Think You Need A Degree To Secure A High-Pay Job In 2023? Think Again

According to recent research from the job search engine Adzuna, skills are now a top priority when it comes to job vacancies with salaries over $200,000 per year. Surprisingly, the logistics warehouse and travel industries, which are primarily diskless, have the highest number of high-paying job openings. The research also highlights the top soft skill as "energetic" and the top hard skill as "invoicing" in job ads with these high salaries. This data reveals that degrees are becoming less of a requirement for well-paying jobs.

The legal sector has the highest proportion of job openings (4.3%) with salaries over $200,000, followed by IT (3.2%). Meanwhile, the logistics warehouse and travel industries have a significant number of job vacancies offering high salaries, with 5,849 and 2,017 vacancies respectively. This creates opportunities for career advancement and transitioning into higher-paying roles.

LinkedIn's research aligns with these findings, showing that recruiters are now more likely to search for candidates based on skills and competencies rather than degrees. The percentage of job postings on LinkedIn requiring a degree has decreased from 21% in 2019 to under 20% in 2023. Additionally, around 90% of analyzed job ads on Adzuna do not require a degree, emphasizing the growing importance of experience and skills in certain industries.

Overall, these trends indicate that skills hold more weight than degrees in the current job market. Employers value years of experience and relevant skills alongside or even above formal education.  

For instance, there is a higher proportion of roles advertising salaries over $200,000 in travel (1.9%), PR, advertising and marketing (1.4%), and HR (1.2%) compared to healthcare and nursing (1%) and engineering (0.5%)—two sectors that normally require years of schooling and credentials and that are commonly assumed to offer high-paying salaries. This can be attributed to the fact that in the past year alone, we’ve witnessed how fast-emerging technologies are evolving and transforming, making a degree of less value than hands-on experience and knowledge. In addition, there is a greater push for employers to pivot to skills-based hiring, thus diversifying their talent pool and reducing their labor shortages.

Considering the top 10 soft skills cited within job ads offering over $200K according to the Adzuna report, “Energetic” is the most cited soft skill, accounting for 23.5% of job ads for roles with high-paying salaries. This is followed by “Communication” (12.2%), “Planning” (6.4%), and “Leadership” (6.3%). Looking at hard skills, “Invoicing” takes the lead and is cited in 26.9% of ads with high-paying salaries, followed by “Operations” (4.1%), “Dispatching” (4.1%), “Research” (3.8%), and "Budgets" (3.2%), and not to forget, "Project Management" (2%).

There has been a major decline in engagement and an increase in burnout in recent years, causing employees to ultimately “quiet” quit. Consequently, employers are focusing their attention on hiring candidates that display high engagement and possess strong communication skills, so they can help drive higher involvement and productivity amongst their teams. This presents an opportunity for potential candidates to focus on developing and refining their new unique selling point—their soft and hard skills, which will open the door to more collaboration, confidence, and creativity that will produce a fulfilling work experience and allow them to thrive within the organization.

How do you land a skills-first job?

Discovering these opportunities is just one part of the process. The next obvious question is, how can you stand out and maintain a competitive edge as a professional, and as a candidate?

Take advantage of upskilling and reskilling opportunities

James Neave, head of data science at job search engine Adzuna, comments: “Businesses are shifting their priorities when it comes to hiring talent and placing greater value on the years of experience, technical knowledge, and soft skills workers have - whether or not they went to college. As skills continue to stand out as competitive differentiators, job seekers need to take advantage of upskilling and reskilling opportunities so they can set themselves apart and be considered for these types of roles."

There is a plethora of paid, cheap, and free upskilling opportunities available online and via your employer if you are still employed. You can take advantage of popular sites such as Udemy, Coursera, Allison, and LinkedIn Learning, and even find niche, industry-specific sites and enroll in their training courses. Also, many universities that traditionally offer professional degrees, also provide short courses, certificates, and diplomas that sometimes count towards a degree, and are quite convenient for upskilling in a short time and with a lower budget than a traditional degree.

Ensure your LinkedIn profile highlights these skills

Since, as mentioned above, recruiters headhunting and filtering candidates on LinkedIn are more likely to search based on skills criteria than degrees, your top priority should be to ensure you include these core skills, also known as "keywords," in your LinkedIn headline and throughout your "about" and "experience" sections. This applies whether you are working or not, as it is important to keep your profile current and in line with your professional experience so that you are well-positioned for any opportunities that may come and won't need to panic at the last minute should you lose or be laid off from your job. Failure to do this could result in potentially being excluded from opportunities, not because you didn't possess the skills, but simply because you neglected to make any mention of them.

Provide evidence of skills

At the time of writing, LinkedIn has multiple functions that allow you to demonstrate your skills in creative ways, including a "demonstrate your skills" section, the ability to assign skills to your experiences, and endorsements from your colleagues and people you've worked with. Beyond LinkedIn, however, Neave, Adzuna's head of data science points out that he recommends that "candidates highlight these in-demand skills at the very top of their resume and share examples during interviews of how they used these skills in their everyday work to achieve results, both from a project and team building perspective.”

Skills are steadily proving, over the past few years, to be the new ticket towards securing eye-watering salaries. This new normal presents an exciting opportunity for you as a professional as you develop throughout your career journey. Maximize opportunities to exploit your existing skill set, leverage the training opportunities afforded you, and showcase evidence of these throughout your employment portfolio and in interviews. This will ensure you are well-positioned to secure your dream salary.

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