SQL, Project Management Topped Most-Demanded Tech Skills in 2021

Which tech skills dominated in 2021, at least in terms of employers? A new analysis suggests that specializing in project management and software development, along with SQL, opened up all sorts of opportunities for technologists over the past 12 months.

This analysis comes via Emsi Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. Based on that data, here are the top tech skills that employers wanted throughout 2021:

If you pay attention to languages, the sheer dominance of SQL over ultra-popular, widely used languages such as Python, Java, and JavaScript may come as a surprise. But there’s a simple reason why so many companies are demanding technologists proficient in SQL: It’s the programming language for managing and querying relational databases, making it the foundation of many organizations’ all-important data operations.

If you’re unfamiliar with (and want to learn) how to use SQL to modify a database’s index structures, retrieve information, and create new tables, there are lots of resources available online. Check out this offering from w3schools, which breaks down the various elements of SQL into “chapters”; Microsoft also offers a variety of training materials and instructor-led courses.

According to Emsi Burning Glass, the median compensation for SQL-related jobs is $92,000, rising to $122,000 and above with the right combination of skills and experience. Some 89 percent of jobs that ask for SQL skills also request a bachelor’s degree, so you don’t need any kind of advanced degree to launch an SQL career. 

Project management also remained a must-have tech skill for employers throughout 2021. The median project manager salary is $80,280, according to Emsi Burning Glass, which (again) rises with skills and experience, of course. If you’re curious about project management as a career, start off by mastering project-management methods such as Agile, Scrum, Kanban, and (yes, it’s old, but still used) Waterfall.

Project management also demands a solid mix of technical and “soft skills.” A recent newsletter article about the development of Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant is a good illustration of everything a project manager needs to do to bring a complex project to life—you need to not only make difficult decisions about technologies, but also manage stakeholders throughout your organization, including senior executives. 

As we move into 2022, it’s clear that employers everywhere are interested in a broad range of technologist skills. Whatever you’ve mastered, chances are good there’s an open job out there requiring it; just remember that you probably have leverage when negotiating with a new employer for salary and benefits.