How You Can Build a Career in Blockchain
Hint: It won't involve a college degree.
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In the past 18 months, blockchain has leaped onto the world stage and presented itself as the next-generation solution for many of the tech sector's most pressing problems. It's received influential endorsements from government leaders, industry titans and ambitious entrepreneurs in an unprecedented acknowledgment of the technology's prowess.
To be sure, they aren't wrong. Blockchain, which was first developed to account for the popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is now one of the most dynamic technologies today. As The New York Times wrote back in January, "The Bitcoin bubble may ultimately turn out to be a distraction from the true significance of the blockchain."
All of this enthusiasm has created a surging demand for blockchain-related jobs. According to Upwork, a global freelance exchange, blockchain-related skills were the most in-demand on its platform in the first quarter of 2018. Moreover, TechCrunch reports that "Blockchain-related jobs are the second-fastest growing in today's labor market; there are now 14 job openings for every one blockchain developer."
Of course, blockchain technology is a new job sector without a tried and true path to success. Kids haven't grown up hearing about the technology while fostering ambitions to work on this novel tech. Therefore, the road to a career in blockchain is as new and innovative as the technology itself.
Traditional paths may not fit.
For decades, high school students had a beaten path to follow, and the formula was relatively simple: Do well enough in high school to attend a college, earn a degree in a desirable field and attain a high-paying job. A college degree was thought to serve as a promise for a well-paying, stable job.
Recently, that promise seems like more of an aphorism. In 2013, The Washington Post divulged, "Only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major." Meanwhile, college graduates are leaving school with unprecedented levels of debt. The average student graduates college with more than $37,000 in student debt. Collectively, U.S. student debt approaches $1.5 trillion. In a head-turning study, Citizens Financial Group found that college grads designate a fifth of their salaries to student debt repayments, and they do so for nearly two decades after graduation.
Interestingly, as the labor market tightens, and companies struggle to locate candidates with a bachelor's degree, there is a growing consensus that a candidate's skills are more important than his or her formal education. Deloitte, a research and consulting firm with strong connections to the blockchain industry, supports this assessment. A 2017 Deloitte study found that "aspiring workers should realize that a bachelor's degree is not all that matters to their future. In itself, a bachelor's degree is just a piece of paper. It's the skills -- and the occupation -- that matter more. When it comes to employment, that's the real goal of education."
In many ways, this isn't a particularly shrewd observation. There are plenty of successful people with viable, even extraordinary careers without attaining a bachelor's degree.
A blockchain education
It's clear that those looking for a career in blockchain technology will be following a different script than tech entrepreneurs who came before them. With that in mind, what's the best way to strategically establish a career in blockchain technology?
What the blockchain industry needs are people who are continually developing their skills, and staying up to date with the industry's advancement. There are steps blockchain enthusiasts can take to start developing their career without having to sign up to a traditional university program or attend an expensive seminar.
1. Build the basics.
Blockchain is unlike any other technology available. Understanding its unique value proposition is a critical building block of a blockchain education. Features like decentralization, smart contracts and Dapps are more than just buzzwords. They are the essence of the blockchain, and any successful blockchain professional will intimately understand them.
In this case, a level of formal education can be helpful, but that doesn't mean aspiring blockchain developers need to enroll at a university. Instead, online education platforms like offer comprehensive courses.
2. Consider cyptography.
Assets are increasingly moving online, underscoring the importance of cryptography. Blockchain is renowned for its ability to protect and secure these assets, and it relies on cryptography to make this possible. Failure to appropriately employ cryptography can have devastating consequences for companies that depend on it for security.
High-level cryptography training is available online from reputable, affordable venues, like Coursera and Udacity.
3. Understand distributing computing theory and application.
Distributed computing is no longer a theory. In an age where reliability and security are two of the most pressing issues facing tech proliferation, distributed computing is the blockchain's solution. However, this is far from a refined practice. There are still many areas in need of solutions. For example, issues of scalability and excessive energy consumption continue to plague its implementation. Students of blockchain technology need to study these issues so they can, later on, start to develop solutions to the problem.
4. Maintain community management.
Blockchain and the cryptocurrencies that it powers are unique for their active communities that help encourage their growth and popularity. There are hundreds of new cryptocurrency projects, and they can function as an on-the-job training mechanism for blockchain students.
Reach out to reputable, verifiable blockchain startups and offer your services with community outreach, which includes event organization, discussion leadership and other engagement-oriented activities. While this isn't a perceptible skill, it's an opportunity to engage and network with people in the field while also gaining personal insight into the industry and its community. It's a tangible way to begin participating in a blockchain-based career.
5. Forge your own path.
The blockchain job market is thriving, and those looking to get involved can follow their own path to success. Rather than spending years at an academic institution to prepare for a blockchain career, these DIY strategies can streamline the process and make it more viable for just about anyone to attempt. The market is flourishing, and the opportunity is there for the taking.