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Upwork releases Q3 skills index revealing the fastest-growing freelance skills in the U.S.

Note: The newest Upwork Skills Index is now available here.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – October 18, 2016 – Upwork, the world’s largest freelancing website, today released a new index of the hottest skills in the U.S. freelance job market. The Upwork Skills Index highlights the 20 fastest-growing skills and is part of a quarterly series that reveals the most current information about skills freelancers are providing. This comes on the heels of the “Freelancing in America: 2016” study, the most comprehensive measure of the U.S. independent workforce, which found that the U.S. freelance workforce is growing and 55 million Americans freelanced in the past year. The Upwork Skills Index sheds light on the skills being offered by the growing freelance segment of our economy.

The 20 fastest-growing freelance skills in Q3 2016, which all experienced more than 100 percent year-over-year growth, are:

  1. Machine learning
  2. Tableau
  3. User experience design
  4. C++ programming
  5. MySQL programming
  6. Pardot
  7. Social media management
  8. Project management professional (PMP)
  9. Swift development
  10. Chat support
  11. Android development
  12. Unity 3D
  13. Shopify development
  14. Video editing
  15. AutoCAD
  16. Facebook marketing
  17. API development
  18. Content writing
  19. .NET framework
  20. WordPress development

The Upwork Skills Index calculates growth rates based on freelancer billings through Upwork in Q3 2016 versus Q3 2015. Skills including user experience design, Android development, Shopify development, video editing and AutoCAD were all included in the Q2 2016 Skills Index and continue to see rapid growth. Click here for an infographic of the top 20 fastest-growing skills.

Key takeaways:

  • Data science is the fastest-growing category on Upwork, and machine learning tops the list of fastest-growing skills. As advanced algorithms become more complex, their capacity to predict, model and analyze data has turned into a subfield in its own right. Companies are harvesting explosive amounts of data, and demand for machine learning specialists who can build adaptive algorithms and extract the value of this new data is increasing in turn.
  • IT and development skills account for more than half (55%) of the top 20 fastest-growing skills. From web development (MySQL by Oracle ($ORCL), API, .NET by Microsoft ($MSFT) and WordPress) to desktop development (C++) to mobile development (Swift by Apple ($AAPL), Android by Google ($GOOG)), developers continue to be in extremely high demand.
  • Two marketing skills are also in the top 10 — Pardot, a marketing automation software by Salesforce ($CRM), and social media management. Both enable marketers to reach target audiences more effectively and generate more leads.
  • Customer-centric thinking appears to be here to stay. Companies are aiming to deliver quality support to customers when they need it most, as evidenced by significant growth in chat support. With the emergence of chatbots, developers are leveraging Upwork freelancers not only to train and supervise their artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms in every human language they want to support but also to take over the chatbot in cases where AI doesn’t know how to handle the response.
  • As companies increasingly rely on specialized, independent experts, they’re also engaging professionals certified in Project Management Professional (PMP) to keep track of projects and ensure overall collaboration is efficient.
  • Games like Pokemon Go are taking game development to the next level, requiring skills related to augmented and virtual reality. Unity 3D is used to build high-quality 3D and 2D games and deploy them across mobile, desktop, VR/AR and consoles and is becoming the game developer’s platform of choice.

“The freelance workforce is the best indicator of new skill trends,” said Upwork CEO, Stephane Kasriel. “Businesses are turning to freelancers to complete projects requiring skills that aren’t available locally. Freelancers on Upwork know they are responsible for their own career progression and act on this by getting trained and tested on emerging skills earlier than the traditional workforce.”

To see further insights about the growing freelance workforce, please visit “Freelancing in America: 2016” here.

The next Upwork Skills Index will be released winter 2017.


About Upwork
Upwork is the world’s largest freelancing website. As an increasingly connected and independent workforce goes online, knowledge work —like software, shopping and content before it— is shifting online as well. This shift is making it easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near real-time and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at a set time and place.

Freelancers are earning more than $1 billion annually via Upwork. Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Oslo, Norway. For more information, visit our website at www.upwork.com, join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Christina Schultz