Skills in demand

Whether you are just starting out or taking a change in direction, it is important you make informed career choices. To fully explore all your possible options you should know where the jobs are now and where they are likely to be in the future.

Future job opportunities in Northern Ireland

There are job opportunities across all occupational areas in Northern Ireland but there is higher demand in occupations relating to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

As the world becomes increasingly technology dependent it is anticipated that the range of businesses emerging around the STEM areas will grow significantly. This will require people to get a good education in STEM subjects.

The following areas are extremely important to the Northern Ireland economy:

  • ICT
  • creative and digital media
  • agri food sector
  • business and financial services
  • advanced manufacturing and engineering
  • renewable energies and recycling
  • health and life sciences


Information and communications technology (ICT), particularly software development, database development, systems architecture and internet specialist skills, is at the heart of every organisation and is central to our daily lives: mobile communication, computer games, touch screen technology, satellite navigation devices – the list is endless.

To find out more about the benefits of working in the ICT sector and the training options and qualifications needed, see Bring IT On.

Creative and digital media

Digital is everywhere and is at the heart of the UK economy, underpinning growth through both the development of new technologies and the provision of services to businesses and consumers. All national trends and forecasts predict the continuation of demand for high level skills in the sector.

Key market growth areas identified by national and international level research include:

  • cloud computing
  • mobile technologies
  • cross-platform mobile applications
  • computer games and digital entertainment
  • cyber-security products and services
  • green/low carbon IT products

Agri food

Food and drink manufacturing includes the processing of meat and poultry, dairy, fish and shellfish, fruit and vegetables and the production of bakery and drinks products amongst others. Areas of work include bakery, distillery, creamery and ready meals production. Jobs can include:

  • laboratory technicians
  • food scientists
  • biotech
  • machine operatives
  • butcher
  • supply chain manager

The Food and Drink Sector Skills Council's 'Tasty Careers' website and interactive careers map have information on the benefits of a career within the food and drink manufacturing sector. As the largest industry in Northern Ireland, there will be 15,000 potential job opportunities across the food supply chain in the next five years.

Business and financial services

There are seven different industries within the finance, accountancy and financial services sector. Jobs vary from:

  • accountants
  • bank officials
  • underwriters
  • insurance and investment brokers
  • actuaries and pensions advisers

Advanced manufacturing and engineering

This includes careers requiring CAD skills, CNC machine operatives, mechanical and electrical engineering skills including at technician level and strategic marketing to name but a few.

Renewable energies and recycling

European and global agreements on more energy efficient technology are creating demand for new engineering solutions.  Mechanical engineers are at the forefront of designing everything from better forms of green energy and zero emission engines to the latest breed of nuclear power stations. It’s a highly skilled profession but has multiple entry routes.

Careers in this sector include:

  • mechanical engineers
  • research and development managers
  • physical scientists
  • design and development engineers
  • biological scientists and biochemists

Health and life sciences

The Health and Life sciences sector is one of Northern Ireland’s most important sectors. The sector combines all elements of science and technology that contribute to the discovery and development of products for the healthcare and wellbeing of humans and animals. 

Further information

To find out  more about any of the jobs listed above and the skills and qualifications needed for that career, use the Careers A-Z tool on the following page:

For additional detailed information on future labour market opportunities and the skills needed (including employment prospects by level of education and by subject area) for the Northern Ireland economy, visit:

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