Competition for jobs in certain fields and industries can be fierce. Those recent grads who are finding this to be the case in their target fields and industries may want to consider broadening their searches a bit – especially recent grads who studied the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Now that advanced technologies are so integrated into our everyday lives, STEM labor is in high demand in fields that traditionally never would have sought it out – fields like marketing, for example.
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"More and more, we're seeing managers and organizations in the marketing field looking for candidates with strong mathematical and analytical backgrounds," says Elise James Decruise, director of the New Marketing Institute (NMI), the educational arm of software developer MediaMath. "This is especially true as marketing evolved in the past decade and [now] places greater emphasis on using data to drive return on investment and measurable outcomes. Specifically, the rise of programmatic marketing – the use of software, algorithms, and machine learning to automate media buying – has created an increase in demand for math-minded individuals."
As Big Data Grows in Importance, So Does the Need for STEM Labor
One factor that's consistently driving the need for mathematically and scientifically capable workers in numerous fields is the rise of big data.
"As the sheer quantity of data that marketers are able to collect increases, so [does] the need for individuals who can properly analyze it," Decruise says. "In the past, traditional marketing was not as data-driven as it is today. As such, individuals with degrees in science and mathematics may not have had the opportunity to pursue a career in marketing or advertising."
As big data came to prominence, however, companies were forced to rethink their concepts of what makes a successful marketer.
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"This has opened the door for those with mathematics and science backgrounds whose education has allowed them to develop keen critical-thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and effective ways to visualize data," Decruise says. "MediaMath and our partners look for candidates with quantitative backgrounds for roles in data science, CRM platform management, programmatic strategy, campaign optimization, and more."
The Learning Curve
To meet employers' demands for STEM candidates, colleges and universities need to stay ahead of the game by offering training in the technologies and concepts that students need to know in order to be competitive in the job market. The employers that need this talent can play a role in making sure that this training is available by partnering with higher education bodies.
"Educational institutions need to bolster their existing curricul[a] with practical applications and technology in order to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing," says Decruise. "NMI partners with universities globally to act as their advisor by providing the most up-to-date and relevant content on the industry and the technology that underpins it."
Companies that need employees with quantitative skills should also make sure those employees have access to continuing education and training once they've graduated from school and entered the workforce.
"Since workers with math-related skills are in high demand, companies need to ensure that their structures and cultures are set up to attract and retain top STEM talent," Decruise says. "Aside from an attractive compensation and benefits package, one way that companies should look to accomplish this is by investing in training and career development."
Decruise notes that a recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 74 percent of adults identify as "personal learners," which means that they have "participated in at least one of a number of possible activities ... to advance their knowledge about something that personally interests them," according to Pew.
Because the vast majority of adults enjoy learning about things that interest them, "[t]hat means that companies can leverage education to help their employees stay engaged and be better at their job[s]," Decruise says.
As the digital age progresses, the need for STEM workers in nontraditional fields will only grow. Educational institutions and businesses alike should be working to make sure that the future workforce will have the skills it needs to keep up with the expanding demand.