Looking for a cryptocurrency job? Here are the skills you might need
As blockchain technology gains traction, cryptocurrency careers are becoming an attractive option for developers and those with other relevant skill-sets. (updated 9.02.2021)
The rise of cryptocurrency and associated technologies has created a wave of new career opportunities, from highly specialist data scientist and Ethereum developer jobs to more entry-level blockchain jobs involving coding or supporting roles for fintech businesses.
Cryptocurrency is a fast-moving sector, with many roles open for forward-thinking professionals who either understand and have experience of this new tech, or who are prepared to undergo a steep learning curve to reap the rewards of being at the cutting edge of a new movement.
Technical roles are obviously in high demand, but if you are not a developer or do not have the scientific background that many vacancies require, there are still many opportunities to become involved. Both hard and soft skills are needed, and the rates of pay are typically above what you can expect in other sectors. Additionally, there are often other benefits, since the nature of the blockchain industry is that you may well be able to work remotely. Cryptocurrency jobs often pay in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, making them an attractive source of extra earnings if you understand the markets well enough.
What’s new for 2021?
While this article was originally published in 2020, all of the information still remains relevant for the coming year – if not more so. Going into 2021, blockchain is as important as ever for the creation of the next generation of web services. And if there’s anything that 2020 taught us, it’s that a lot needs to change.
The coronavirus pandemic had several direct and indirect effects on our lives that are relevant to this discussion. Firstly, working from home became the norm rather than the exception. With the increase in remote work, and with unemployment rising as a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19, the attraction of the global gig economy quickly became clear. Anyone with an internet connection could access work from anywhere in the world, fitting tasks around family commitments as they needed to. That doesn’t look set to change any time soon.
Not only that, but cryptocurrency and blockchain technology were the beneficiaries of the mass money printing undertaken by major governments. Crypto, and the technologies that underpin it, are clearly here to stay. And digital currencies are the ideal way of accessing work and receiving payments, regardless of the locations of worker and employer, or their access to banking services.
In short, looking ahead to the coming year, many uncertainties remain – but the demand for blockchain skills is not one of them.
Blockchain is an inherently technical field, so if you happen to possess relevant hard skills then you’ll likely be able to access some of the best cryptocurrency job opportunities. A formal education in these isn’t always necessary, since blockchain has only been around for a little more than a decade. Many of those who have secured top positions have done so because they took an interest at an early stage and honed their skills by experimenting and building software. Here are some of the key skills and domains you’ll need for a fulfilling career in cryptocurrency.
It’s an obvious starting point but for anything from an absolute entry level blockchain job upwards, you’re going to need to know how the technology works. There are many different elements to blockchain, and many different types of blockchain network. It’s more accurate to describe them as blockchain technologies, since distributed ledgers really bring together multiple different components. You’ll need to have a deep grasp of the principles of blockchain, the architecture of different systems, how they are used, and more. If you don’t already have that, start here.
There are lots of technical crypto jobs that will require coding skills, whether you’re working as a blockchain developer or carrying out blockchain data analysis, maintaining security processes, and so on. You’ll find some languages more useful than others. C++, Java and Scala are commonly used for blockchain protocols. It won’t hurt to have knowledge of other languages and frameworks like Python, Node.js or Rust, too. Alternatively, you might be involved in website or UX design – see below.
You may also have a role in carrying out third-party audits of other company’s smart contracts – again, a high-responsibility task. This area has become increasingly important since vulnerabilities in a number of well-known smart contracts were exploited, with the loss of tens of millions of dollars. If this is one of your skills, you can practically set your own pay. Businesses know their products are constantly under attack, and they’d prefer to work with the individuals who can find the loopholes, rather than against them.
Cryptography and security
An overall understanding of the security landscape for cryptocurrency is a valuable skill. Knowledge of cryptographic protocols, public key cryptography, elliptic curve signatures, cryptographic hashing and Merkle proofs are also useful, and will be required for many of the more senior as well as some entry level blockchain jobs. As a security architect, you’ll be responsible for establishing and maintaining the systems that will keep both your company and product secure, and prevent unwanted exploitation. This is an important job in any industry, but in blockchain it’s absolutely vital – a high-responsibility position that will demand a very high degree of competence.
Blockchain provides access to a huge amount of data, thanks to its transparent architecture. Understanding how to extract this, parse it, make sense of it and use it to equip businesses and other organisations is crucial – in fact, data scientists top the rankings for the best-paid cryptocurrency career vacancies. You’ll probably need a science, maths or engineering background, as well as coding skills, since you’ll be building tools to help you process the wealth of data the blockchain holds.
This is one of the top skills listed by LinkedIn for 2020, even outside of cryptocurrency careers. Since blockchain is another top skill for the year, it’s a powerful combination. You’ll need to be proficient in creating beautiful, intuitive interfaces that plug into the blockchain and allow users to access its functionality without needing to know or worry about what’s going on behind the scenes.
Top-notch frontend development skills are vital, including appropriate programming languages. You’ll most likely be working with APIs to connect to the blockchain and access its functionality through your UI, but of course it always helps to have a keen appreciation for exactly how the blockchain works, and how it differs from other centralised databases with which you might have worked in the past.
Again, if your site connects to the blockchain it will probably be using APIs, but it makes sense for you to understand how they work and what’s going on behind the scenes – even if you don’t need the same kind of deep technical knowledge required of a blockchain developer.
This one comes in many forms, but there are crypto jobs that involve anything from trading the markets on a short-term basis to identifying the next unicorn tech company for hedge funds or VCs to allocate money into. You’ll very likely need appropriate licences and certification, since this area is subject to stricter regulation than other blockchain jobs. This is also an instance where formal education in the subject is probably necessary. The flipside of that is that if you have both the understanding of the crypto sector and the right qualifications and licences, you’ll be in demand.
While it’s not a technical position, there are many cryptocurrency jobs that seek to ensure compliance within the complex and evolving regulatory landscape for blockchain and digital currencies. Depending on the role, you may need a law degree and other qualifications or certification, like a licence to practice.
For other positions, that won’t be necessary – but you will need a broad knowledge of the regulation that applies to crypto. Moreover, you’ll need to keep up with it as it changes – which it does on a regular basis as different jurisdictions update their stance and clarify the rules. Because blockchain is an international technology, there’s a good chance you’ll need to know your way around the regulation not just for your jurisdiction, but for other key jurisdictions.
Without doing this, you may be unable to access certain markets, particularly the United States, where regulation is fairly strict. You will likely also need to understand how security requirements impact compliance, since there may be certain specific standards you need to meet for different countries (use cases in some jurisdictions, for example, require the use of particular cryptographic standards).
Develop multiple skills
While any one of these skills will allow you to access anything from an entry-level blockchain job to one of the most senior and well-paid positions, this is not the kind of industry where you should be resting on your laurels. The more skills you can pick up, and the more flexible you are, the more value you can add to your company. You might be in line for sideways moves into another area of the business, or an unexpected promotion if you continue to learn and develop the skills that businesses desperately need.
Cryptocurrency jobs and skills examples
Given that blockchain is the no. 1 hard skill listed by LinkedIn for 2020, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are so many different jobs available in the industry. The demand for skilled people means that rates of pay are typically anything from 10-25% higher than for similar jobs in other sectors. According to market news and analysis site CAGRValue, some of the top blockchain jobs and their required skills include:
- Data scientist. You’ll need coding experience and in-depth knowledge of blockchain technology.
- Blockchain developer (including Ethereum developer). Jobs will require proficiency in more than one programming language, including smart contract languages like Solidity.
- Blockchain engineer. This requires a computer science or software engineering background, as you’ll be designing blockchain systems.
- Machine learning engineer. Masters or PhD in computer science generally required, including knowledge of data processing algorithms.
- Security architect. Appreciation for online security, typically through work in web development or a related field.
- Financial analyst. You’ll need a relevant Bachelor’s degree and a licence to practice from the necessary regulator.
- Research analyst. In-depth knowledge of blockchain and coding skills.
It’s not just about hard skills, though. While developers and other technical positions are in demand, cryptocurrency careers involve far more than building software and systems. In particular, there are vacancies in marketing and communications, and community management. Both of these require soft skills – though, as ever, the more knowledge you have about how blockchain works, the better. Some of the top soft skills include:
This applies to both technical and non-technical roles. Blockchain is a fast-moving industry in which the rulebook is still being written. Those who can think outside the box will be extremely valuable, coming up with approaches and solutions that currently do not exist. As well as writing the software that underpins the next blockchain platforms, this includes coming up with new economic models that align interests between different stakeholders, new forms of community and engagement, and new ways of communicating with potential audiences.
Another top soft skill, this is in-demand for cryptocurrency jobs – especially those with an all-important marketing component. Blockchain is a new and complex technology, and it can be hard for new audiences to understand it. There are roles for those who can explain it in simple and persuasive terms, from all the different benefits of decentralised models of operation to digital money and tokenised assets. A background in marketing and comms may be helpful, but don’t expect to be able to use exactly the same skills and processes in a blockchain job.
There’s a good chance you’ll be working in a small and tight-knit team, where the stakes are high and there will be demands on your time beyond the normal 9-5 office hours. Additionally, many cryptocurrency jobs require you to work remotely. This can present particular challenges for engaging as a team, since you’ll be working across cultures, timezones and languages. You’ll need to show flexibility and be able to collaborate effectively with your team despite the barriers to doing so. If you do happen to find yourself in an office, so much the better. But again, it’s unlikely to be the kind of large, monolithic organisation you may be used to. Many crypto jobs are in start-ups, where you’ll be working closely – and intensely – with some highly driven people.
Willingness to learn
A career in blockchain is not like working in other industries. You will emphatically need to continue to develop your skills and understanding of the technology, otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll be left behind and your current skill-set will become irrelevant. More seriously, in such a fast-moving sector, that could pose a risk to your employer. You’ll be expected to stay up-to-date and expand your knowledge all the time. Ideally, that will take place through natural curiosity and enthusiasm rather than a sense of duty – in other words, you’ll do it because you want to. Being a self-starter is almost mandatory if you want to work for crypto or in the blockchain sector.
Blockchain is the most in-demand skill for 2020, and there is a wide range of opportunities available for those looking for a career in cryptocurrency. If you have the technical skills and are just starting out, there are plenty of entry-level blockchain jobs, from blockchain engineer roles and Ethereum developer jobs through to marketing and support positions. For those with more experience and expertise, you could quickly find yourself at the top end of the pay scale in a high-responsibility job in security, data analysis or blockchain development. Additionally, legal and compliance jobs are a hugely important part of the blockchain landscape as businesses seek to operate within ever-changing regulatory frameworks.
In addition to these technical roles, there are well-paid non-technical positions in marketing and communications. Soft skills are valuable in these jobs, though you will ideally also need an in-depth knowledge of how the blockchain works.
For all careers in cryptocurrency, it’s important to be a self-starter who can be trusted to work alone, to continue learning about the sector, to be a team player and to be committed to adding value to the business in whatever way you can – in and beyond your chosen role.
🛠 What skills do you need to apply for crypto jobs?
Coding, smart contracts, cryptography and security are all in demand. You could also look at communications, legal and compliance jobs, as well as financial analysis.
💰 What are the highest-paid jobs in crypto?
The best-paid opportunities are for data scientists, blockchain developers and blockchain engineers.
🐣 What are good entry-level blockchain jobs?
Entry-level blockchain jobs can be found by software developers (both frontend and backend developers), including web developers.
💻 What programming languages are best for blockchain jobs?
You should learn several languages, but Node.js, Python, Rust, C++, Java and Scala are all used. Solidity is required for programming Ethereum smart contracts.