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Is Higher Ed Meeting the Need for Blockchain Professionals?

Universities are looking to train tomorrow’s blockchain professionals, but the scarcity of developers who can actually code remains a barrier to the mass adoption of distributed ledger technology.

Colorful chains made up of tine ones and zeroes.
According to LinkedIn, job postings relating to “blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” increased nearly 400 percent in the U.S. from 2020 to 2021. As companies look to distributed ledger technology to increase efficiency and security, the report said, demand for blockchain professionals has outpaced the wider tech industry, which witnessed a 98 percent increase in job listings in that period.

While blockchain is still most known for its relationship to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, tech companies have developed blockchain for other uses, such as transferring and authenticating sensitive information in education records and medical records. The technology is also being used to address supply chain issues in manufacturing, among other use cases.

Annette Taber, an industry consultant and former senior vice president of industry and public sector outreach at CompTIA, said companies across industries are starting to adopt blockchain tech to gain a competitive edge over each other. To make the shift, she said, the industry needs more blockchain professionals.

“It’s penetrating all these different industries, and the primary reason for that is because of the cost savings. It’s so much more efficient,” she said. “You look at cryptocurrency [today], while in the past having to go through a bank to transfer money from one country to another. That can literally happen within seconds now.

“What’s challenging about it is that there’s not a lot of folks that get it,” she said. “It just seems in tech, no matter what, we’re always behind the eight ball with the enormous amount of need and lack of resources to fill jobs.”


In recent years, universities have launched several programs geared toward preparing students to work with blockchain tech and to understand its operational implications on both the technical and executive levels. Among the top 50 schools for blockchain worldwide, according to the cryptocurrency-focused online publication CoinDesk, are the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and New York University (NYU).

According to WPI business professor Joe Sarkis, the university’s Business School has placed an increased emphasis on courses that teach undergraduate and graduate-level students about blockchain and its various applications.

“In terms of blockchain technology, we do significant work in the area of supply chain management, and financial technology or fintech,” he said, noting WPI’s minor and graduate-certificate financial technology programs teaching about blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

“The [fintech graduate certificate program] is flexible and with new programs introduced including topics on machine learning, data sciences, distributed database design and information security management,” he continued. “Each of these has implications and cases including blockchain in the classes.”

Meanwhile, NYU’s own set of blockchain-related courses include cryptography, distributed systems and networking. The university’s Stern School of Business also offers a master’s program in fintech.

According to NYU spokesperson James Devitt, the university hosts a graduate-level course on cryptocurrencies and decentralized ledgers for computer scientists focusing on the fundamentals of designing, implementing and analyzing blockchain infrastructure and technology.

“Blockchain basics are also taught to undergraduate computer science students in the elective Introduction to Computer Security course, and there is a student-run NYU Blockchain Lab, which hosts industry speakers and events,” he said.


While schools like NYU and WPI offer undergraduate and graduate-level programs touching on blockchain, the majority of courses across higher ed in this sphere focus largely on the big-picture, business side of blockchain, according to Kingsland University CEO John Souza.

Souza said there are over 30,000 job openings for blockchain development itself, partly because there are few programs training students specifically how to code on blockchain.

“It’s almost like the cart before the horse, because you have a situation where it’s, ‘Where are the developers? Where are the developers going to learn, and how are they going to learn?’” he said. “When you have technology that’s moving while you’re talking about it, and the curriculum is changing, that’s simply not how [most] schools are built.”

To address this growing need, Souza said the university offers blockchain developer and “Zero to Blockchain” courses for students across skill levels to learn more technical skills in blockchain. He said Kingsland is the only accredited school in the U.S. teaching blockchain development.

“There are other schools that have executive-type blockchain programs and fintech-type programs, but they do not teach you how to code on blockchain, and that’s the main differentiating factor,” he said, noting the demand has led companies to poach talent from one another.

Blockchain industry consultant Annette Taber said Kingsland’s focus on the development aspect to meet today’s demand makes it unique compared to most schools.

“I would say that Kingsland is out there at the tip of the spear in that space, because there is just a lack of it,” she said. “We need to go back, and we need to educate the masses of technology solution providers on how to move to the next phase in blockchain [adoption], and what it means to have developers on staff.”

While this could offer Kingsland a competitive edge, Souza said he does not view other schools across higher ed as competitors. He said the university hopes to spread its training curriculum and collaborate with other institutions to help prepare students for work in blockchain development in the years to come.

“We’re having conversations with schools right now about how we plug our program and do that on a matriculation basis so that once they go through our program, they go into [another] master’s degree program for blockchain technology,” he said, adding that details on those discussions remain pending.

“We will gladly offer our curriculum for a school that is really serious about going into blockchain.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.