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SAS programming is one of the most valuable technical skills.

In this complex, fast-changing job market, just putting in the hours and being good at what you do may not be enough.

The 21 Most Valuable Career Skills Now

In this complex, fast-changing job market, just putting in the hours and being good at what you do may not be enough. You need an edge. And the surest one these days is to possess the skills that are most in demand in your field, that help your employer keep up with the technological, economic, and social forces that are transforming so many industries. The key, of course, is to know exactly what those skills are.

To provide that critical insight, MONEY and compensation data and software company teamed up to develop a unique new analysis of the skills that employers place the highest value on now. Adding this know-how to your arsenal is essential. “You can’t remain stagnant,” says Lydia Frank, PayScale’s editorial director. “You always want to be learning something new; you always want to be advancing.”

The Best Career Skills

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To identify the abilities that bring the greatest rewards, MONEY and PayScale analyzed 54 million employee profiles, across 350 industries, with 15,000 job titles—from entry-level workers to top execs. We compared people with the same title, age, location, and experience, isolating the specific skills (from a universe of about 2,300) correlated with higher pay, advancement, and career opportunity. The result: an authoritative list of the skills with the best payoff in the workforce today. In general, we found that employers are willing to pay up for these four types of talents.

Making Sense of Big Data

Across a variety of fields, workers earn more when they can make sense of the exponentially more complex data now available about the markets their employers serve. Although companies have long tracked information about customers, sales, and suppliers, businesses today have access to a far richer vein of information. Every time you click on a website, shop online, watch a video, or do pretty much anything else, you leave behind crumbs of information. “People now create more data in an hour than they used to in a month,” says Traci Fiatte, a group president at Randstad, an international provider of HR services.

Thanks to massive improvements in the software that collects, stores, and integrates data, companies can use this information to do things like target new customers, improve service, and offer more personalized products—as long as they employ folks who understand how to organize, analyze, and apply it.

Enter the data maven. “Mainstream American companies have come to realize that in order to become more effective in the marketplace, they need to analyze data,” says Matt Sigelman, the CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, which analyzes job listing information. “And we’re seeing those skills showing up at a premium in a variety of industries, including marketing, logistics jobs, and operations management jobs, just to name a few.”

Top data skills:

  • SAS (Statistical Analysis System)
  • Data Mining/Data Warehousing
  • Data Modeling

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