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20 fastest-growing skills for freelancers

Upwork the largest freelancing website, today released its newest quarterly index of the hottest skills in the U.S. freelance job market. The Upwork Skills Index ranks the site’s 20 fastest-growing skills in a quarterly series. It sheds light on new and emerging skills and provides real-time validation of current trends in the labor market and tech industry.

According to a new report, staffing firms believe talent scarcity is the biggest inhibitor to their business today and will still be the biggest inhibitor 10 years from now.

“Businesses are placing a greater emphasis on skills training, investing in the workforces they have today and the one they will need tomorrow,” said Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork and co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the New Social Contract. “Freelancers know that skills are what matter most and are more likely than traditional employees to participate in skills-related education. As technological change keeps accelerating, they’re more likely to have the in-demand skills businesses need but might not be able to train up their workforce on quickly enough.”

The 20 fastest-growing freelance skills in Q4 2018 experienced more than 175 percent year-over-year growth, while demand for the top 10 skills grew more than 600 percent year-over-year.

The top 20 fastest-growing skills, Q4 2018:

  1. Hadoop
  2. Dropbox API
  3. Genetic algorithms
  4. Microbiology
  5. Computational linguistics
  6. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  7. Digital signal processing
  8. Intercom
  9. Interactive advertising
  10. Invision
  11. Employee training
  12. Kubernetes
  13. OAuth
  14. Autodesk Revit
  15. App store optimization
  16. App usability analysis
  17. Vue.js framework
  18. Learning Management Solution (LMS) consulting
  19. 3D scanning
  20. React.js framework

Key Insights

Investments in big data solutions are increasing

Hadoop (#1), an open source software used to store, process and analyze big data applications, was the fastest-growing skill out of more than 5,000 skills freelancers provide on Upwork.com in Q4. This was the same quarter that Cloudera and Hortonworks, the two largest players in the space, announced a merger; and other open source software companies such as Databrick and Confluent have also recently raised capital. Businesses are continuing to invest in solutions that allow them to capitalize on the value of their data, specifically leveraging freelance Hadoop experts. According to a report, the global Hadoop market is expected to grow an average of 29% year-over-year for the next five years, reaching $38 billion by 2023.

New, nontraditional education options are proliferating

Among freelancers with a four-year college degree, ninety-three percent say skills training was useful versus only 79 percent that say their college education was useful to the work they do now. As companies realize how critical reskilling is for their workforces, they’re turning to freelancers adept in employee training (#11) and Learning Management Solution consulting (#18) to help create programs that encourage cultures of continuous learning. Growth in this area suggests an emerging trend where more people are getting training on the job.

Mobile optimization is imperative in meeting customer expectations

Consumers now spend more than five hours a day on their smartphones, and apps account for more than 90 percent of internet time on those devices. Businesses are doubling down on their mobile efforts in order to meet consumers where they are, as evidenced by a spike in demand for app store optimization (#15) and app usability analysis (#16) in Q4.

A superior customer experience is key to success

As more companies undergo digital transformation, they’re realizing that design can not only create value and better business outcomes but also help them survive. According to a recent reportorganizations who experience the highest ROI instill a data-driven design approach and successfully integrate design into their business strategy. This is underscored by high growth in demand in Q4 for Invision (#10), a digital product design platform. Intercom (#8), a customer messaging platform that makes apps for sales, marketing and support, also appeared on the index for the first time. Businesses use the tool to more effectively acquire, engage and retain customers and are hiring freelancers with platform knowledge to help take their customer support to the next level.

Rise in cybercrime spurs growth in security skills

Cyber crime is predicted to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021 yet the number of cybersecurity job openings is expected to reach 3.5 million globally by the same year. To access seasoned professionals who have a comprehensive understanding of the IT landscape and can help mitigate risk, businesses are hiring Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (#6)to design, implement and manage cybersecurity programs. Another precaution businesses are taking is beefing up security through OAuth (#13), which enables token-based authentication and authorization online and gives employees a safer and more secure way to access data.

Relevant Course List

Freelancers are more proactively updating their skills to remain marketable as the job market evolves compared to non-freelancing workers. Seventy percent of full-time freelancers participated in skills training in the past six months, compared to 49 percent of full-time non-freelancers.

Here is a list of relevant online courses from online learning platforms, including Coursera, edX, Lynda.com, PluralSight, Simplilearn, Udacity and Udemy for the top 20 fastest-growing skills on Upwork in Q4 2018:

  1. Hadoop: Hadoop platform and application framework (Coursera)
  2. Dropbox API: Cloud Computing Applications, Part 1: Cloud Systems and Infrastructure (Coursera)
  3. Genetic algorithms: Introduction to Genetic Algorithms: Theory and Applications (Udemy)
  4. Microbiology: Introduction to Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (Coursera)
  5. Computational linguistics: Natural Language Processing (Coursera)
  6. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): CISSP Certification Training (Simplilearn)
  7. Digital signal processing: Digital Signal Processing (Coursera)
  8. Intercom: Digital Marketing Course: Learn Digital Marketing Automation (Udemy)
  9. Interactive advertising: Digital Marketing Trends (Lynda.com)
  10. Invision: Diving In with InVision Studio (Udemy)
  11. Employee training: e-Learning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age Financial aid available (Coursera)
  12. Kubernetes: Learn DevOps: The Complete Kubernetes Course (Udemy)
  13. OAuth: Getting Started with OAuth 2.0 (PluralSight)
  14. Autodesk Revit: CAD and Digital Manufacturing Specialization (Coursera)
  15. App store optimization: Mobile App Marketing 2019: ASO, Advertising & Monetization (Udemy)
  16. App usability analysis: Mobile Design and Usability for iOS (Udacity)
  17. Vue.js framework: Vue.js: Getting Started (PluralSight)
  18. Learning Management Solution consulting: Learning Management Systems (LMS) Quick Start (Lynda.com)
  19. 3D scanning: Learning 3D Printing (Lynda.com)
  20. React.js framework: Introduction to ReactJS (edX)

The Upwork Skills Index calculates year-over-year growth rates based on freelancer billings through Upwork in Q4 2018 versus Q4 2017. The next quarterly Upwork Skills Index will be released spring 2019.

About Upwork

Upwork is the largest freelancing website. It enables businesses to find and work with highly skilled freelancers. 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. Our company’s mission is to create economic opportunities so people have better lives.