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EURES (EURopean Employment Services)
News article12 May 2021European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion3 min read

The future of work: Researchers and engineers

The Skills Forecast from Cedefop allows us to imagine how the world of work might look in 10 years time by forecasting future employment trends. In our new series of articles, we look at the potential challenges and changes facing certain professions

The future of work: Researchers and engineers

In this article we look at researchers and engineers. This occupation covers professionals in high-skilled jobs in a wide range of different sectors. It includes people working in life sciences, engineering and electrotechnology, or as architects, designers or statisticians.

Key facts

  • Around 6.5 million people in the EU were employed as researchers and engineers in 2018.
  • Employment in this occupation grew by 17% between 2006 and 2018.
  • Professional services and manufacturing are the largest employment sectors for this occupation, containing 60% of researcher and engineer jobs.
  • Gathering and evaluating information, creativity, resolution and autonomy are the most important tasks and skills for this occupation.
  • Over 80% of researchers and engineers held high-level qualifications in 2018.

Tasks and skills

The key tasks and skills are listed below in a basic order of overall importance:

  • Gather and evaluate information
  • Creativity and resolution
  • Autonomy
  • Use of ICT
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Teamwork
  • Routine
  • Sell and influence

What are the trends for the future?

  • The employment level of researchers and engineers is expected to grow by a further 15% between 2018 and 2030.
  • During this time, more than 1 million new jobs for researchers and engineers will be created.
  • 23 of the EU Member States are expected to create new jobs for researchers and engineers.
  • Considering this projected growth and the 3.3 million workers who are expected to leave the occupation for one reason or another, around 4.3 million vacancies will need to be filled.
  • Given that the work of researchers and engineers involves many new technologies, these workers are expected to be in high demand in most sectors.
  • Key sectors where demand is expected to increase include business services, manufacturing, education and healthcare.

Which drivers of change will affect their skills?

The following drivers, including various cross-sectoral trends, are likely to change the skills profile of researchers and engineers in the coming years.

  • New technologies such as those linked to renewable energy are creating unique skillsets.
  • Biotechnology is also driving innovation for researchers and engineers in various sectors, including healthcare.
  • Electronic features such as building automation and smart homes are playing an increasing role, particularly in the construction sector.
  • Consumer demand for more specialised products is leading to more technology-intensive production processes, creating skills challenges for engineers.
  • Climate change is increasing demand for engineers and life scientists to support related research and development.
  • Globalisation is making it more and more important for researchers and engineers to have strong communication and interdisciplinary skills.
  • Sector-specific trends will also play a role – for example, the integration of ICT into the pharmaceutical sector is affecting skills needs in the sector.

How can these skills needs be met?

While skills challenges are sector development, training plays an important role throughout. This is essential for developing sector-specific skills but also transferable skills, such as business, leadership and management expertise.

Partnerships and joint actions between government authorities, social partners and others can offer solutions to tackling skill shortages and speeding up the adoption of suitable training approaches in new industries requiring specific skillsets.

Teacher training and effective career guidance can also help make the so-called science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects more attractive for primary, secondary and higher education students. The European Commission and Member States are also working to make this profession more attractive to women.


Related links:

Skills Forecast

Researchers & engineers: skills opportunities and challenges (2019 update)


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