Professions for the digital age and sought-after skills

Anyone who is just starting out in their career or is currently reorienting themselves would do well to consider which professions are currently in demand and which will continue to be in demand in the future. The same applies to the skills that are particularly in demand today and in the future.

Trend in German business

German companies already make extensive use of digital technologies. And in recent years, there has been a positive shift towards more new and digital technologies. The Bundesverband der Personalmanager e.V. (Federal Association of Personnel Managers) has conducted a study on the use of digital technologies within its member companies. This study shows that digital technologies are most widely used for digital data exchange with suppliers, service providers and customers at 71.3%. The use of digital sales channels follows at 69.5%. Digital services such as cloud services are used by a good 60% of companies and around 40% of companies use big data analysis.

The digital transformation is also taking place in the form of mobile applications. Apps for smartphones are developed with a high level of expertise and a great deal of work. Web applications require developers with sound programming skills in several programming languages.

In industry, the networking of physical and virtual everyday objects (25.6%) and of machines and production facilities via the internet (19.3%) plays an important role. The use of digital technologies is also changing production technologies.

A strong increase has been observed in all of the areas mentioned in recent years. Digital data exchange with suppliers, service providers and customers has increased by almost 17% over the past two years. The use of digital sales channels has grown by over 18%. The use of digital services such as cloud services has increased by a whopping 25.7% in the last two years.

The strong trend towards data-driven digitalization is creating a flood of data that needs to be viewed, managed and secured. Even smaller companies are collecting large amounts of data that need to be structured, processed, analyzed and secured in a meaningful way. Digitization and large amounts of data mean that new tasks arise for companies, as handling the data involves a considerable amount of work. Once companies have mastered the data, it is a matter of evaluating and harnessing it and gaining business insights from the data.

Which digital careers offer a bright future?

New professional fields with good job prospects are constantly emerging in connection with digitization. New professions that have emerged in connection with digitization include, for example

  • data engineer,
  • data scientist,
  • data strategist,
  • social media manager,
  • SEO manager,
  • UI/UX designer,
  • IT security experts,
  • software developer and
  • app developer.

As an example of the professions that deal with the large amounts of data generated by digitalization, we will now take the job of data scientist and describe it in more detail.

What does a data scientist do? Data science is a science that overlaps strongly with the disciplines of computer science, mathematics, statistics and business administration. Data science has great practical relevance and analyzes large amounts of data, taking into account the wider business context.

Data scientists are responsible for developing processes that enable large amounts of data to be structured and processed. This also includes communicating the data analysis in an understandable way so that the right conclusions can be drawn from the data within the company and the right decisions can be made as a result.

This employee therefore has a high level of entrepreneurial responsibility, as the company's direction is based on their data analyses. Data protection is also an important issue for the data scientist. This is because the analyzed data often involves sensitive customer information.


How can I qualify for jobs in the digital age?

The best foundation is, of course, a successfully completed university degree in IT or in one of the STEM subjects (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology). But beware: many students of STEM subjects are severely overstretched. One in four, and in some years even one in three, drop out of university. However, social skills (which are actually discussed in the next section) make studying easier. This is because learning groups make it easier to cope with the sometimes difficult subject matter. What one person doesn't understand straight away, a fellow student may be able to explain better. This is how STEM students push each other.

But how does the digital age work without a university degree? If you don't want to go to university, you can get started in IT with excellent job prospects through traditional training. There are various training courses to choose from. The IT specialist training courses, for example, are aimed at four different disciplines:

  • application development,
  • data and process analysis,
  • digital networking and
  • system integration.

There is also the commercial area in IT, in which you can qualify without a STEM degree: Business clerk for Digitization Management and business clerk for IT System Management.

For those who have already completed a course of study or training, part-time training or further education is the solution.

Examples of further training in the digital field include the Google Future Workshop and courses lasting two to three months offered by numerous course and seminar providers.

The Data Science Business Academy in Cologne, for example, offers qualifications in the fields of predictive analytics and big data.

The iubh International University offers online courses and on-site study with a Bachelor's degree in Digital Business (B.A.).

In the Data Science and IT Security M.Sc. distance learning Master's degree program, Fresenius University of Applied Sciences imparts specialist knowledge in data analysis and evaluation and supplements this with further knowledge in information security.

In twelve-week intensive courses at "neue fische", students can acquire knowledge in web development or data science at three locations in Germany.

Overall, digital education in Germany is at a rather low level. This is because large sections of the German population are still critical of the developments in digitalization or are astonished by them. In general, there is little interest in the technologies of the future. And this is despite the fact that the majority of the population has no shortage of information options. After all, they use the internet and smartphones on a daily basis and on a large scale.

Anyone who qualifies in good time in the digital professions currently has a good chance of finding a job. Because in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Which skills are particularly important in addition to specialist knowledge?

Digitalization not only places greater demands on IT skills, but also on social and personal skills. This is because in the digital world of work, work locations and working hours are becoming increasingly flexible. Communication channels are also changing. New technologies are giving rise to activities that in turn require new social skills.

In a very flexible work organization, it is important to be equipped with a high willingness to cooperate and strong communication skills. After all, the ability to work together is essential in order to form a functioning, productive team from a group of colleagues. An employee who enjoys working together can also integrate difficult team members who often have outstanding technical solutions. After all, joint action is essential for the success of IT projects. Positive results should be achieved through communication with several people. To achieve this, it is good to first listen well and then be able to react sensitively to statements. Information must be passed on in an understandable way, both verbally and in writing. Eloquence and persuasiveness can be learned so that solutions can be communicated well, even for difficult projects.

Employees should also have a willingness to change and be flexible. In an increasingly flexible working environment, employees are needed who can act independently and plan and organize well. The willingness to change is important in a field that is constantly evolving. After all, change is an ongoing issue in the digital age.

A survey by the German Federal Statistical Office on the further training strategies of German entrepreneurs shows that the development of soft skills is attributed an important role. Surprisingly, the importance of professional expertise is on a par with soft skills among the HR managers surveyed. 49.6% of companies require new employees to be customer-oriented. But what does it mean for you to be customer-oriented? The answer is relatively simple: it's about being friendly, engaging and understanding of other people. Can you be friendly on a bad day? Can you give concrete answers to customer questions without making excuses or evasions? You should also be able to show understanding for customers who are angry because a project step is not going well.

43.1% of HR managers would like to be able to work in a team and problem-solving skills are also among the most important qualifications at 29.8%.

Wherever people come together, teamwork is important. Working together as a team does not mean saying "yes" to everything, but being able to contribute your own ideas and represent them. Real teamwork is constructive in the sense of balancing interests. You should also be able to put up with criticism. Sometimes good ideas are discarded in favor of better ones.

In professional life, problem-solving skills mean finding solutions, even if they are not obvious, and not giving up straight away when things get complicated and take a long time. Bosses value employees with problem-solving skills. This is because technical problems, such as in app development, require precisely this ability on the way to a solution.


So what does the future look like in one of the new digital professions?

It's a fact that HR departments in Germany are increasingly taking several months to fill vacancies with data scientists or data engineers, for example. The battle for talent has already become a reality here and is costing companies a lot of time and money. Many positions cannot be filled by companies due to an overall  lack of the necessary specialists. And the risk of missing out on the digital world due to a lack of employees is high. In the future, the consequences for companies could even threaten their very existence. The strong demand for specialists in digital fields is a clear indication of the future opportunities that these professions offer.

It is important to lay the foundations for well-paid job prospects in digital professions through training and further education. ‍