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How Hybrid Jobs are Driving Demand for Computer Science Skills

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Since the Industrial Revolution, jobs have transformed as new technologies emerged. The rapid pace of innovation in the modern age has added a twist. Professionals not only have to adapt to new technologies; they also have to adjust to new roles that require a mix of highly technical skills and soft skills. 

In many ways, the very nature of work is changing. Increasingly, jobs are hybridized. Formerly technical positions morph into specialized roles that combine skillsets never before associated with high-tech work. At the same time, established employment categories that were once decidedly non-technical now require technical expertise. These hybrid jobs are not only among the fastest growing and highest paying but also the least likely to be automated out of existence. According to labor market research firm Burning Glass, 42 percent of traditional jobs can be replaced by technology compared to just 12 percent of hybrid jobs

One in eight job postings is now for a hybrid position. Employers increasingly recognize how collaboration and presentation skills, creativity, adaptability, problem-solving skills and thoughtful judgment can enhance and speed innovation in information technology and software engineering projects. Simultaneously, there is a growing demand for tech skills in formerly low-tech sectors as organizations explore the potential of artificial intelligence and other technologies to drive value. 

According to the linked Burning Glass report, "computer science skills are a key differentiator and can significantly impact a student's earning potential over his or her lifetime." What many people looking to advance in technology fail to realize, however, is that employers also look for new hires with soft skills for computer science roles. Pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Science online with Southern Methodist University's Lyle School of Engineering will give you both, positioning you to thrive in an evolving global economy.

What Exactly are Hybrid Jobs?

First, let's clarify what hybrid jobs are not. The terms "hybrid jobs" and "hybrid roles" are not the same as "hybrid work," which refers to the combination of in-office and remote work that became commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor are hybrid jobs those suited to generalists with skills and technical knowledge in several disciplines. 

Hybrid jobs are roles requiring a blended skillset made up of skills traditionally not bundled together. For example, the responsibilities associated with a true hybrid job might involve traditional marketing plus data analytics coupled with the regular use of AI-driven automation platforms. Or an employer might seek an app developer with narrative copywriting skills in addition to game design and programming skills.

In the traditional employment model, accounting professionals might distinguish themselves by specializing in a focus area such as taxes or internal audits. Today, according to a report compiled by financial staffing firm Robert Half, accountants are more likely to distinguish themselves by adding data science and analytics skills to their toolkits. More and more organizations expect financial analysts and business analysts to have technical skills related to software development and data management. 

Blended skillsets are more common now than ever before. However, finding qualified job candidates with a mix of interpersonal skills, computer programming skills and other important technical and non-technical skills is still challenging. Many professionals advance along their career paths for years before they understand the value of hard skills in management or soft skills for computer science. 

Why the Hybrid Jobs Market Is Booming

Money is one reason the hybrid market is booming, but don't assume organizations are simply combining technical and non-technical positions to reduce human resources expenditures. Hybrid jobs represent an evolution of existing technical and non-technical roles driven by advances in computer science and changing employer expectations. 

Burning Glass categorizes the forces driving hybridization into five key areas: big data and analytics, the intersection of design and development, sales and customer service, emerging digital technologies and the evolving compliance and regulatory landscape.

Every aspect of business today is data-driven. Consider marketing managers. In the past, marketing managers used creativity, psychology and an awareness of emerging trends to develop campaigns for mass media. Today, they also mine vast quantities of customer data to create hyper-personalized digital campaigns. They likely work as part of a team that includes creatives (e.g., writers and graphic designers) and technical team members (programmers, web developers and marketing analysts).

Automation is another factor driving up the importance of soft skills in computer science and non-tech skills in tech-focused roles. Today, a developer must be able to code in multiple programming languages while also designing the interface, staying on top of project management and using their marketing skills to promote the end product. Tech workers, says the McKinsey Global Institute, will need to "make use of the innate human skills that machines have the hardest time replicating: social and emotional capabilities, providing expertise, coaching and developing others and creativity."

The Impact of Disruptive Tech Skills on Salaries

Fully half of the positions in the top income quartile are highly hybridized, and nearly half of all jobs are at least partly hybridized. The Burning Glass study found that workers in more traditional fields could significantly boost their salaries by honing their data science, programming and soft skills. A marketing manager's average salary might be $71,000, but that could increase to $100,000 – a whopping 41 percent jump – if they learn SQL. Project managers received an average salary of $75,000, but when they learned to use Tableau, they could earn $85,000 – a 13 percent premium.

Soft Skills are Key Differentiators in Tech

Domain expertise and soft skills are in demand in technological sectors because teamwork, project management and communication skills are industry-neutral. Information technology staffing firm IT Resources cites communication and collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, detail orientation and time management as the five essential soft skills for IT professionals.

According to the Strada Institute's Robot Ready report, the jobs of the future will require workers who can "combine the technical with the human: programming + ethics, artificial intelligence (AI) + emotional intelligence, or logic + values or judgment."

In a study conducted by Research Now for Mindedge Learning, managers were fearful that robots and other automation technologies would take away jobs but also hopeful that soft skills such as creative thinking, critical thinking, communication, negotiation and decision-making will distinguish successful workers. SMU Lyle School of Engineering acknowledges that technologists need essential competencies in all these areas and has built an AI-focused MSCS program that emphasizes the human side of computer science.   

Job Seekers Face New Challenges in This Market

Hybrid jobs tend to be more complex and specialized than other jobs, and workers must determine how to court success in an increasingly hybridized marketplace. Workers in all domains need to adopt a "both, and" mentality when reskilling in programs such as SMU's online MSCS-AI – and when describing their talents to potential employers post-graduation. 

While hybridization will be a boon to those who take the time to cultivate skills across domains, it might exacerbate wage gaps for those who can't or won't. The rise of hybrid jobs will likely benefit some workers and hamstring others – particularly those in formerly low-tech roles. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Survey of Adult Skills, 13 percent of employed American workers ages 16-64 have no digital skills, and 18 percent have only minimal skills. As people already comfortable with computer technology upskill, those who lack basic digital skills may have to settle for less-senior, lower-paying jobs when their employers adopt new digital technologies. 

How to Succeed in an Increasingly Hybridized Job Market

The modern technology landscape is dynamic and unpredictable, so it's challenging to determine which hard and soft skills to nurture now to stay competitive in the future. Adapting to changing demand may involve upskilling in a mentorship program, reskilling in a computer science master's degree program or learning to apply existing skills in new ways or to new challenges. In fact, over time, functional adaptation may require all three. You may not need hybrid skills now, but chances are you will in the future.

Versatility and flexibility are essential to staying relevant in a hybrid world. "A strong desire to learn and a willingness to embrace change are two traits that can serve you well when looking to expand your skillset beyond your traditional area," advises Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. 

Ultimately, as technology changes, you must change along with it or risk becoming irrelevant. Demand for MSCS and master's in artificial intelligence graduates is high because top computer science degree programs teach students how to adapt as the real-world need for specific skills and expertise shifts. 

Keeping pace with digital transformation is crucial. Josh Bersin, founder of business strategy firm Bersin by Deloitte, sums up the necessity of reskilling to future-proof all careers: "Today, we and our employees all have to become more da Vinci-like in our career. It's the secret of success in the digital world ahead."

For now, you can still get by without leading-edge tech skills, but it's telling that the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs outside of IT and computer science now require computer science skills. Learning essential soft skills on the job is possible. But only master's degree programs such as SMU Lyle's online MSCS-AI offer opportunities to upskill, reskill and build a professional network of peers poised to become leaders in our new hybrid world.

Are you ready to future-proof your career? Learn more about the online student experience at SMU, what it's like to pursue a computer science master's online or MSCS-AI program tuition, or apply online today.