Planning for a Quantum Talent Bottleneck

Written by Jordan Kenyon

Using quantum technologies to change the world
Quantum Sensing

Quantum Sensing

Leveraging quantum mechanics to enhance sensors beyond what is classically possible

Quantum Computing

Quantum Computing

Processing information in fundamentally different ways to accelerate certain calculations

Quantum Communications

Quantum Communications

Implementing novel approaches for transmitting and securing information in transit and at rest


QIST’s revolutionary potential elevated it to the level of national strategy in 2018 with the signing of the National Quantum Initiative (NQI) Act. The NQI Act drives a coordinated research and development (R&D) strategy to ensure the United States’ economic and national security in the fast-approaching quantum era. In February 2022, the National Science and Technology Council’s Strategic Plan for QIST Workforce Development concluded that there is a QIST talent shortage at all levels. To translate QIST’s potential into real-world impact, federal and commercial leaders must coordinate the right quantum expertise for strategic planning and R&D, while building talent strategies that enable them to scale.

Strategy Requires Diverse Quantum Expertise

Effective quantum teams deploy diverse QIST expertise to help organizations identify a broad set of potential use cases and prioritize high-impact applications. With the potential to revolutionize current ways of doing business, quantum technologies grab headlines with promises for better and faster results. Yet a technology’s efficacy has as much to do with its implementation as its intrinsic capacity. For example, AI offers significant advantage in solving certain problems under certain conditions, but it isn’t the best answer to every problem. Quantum will be no different.

“While QIST is expected to revolutionize sensing, computing, and communications in our lifetime, it isn’t a silver bullet and requires focused deployment to optimize impact.”

Quantum strategy requires agencies to tap into a significant breadth of quantum expertise across the technology clusters (i.e., sensing, computing, and communications). Identifying the real-world benefits of quantum computing requires a deep understanding of quantum complexity theory, quantum and classical algorithm development, benchmarking methodologies, resource estimation, and an agency’s mission. Agencies need access to this expertise to understand current capabilities, determine how (and how fast) different hardware and software architectures might scale up, and anticipate timelines for when quantum computing may provide a strategic advantage over classical computing for mission-critical problems. As a result, agencies will require extensive reach-back to QIST experts to meet each technology cluster and its constituent applications where they are in the maturity lifecycle. Engaging the right external partners is critical to developing a robust quantum strategy since agencies rarely have the requisite in-house expertise during this initial stage of exploration and adoption.

Research and Prototyping Demand Specific Quantum Expertise

AI's evolution toward increasingly differentiated specialties provides a useful parallel for QIST. Today, AI expertise is commonly described through various subfields, including machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, natural language processing, and more. It is not enough to identify an “AI expert,” because we understand the diversity of expertise under the AI umbrella. The language we developed to differentiate AI specialties provided a critical link for translating potential into practice by facilitating better connections between people and projects. Federal and commercial leaders must learn to differentiate QIST expertise with similar nuance. 

“QIST experts are not one-size-fits-all; organizations must carefully align personnel and projects to enable quantum technologies’ full potential.”

Quantum sensing, computing, and communications require different expertise, and an agency may not need experts in all three areas. Similarly, a single quantum scientist won’t be equally suited to roles across—or even within—the three technology clusters. For example, quantum communications encompasses a wide variety of efforts from building a quantum internet to transitioning to post-quantum cryptography. These quantum-enabled and quantum-safe innovations leverage different skills and may be best supported by different subject matter experts. With early support from trusted advisors, organizations can identify which quantum skillsets correspond to their mission-critical use cases and ensure access to the right talent for research and prototyping.

Enabling Scale

A QIST-enabled future requires more quantum scientists—and more than quantum scientists. As the field continues to navigate the near-term talent shortage, strategic partnerships and upskilling endeavors may mitigate delays in operationalizing QIST to solve mission-critical problems. Ultimately, extracting QIST’s revolutionary potential will be a team effort, where a diverse network of scientists, technologists, and engineers has an important role to play.

Explore More Quantum Insights

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Through legislation and executive action, the federal government is working to ensure U.S. leadership in the field of quantum information science. Booz Allen is committed to supporting this vision.

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Quantum's Potential to Unlock Finance Insights

Booz Allen’s team of quantum researchers is working to demonstrate how today’s challenging financial questions can be addressed with quantum technology.

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Quantum for Health Sciences and Technology

The federal government has mandated multiple agencies to support research and development in quantum sciences and technology and to develop programs for growing the future quantum workforce. 

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