2024 In-Demand Skills: Unprecedented Growth in AI and Emergent Skills for Uniquely Human Work

Mar 19, 2024
2024 In-Demand Skills: Unprecedented Growth in AI and Emergent Skills for Uniquely Human Work

By Kelly Monahan & Ted Liu

Over the last several years, it’s been argued that skills are, increasingly, the new currency for work. Our latest research on generative AI reflects a skills-biased technology change happening, where we see freelancers who work with this technology generate higher earnings and higher-complexity, higher-value work by leveraging a new set of skills. It is part of the reason why we foresee a theme of job transformation this year, as our research has found AI is unlikely to replace most jobs, but will certainly change the tasks and skills required for the workforce to generate value.

As technology continues to progress, it remains critical for business leaders to recognize the emerging skills required to maintain competitive advantage. For the workforce, it is absolutely essential to understand what skills are most in demand in order to stay ahead and generate value, both for organizations and themselves. At the Upwork Research Institute, it is important that we educate both the workforce and leaders about the types of work happening on our marketplace. We have a unique vantage point of seeing skill trends that translate into hires for work. It’s not simply which skills people are searching for or learning about; our research reveals the skills that actually translate into demand and earnings.

This year, we examined the top skill sets in some of our most popular categories of work, including Data Science & Analytics, Coding & Web Development, Sales & Marketing, Accounting & Consulting, Customer Service & Admin Support, and Design & Creative. To help identify the shift in work that is happening across our platform, we also analyzed year-over-year trends to uncover which skills are new to our top 10 lists by category as well as which skills are fastest-growing across our entire platform. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we do have a broad-based view of the frontier of work as clients seek new types of work and independent professionals bring new skill sets to their profiles and projects.

After analyzing freelancer earnings from 2023, we identified some leading insights:

  • AI skills are growing in importance for developers: We see a lot of stability in demand for the skills in our Coding & Web Development category of work, with little change year over year in what’s needed to meet client demand. But, it’s important to note that as artificial intelligence continues to change the way people work, we see AI skills on the rise within these categories of work, with scripting, automation and database development skills significantly growing in demand. We also anticipate that skills related to organizing, cleaning and classifying data to ensure AI models are ready for learning will continue to be an important skill set in 2024.
  • Data Science & Analytics skills are in very high demand: As generative AI modeling and machine learning see strong demand from clients, these skills are some of the fastest-growing types of work on our marketplace. Human technical skill sets are maturing as AI develops, powering this technology in our workplaces. We see the skills of machine learning and data analytics in particular moving higher up the list this year compared to last year. This presents an especially exciting opportunity for freelancers who are much more likely use generative AI tools in their workflows than other professionals.
  • Project management is more valuable than ever: As the world of work grows more complex, the need for project management and administrative support continues to rise. We see this particular growth manifested in the ascension of virtual assistance and various forms of project management skills, including business, supply chain & logistics, and development and IT. While initially it may be assumed that generative AI is substituting or displacing these skills, we’ve learned from talking with clients that generative AI is alleviating the repetitive, mundane workload and elevating the complexity of what project managers and assistants can do.

As companies continue to vie for the best talent, there remains huge demand for a broad range of skills across the Upwork marketplace. But in 2024, we’re seeing the impact that emergent technologies like generative AI are having on the skills-based economy as businesses big and small are finding solutions in the growing reservoir of skilled independent professionals.

Top 3 Fastest-Growing Skills in Each Category
(Based on Year-Over-Year Growth of Freelancer Earnings)

Data Science & Analytics

  1. Generative AI Modeling¹
  2. Machine Learning
  3. Data Analytics

Coding & Web Development

  1. Scripting & Automation
  2. Database Development
  3. Web Design

Sales & Marketing

  1. Marketing Automation
  2. Sales & Business Development
  3. Email Marketing

Accounting & Consulting

  1. Personal Coaching
  2. Financial Management/CFO
  3. Bookkeeping

Customer Service & Admin Support

  1. Business Project Management
  2. Medical Virtual Assistance
  3. Supply Chain & Logistics Project Management

Design & Creative

  1. Packaging Design
  2. Music Production
  3. Videography

New Top Skills to Make the Top 10 Lists in 2024

  1. Generative AI Modeling
  2. Medical Virtual Assistance
  3. Executive Virtual Assistance
  4. Logo Design
  5. Development and IT Project Management  
  6. Digital Marketing Campaign Management
Top In Demand Skills

Full List of Most In-Demand Skills for 2024 in Each Category

Top In Demand Skills 1

Top In Demand Skills 2

Methodology

Skills data was sourced from the Upwork database and is based on U.S. freelancer earnings from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023. Each skill had a minimum of 250 projects with active work during the period. Year-over-year growth was estimated by comparing freelancer earnings in the full year 2023 to freelancer earnings over the same period in 2022.

¹ Note: This skill was not available in 2022, but was the fastest-growing in terms of percentage growth in 2023.

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