Data protection vacancies have increased by four times the UK average, according to an analysis, with 25% of the jobs advertised this year – just months before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force throughout the European Union.

According to recruitment site Joblift, 3,911 data protection vacancies have been advertised in the last 12 months. These positions have seen a monthly increase of 11%, compared with an average 3% monthly increase in the whole UK job market.

The study shows that a significant proportion of companies hiring an external data protection officer appear to have left the recruiting process until the last few months (the analysis does not account for companies that have opted to promote internal employees). A quarter of the vacancies have been posted since the beginning of 2018, with January alone seeing 12% of vacancies posted.

Barristers were most in demand, said Joblift, with 356 vacancies asking directly for candidates who hold a law degree. Legal affairs policy assistants were second in demand with 528 vacancies. The positions only started being advertised in July 2017 with vacancies seeing an average monthly increase of 182% in the last nine months.

In terms of employers; consultancies, law firms and governmental departments rank highest, with PwC, Addleshaw Goddard, and HM Land Registry topping the list. Local and central government were responsible for 385 vacancies in the last 12 months.

Experience appears more important than education; 33% of all vacancies require candidates to have at least five years of experience in IT security and data, while just 14% ask directly for candidates to hold a university degree, and just 8% ask for IAPP, CIPP, or CIPM qualified candidates.

62% of the 3,911 Data Protection vacancies mentioned GDPR in their job advertisements. However, data protection officers are not the only positions being hired for in preparation for the new legal changes. Knowledge of what the GDPR will mean has been requested in 25,223 vacancies in the UK in the last 12 months, with advertisements requesting business analysts, project leaders and IT managers.

Positions requesting knowledge of GDPR have seen an average monthly increase of 23%, almost eight times more than the UK job market’s increase as a whole.