Young female student sitting at a desk in her home wearing headphones typing on laptop looking for the most valuable skills

The pace of change is faster than ever before, and it’s become commonplace to have to learn new skills almost constantly in a professional environment. From apps designed to help us work more efficiently to technology that’s completely transforming work as we know it, new skills are essential in order to keep up. 

As the world and the job market evolve, developing the right talents will help you stay employable and advance in your career. We’ll reveal the best skills to focus on to command a high salary and enjoy strong job security. But first, let’s take a closer look at what employers are currently looking for and what’s driving those demands. 

A changing labor market

It should come as no surprise to anyone that tech jobs are expected to experience strong, continuous growth over the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of data scientists, for example, is projected to grow by a massive 36% through 2032, while employment of software developers is expected to grow by 25% during that same time frame. 

In addition to being prized by employers, tech skills also bring home the bacon. The median pay for computer and information research scientists–the people who develop new ways to use technology–is $145,000 a year. Software developers and QA analysts see a median income of $130,160, while the median pay for network architects is just under $130,000. 

While tech skills don’t always spell job security (layoffs in tech continue to be prevalent), they are in high demand. If you have skills in areas like IT and AI, you’ll likely have a better chance of getting hired again quickly if you experience a setback like a layoff. Technology skills offer diverse paths for advancement, including management and branching off on your own as a consultant or entrepreneur. 

However, there’s an interesting flip side to the huge growth in tech. In light of the explosive rise of AI, many employers are now prioritizing skills of a different sort–the uniquely human, or “durable” skills, that can’t be replicated by a machine. Things like communication, teamwork, and creative problem-solving are high on recruiters’ wish lists when assessing candidates. 

This duality has created a unique environment for job seekers, where individuals with a blend of hard and soft skills will be at a distinct advantage.

Most valuable hard skills in today’s job market

AI/machine learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are at the forefront of technological innovation. Demand for these skills spans industries, from business and finance to healthcare and science and beyond. Professionals with skills in AI and ML design the systems that learn from data and use that knowledge to identify trends, make predictions, accomplish tasks, automate processes, and more. Knowledge of algorithms, expertise in programming languages like Python, and experience with frameworks such as TensorFlow or PyTorch are highly sought after and will continue to be for years to come. 

Cloud computing

Cloud computing offers flexible, scalable solutions for business processes and data storage, revolutionizing the way companies operate. People with cloud computing expertise are needed to help organizations streamline operations, reduce costs, and enhance performance. Skills in platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform are rising in popularity as more companies make the move to cloud-based infrastructure. 

Project management

Business operations have a lot of moving parts, and companies need organized individuals who can bring those parts together by coordinating teams and managing resources. Project management skills ensure work is completed on time, within budget, and to the appropriate specifications. If this is an area you’re interested in developing, focusing on project management methodologies like Agile and Scrum and obtaining your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification can set you apart. 


Data is like crude oil: a valuable resource that can be extracted. Analytics is the skill that turns that raw resource into a refined, useful fuel. You’ll become an invaluable employee if you can leverage analytics to help companies use complex data to make informed decisions. Top capabilities in this area include data analysis, statistical modeling, and knowledge of software like SQL, R, and Python.


With the rise of data comes the urgent need to protect it. The uptick in cyber threats only exacerbates that need. Skilled cybersecurity professionals are essential to help organizations protect sensitive information, ensure regulatory compliance, and maintain the integrity of their technological infrastructure. Expertise in network security, encryption, and ethical hacking will lead to expansive job prospects. 


In terms of dollars and cents, this may be the most valuable skill on our list. In pretty much every industry, there’s money to be made by people with a knack for selling. Sales skills drive revenue and business growth, which is a critical need for every for-profit organization. Plus, many of the same skills that make great salespeople–negotiation, customer relationship management, and emotional intelligence, to name a few–are highly transferable to other careers. 


We often picture executives in business suits when we think of management roles. However, management isn’t limited to an office setting. Construction managers, for example, have a median annual salary of over $100,000 a year. Skills in areas like strategic planning, resource allocation, performance management, and employee motivation can help you land a lucrative managerial role. 


As the U.S. invests heavily in competing with places like China to develop goods like cars and electronics, manufacturing jobs are being created much faster than employers can fill them. This has created a surge in demand for workers who already possess manufacturing skills and those who are willing to learn them. For example, Hyundai’s plant in Savannah, Georgia, has teamed up with a nearby technical college to create a direct path to employment for students studying electric vehicle production. Developing skills relevant to the manufacturing industry, like fabrication, product design, and robotics, will lead to promising job opportunities in the years ahead. 

Most valuable soft skills in today’s job market


In today’s dynamic work environment, quickly adapting to new circumstances is more important than ever. According to an analysis by LinkedIn, adaptability is the skill that saw the biggest surge in users’ profiles between 2022 and 2023. Adaptable employees enable teams to evolve, keep pace with market changes, and thrive in the face of uncertainty (which is in high supply in the current economy). It’s no wonder this skill is one of the most sought-after. 


Team members in today’s organizations are dispersed worldwide, using more communication platforms than ever to interact with one another. On any given day, opening your email in a browser tab, Slack running in the background, and text messages dinging on your phone simultaneously are common. Thus, strong communication skills are necessary to convey information clearly and succinctly. Effective communication ensures that teams function smoothly and projects progress without misunderstandings. 


Workers with strong leadership skills are imperative to guide teams toward achieving organizational goals. They drive change, foster innovation, and help develop others to their full potential. Leadership isn’t just a valuable skill for managerial positions; it’s a valuable quality at any level in an organization. No matter your seniority level, you can seek out opportunities to hone your leadership skills by stepping up to take on new levels of responsibility, motivating your teammates during challenging times, and seeking and acting on feedback from your more senior colleagues.

Related: Must-Read Leadership Books


Problem-solving skills empower teams to identify issues, analyze potential solutions, and utilize both critical and creative thinking to decide on the best course of action. This is another skill that’s especially crucial within today’s rapidly changing workforce. Those who are able to problem-solve effectively bring value to their organizations, which correlates with job security and advancement opportunities. 


The younger generations in the workforce get a bad rap for being self-serving, putting their personal interests above those of the team. Companies are wary of this attitude when hiring. Employers today are seeking team players who can collaborate and cooperate to achieve common goals. Putting aside personal differences and working together successfully is especially important as teams become increasingly diverse. 

Today’s most valuable skills in the job market encompass cutting-edge technical capabilities and essential soft skills. By investing in developing these skills, you’ll be well-positioned to thrive in a competitive and ever-changing landscape while maximizing your earnings and career prospects.

Related: Top Soft Skills for Skills

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn