IT skills, such as “mathematics,” “finance,” and “data management.”

Don’t just recycle the same old job postings. When applicable, demonstrate to potential applicants that your institution offers opportunities to develop in-demand tech skills by specifying emerging programming tools and software in postings.

4. Higher ed requests less work experience than other industries

Higher ed IT departments request a median of three years of work experience in all job postings and four years for postings specifically advertising remote work. Employers in all other industries request a median of five years of experience for all postings as well as for postings specifically advertising remote work.

Higher ed IT departments request less work experience because they tend to struggle to recruit more experienced talent and instead must rely on developing less experienced talent to fulfill more senior roles. Unsurprisingly, most IT shops have shifted their focus to recruiting early-career talent because they are usually more successful at recruiting this demographic.

Median years of experience requested of IT applicants

  • 3 years

    of experience requested of higher ed IT applicants

  • 5 years

    of experience requested of IT applicants in all other industries

Median years of experience requested of remote IT applicants

  • 4 years

    of experience requested of remote higher ed IT applicants

  • 5 years

    of experience requested of remote IT applicants in all other industries

5. Postings for higher ed roles specify more education requirements

Higher ed IT departments specify education level requirements in a greater proportion of job postings than all other industries (83.79% compared to 62.26% of postings, respectively). Yet, the fact is that IT teams need skills, not degrees. When advertising job postings, consider removing any unnecessary degree requirements that could dissuade otherwise qualified candidates from applying.

This trend and advice holds true throughout higher education, particularly given the reality that 47% of full-time workers with master’s degrees in higher ed earn less than $50K per year and can gain an average salary increase of $10K by leaving higher ed.

  • 83.79%

    Percentage of postings specifying education requirements in higher ed

  • 62.26%

    Percentage of postings specifying education requirements in all other industries

Abhilash Panthagani

As an Associate Director of Research on the IT Strategy team at EAB, Abhi Panthagani leads best practice research studies designed to help technology leaders tackle their biggest strategic and operational problems. His areas of expertise include artificial intelligence, data governance, cybersecurity, and more. With a focus on emerging technology, Abhi is interested in exploring the intersection of technology and public policy. Prior to joining EAB, he conducted policy research and advocacy for governments in New York and Connecticut. He holds a Master of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics & Political Science from the University of Connecticut.

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