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This tech skill is one of Upwork's most in-demand for 2024—and it can pay $167 per hour

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With college graduations sweeping the country in the spring, many 20-somethings flock to the labor market in June in search of their first post-degree jobs. If you're one of these young hopefuls — or, if you're simply looking for a new gig — consider leaning into the what employers are most looking for.

Freelance marketplace Upwork recently unveiled its most in-demand skills for 2024 based on freelancer earnings. They looked at "what was more in demand year over year versus less in demand and what was up and coming," says Margaret Lilani, vice president of talent delivery at the company. This includes skills like social media marketing, accounting and virtual assisting.

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One of the most in-demand skills for 2024: data analytics. Here's what the skill requires, how much it can pay and why employers are seeking it out.

Data analytics 'drives so much'

Data analysts look at raw data regarding how a business is performing including things like sales, website traffic and regulatory risks, and draw conclusions about how it can improve. The job "drives so much" in terms of business operations, says Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster, adding that, "you're getting quantifiable data sources, you're writing comprehensive reports, you're analyzing data, identifying trends."

Data analysts often need a bachelor's in subjects like computer science or statistics. Those without the degree can also take online courses through universities or tech companies like Google and get certifications through sites like Coursera.

Data analysts on Upwork charge as much as $167 per hour.

Those who can leverage new tech will be 'the winners'

The skillset is one that's ever-evolving, especially as it pertains to new AI tools.

"There has been a version of data analytics around for quite some time," says Lilani, but now the skill is about "utilizing artificial intelligence to get deeper into the data and to find greater insights faster."

This tech is "evolving at a crazy pace," she says. "And so the humans who know how to leverage that technology and utilize it and deploy it are going to be the ones who are the winners in that game."

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