The Competencies Employers Want

Illustration showing bright colors and career nodes, KCC Future InSight Workforce Development

Workers need more than just their educational credentials to qualify for jobs that pay well, keep those jobs, secure promotions, and boost their earnings on the job. Workplace Basics: The Competencies Employers Want reveals the five most in-demand competencies across the labor market and workforce development.

Bar Graph, Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of data from US Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014–18, and US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Occupational Information Network (O*NET) 24.3 Database, 2020.
Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of data from US Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014–18, and US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Occupational Information Network (O*NET) 24.3 Database, 2020.

What Are Competencies?

The report explores how 120 knowledge areas, skills, and abilities are demanded across the workforce and within specific occupations—and how the intensity with which workers use these competencies, along with their education level, can affect their earnings.

Knowledge includes the principles and facts associated with certain content domains, from the subjects taught in formal education to applied disciplines learned through practice.

Skills are vehicles that allow workers to successfully complete job tasks, to apply their knowledge usefully, and to engage in further learning.

Abilities are the aptitudes that influence work performance; they are both innate and developed, in contrast to knowledge and skills, which are acquired over time.

Jobs in Which Cognitive Competencies Are Used Most Intensively Tend to Be Held by Workers with Higher Levels of Education and Workforce Development

Bar chart, Jobs in which cognitive competencies are used most intensively tend to be held by workers with a high level of education.
Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of data from US Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014–18, and US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Occupational Information Network (O*NET) 24.3 Database, 2020.

Note: We control for educational attainment and major occupational group when calculating the average earnings premium associated with each competency. Within each specific competency, intensity of use is measured according to quartiles defined by the demand values for each occupation, with the top quartile within each competency corresponding to the most intensive use of that competency. Intensity of use has different quartile thresholds for each competency. For more information on methodology, see Appendix A.

Communication Has the Highest Earnings Premium Associated with Higher Intensity of Use

Bar chart, Communication Has the Highest Earnings Premium Associated with Higher Intensity of Use
Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of data from US Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014–18, and US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Occupational Information Network (O*NET) 24.3 Database, 2020.

Note: We control for educational attainment and major occupational group when calculating the average earnings premium associated with each competency. Within each specific competency, intensity of use is measured according to quartiles defined by the demand values for each occupation, with the top quartile within each competency corresponding to the most intensive use of that competency. Intensity of use has different quartile thresholds for each competency. For more information on methodology, see Appendix A.

This article was originally published by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

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