The Top High Income Skills for 2023 and Beyond

With the recent rise of AI large language models (“LLMs”) such as ChatGPT, there’s been a lot of discussion about which jobs might be automated away in the future. Traditional careers, which were once considered pillars of stability, are under attack as technological change is making job security more elusive than ever.

However, amidst this whirlwind of change, a golden opportunity awaits for those who are willing to take it—mastering high income skills. High income skills are those skills that offer a fulfilling career, a rewarding income, and ongoing relevance in an ever-changing job market.

And given my recent post on the overwhelming importance of income in building wealth, you can see why high income skills are essential to your financial future.

So whether you’re about to start your professional journey or you’re considering a pivot to a better tomorrow, understanding the top high income skills for 2023 (and beyond) can make all the difference in your career. With that being said, let’s dig in as we unpack how acquiring high income skills can transform your future.

How Do We Define a High Income Skill?

Before we can look at the top high income skills of 2023, we first must define what a high income skill actually is. This is important as it will provide a framework for our thinking. With that being said, let’s explore the defining factors of a high income skill:

  • Earning Potential: Most importantly, a high income skill needs to have the potential to generate an income significantly above the median wage. While there is no exact definition for this, a high income skill should put you in the top 20% of all individual earners.
    • For someone in the U.S., this means that a high income skill should earn you at least $92,200 annually, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s ASEC survey.
    • For those living outside of the U.S., I’d encourage you to research what income level places you in the top 20% for your region.
  • Demand & Relevance: In addition to earnings potential, high income skills should be highly sought after in the marketplace. These skills should offer solutions to pressing problems that give you a competitive advantage over others. Moreover, a high income skill should remain relevant even as the professional landscape evolves, safeguarding your career longevity.
  • Barriers to Entry: High income skills are not ones that you can master overnight. They should require significant investment in terms of time, effort, and (possibly) financial resources. These barriers to entry should reduce saturation in the marketplace, allowing you to command higher prices for your expertise.
  • Scalability: Unlike traditional jobs that might limit you to a fixed salary regardless of your hours worked, high income skills should offer you scalability at some point in your career. You should be able to leverage your high income skill to further strengthen your earnings potential.
    • For example, if you can teach others your skill and get paid for it, or use your skill to sell a product to many people at once, then it has this scalability feature.

Considering these factors, a high income skill is much more than the potential for a bigger paycheck. It should also be in demand, difficult to obtain, and have the possibility for future scalability.

As we go through the top high income skills of 2023, you’ll notice that each of them embodies these defining characteristics.

What Are the Top High Income Skills for 2023?

Now that we’ve defined what a high income skill is, let’s look at the top high income skills expected to dominate in 2023 (and beyond).

Data Science

In an age where almost every click, scroll, and touch generates data, those who can interpret all this information are invaluable. This is where data scientists (and similar roles) come in. Mixing statistics, programming, and business acumen, data science is a multidisciplinary field that turns raw data into actionable insights.

And given the increasing amount of data that is being collected and analyzed throughout the world, the demand for data science and similar roles has never been higher. In fact, the 2020 Future of Jobs report listed AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Data Analysts and Scientists, and Big Data Specialists as the top three emerging roles in the United States:Table showing the emerging roles and high income skills in the U.S. based on the 2020 Future of Jobs report.

Because of the high demand, data science roles also tend to be highly compensated. According to Indeed the average base salary for a data scientist in the U.S. is around $125,000.

However, this figure can increase rapidly if you pursue a more specialized role (e.g. AI or machine learning engineer) or if you join a top company. For example, many data scientists at Facebook make $250k (or more) depending on their experience and the company’s stock performance.

In full, data science isn’t just about number crunching, but helping businesses better understand their past performance and future potential. And though ChatGPT has made programming easier than ever, data scientists are still needed to implement the code, check it, and interpret the results.

So if you enjoy problem solving, have an analytical mind, and want to be on the forefront of technology, then data science might be right for you.

  • Potential Earnings: $125,000+ (varies by experience, geography, company, and role)
  • Skills Required: Math, statistics, programming (e.g. Python or R), data visualization.
  • Drawbacks: Requires high technical ability. The field evolves rapidly so you will need to stay up-to-date with the latest tools and trends.

Software Developer/Engineering

At the heart of every application and website lies the work of software developers and engineers. They are the architects and builders of the digital world, ensuring that technologies run smoothly and efficiently. As businesses and consumers increasingly rely on these digital platforms, the need for new applications, systems, and solutions will continue to rise.

Because of this, it makes sense why six of the “Top 10 Best Jobs in America for 2022” according to Glassdoor involve software development:

Top 10 Best Jobs in America for 2022 according to Glassdoor.As you can see, these jobs are highly compensated as well. According to U.S. News and World Report, software developers had a median salary of $120,000 in 2021 with the top 25% of software developers earning in excess of $150,000.

If this sounds enticing and you are passionate about the future of digital technology, then this high income skill could offer you a rewarding and dynamic career path.

  • Potential Earnings: $100,000+ (varies by experience, geography, company, and role)
  • Skills Required: Foundational programming knowledge (e.g. Java, C++, etc.), problem-solving, and deep knowledge of software architecture and design.
  • Drawbacks: Requires high technical ability. The role can be more demanding than others, given the long hours and tight deadlines, especially around product launches.

Sales

Sales has long been recognized as a field where motivated individuals can achieve outsized financial success. Despite being an age-old profession, sales is still relevant in a world dominated by technology and automation. Though ChatGPT can help you write a compelling sales pitch, a human is still needed to deliver that pitch and close the deal.

Regardless of future technological changes, there will always be a need for the human touch in persuasion and relationship-building. As a result, businesses will require skilled salespeople to communicate the value of their products to potential customers.

Though the pay for salespeople can be lower initially, if you are a top performer, then the sky is the limit. Since most sales roles are commission based, the amount you earn is determined by how much you can sell. More importantly, sales skills transfer across industries and are needed in just about every business on Earth.

So if you want to learn the art of persuasion and think you have what it takes to be a high performer, sales might just be the high income skill for you.

  • Potential Earnings: $100,000+ (for top performers)
  • Skills Required: Strong communication skills, persistence, and high emotional intelligence.
  • Drawbacks: Income can be unpredictable as most roles are commission based. High pressure environment focused on sales targets and quotas.

Digital Marketing

In the age of the internet and smartphones, digital marketing has emerged as a critical tool for businesses to reach their potential customers where they spend most of their time—online. Whether it’s social media, email campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), or paid advertising, digital marketing encompasses a wide range of strategies that businesses use to market themselves on the internet.

As more consumers turn to online platforms for shopping and entertainment, businesses require experts who understand how to capture attention and drive conversions in the digital landscape. In fact, according to LinkedIn, half of the top 10 in-demand marketing skills of 2021 were related to digital marketing:

LinkedIn 2021 highest in-demand skills for marketing jobs.

Though digital marketing is in high demand, it is relatively more accessible than some other high income fields. This means that while initial compensation might be lower for beginners, with experience and specialization you can increase your earnings significantly.

  • Potential Earnings: $90,000+ (requires more experience/specialization to get to this level)
  • Skills Required: Familiarity with online platforms like Google Analytics, Facebook Ad Manager, SEO, and much more. Ability to adapt to new tools and strategies. Must be creative, analytical, and have a deep understanding of online consumer behavior. 
  • Drawbacks: Rapidly evolving environment. What works now may stop working in the future. Continuous learning is essential.

Traditional High Income Paths (Medicine/Law)

Historically, careers in medicine and law have been associated with high status, respect, and, most importantly, high income. Furthermore, these career paths have always been essential to society. Doctors save lives and heal the sick while lawyers advocate for justice and provide legal representation to millions.

This enduring importance is likely why Pearson’s The Future of Skills report listed “Lawyers, Judges, and Related Workers” and “Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners” among the occupations with the highest probability of increased demand in the future:

Table showing those skills with the greatest probability of future increased demand. From Pearson's The Future of Skills report.

Their report is optimistic on the future of the legal and medical industries despite rapid technological advances in recent years.

This suggest that these professions are unlikely to be replaced by AI. In fact, the 2020 Future of Jobs report estimated that the industries with the lowest share of workers that were at risk of being displaced by automation were Healthcare, Agriculture, and Professional Services at 10.6%, 11.2%, and 11.6%, respectively. The highest income occupations within these industries are doctors and lawyers.

Though a lot has changed since 2020 with the rise of AI and large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, the evidence still suggests that these models won’t replace doctors and lawyers anytime soon. For example, one lawyer who relied on ChatGPT to create a legal brief found himself in deep trouble after the judge discovered that the brief was filled with “fake judicial opinions and legal citations.” If that doesn’t provide you peace of mind as a lawyer, I don’t know what will.

Regardless, these high income professions are not for the faint of heart. They require years of rigorous education/training and, typically, a significant financial investment (in terms of student debt) to get there. This level of commitment not only reflects the intricacies and responsibilities inherent in medicine and law, but also underscores their enduring significance in society as a high income skill.

  • Potential Earnings: $200,000+ (This varies by speciality and years of experience. It also requires a large financial investment to acquire an advanced medical/law degree)
  • Skills Required
    • Medicine: A deep understanding of human anatomy, disease, and available treatments. Soft skills such as empathy and communication are also helpful. Many specialists spend over a decade learning the skills they need before they can fully practice.
    • Law: Strong analytical skills, attention to detail, research acumen, and communication skills. Lawyers must also demonstrate ethics, integrity, and a deep understanding of the law and legal precedents.
  • Drawbacks: Significant financial, time, and educational commitment. High competition. Long hours. Can be mentally and emotionally stressful.

Having reviewed the top high income skills for 2023, let’s discuss how you can go about picking the right one for you.

Picking the Right High Income Skill for You

Choosing the right high income skill is not merely about following the latest trend or choosing what might earn you the most. It’s also about aligning the skill you choose with your interests, strengths, and long-term goals. In that regard, you should answer the following questions before you consider spending the time and effort to learn a new high income skill:

  • Do you have genuine interest in this domain?
    • If you aren’t interested in learning about something, you will give up on it. Trust me. The money won’t motivate you badly enough to stick with it. This is why it’s important to pick a skill that you find some interest in. You don’t have to love it to start, you just have to be intrigued to learn more.
  • Are your strengths aligned with this skill?
    • If you are interested in learning a new skill, you also have to ask yourself whether that skill fits your individual strengths. Why? Because you don’t want to pick a skill where you start off with a large disadvantage relative to your competition. It will make it much harder for you to succeed and you may end up quitting as well.
      • For example, if your strength is working with numbers and spreadsheets (i.e. technical), you probably shouldn’t pick a skill that is all about convincing people do to things (e.g. marketing, sales).
      • By picking a skill that is aligned with your existing strengths, you may come to love the admiration you get for doing a good job. 
        • I experienced this with writing, something I’ve always been good at, but used to hate. Once I discovered that other people enjoyed my writing, I started enjoying it more as well.
  • Are you willing to put in the time and effort to get there?
    • If you are interested to learn a new skill and it also aligns with your strengths, you will still need to put in tons of effort to master it. Are you willing to do this? If you aren’t, then you might find yourself spending some time (and possibly money) chasing something that will never come to fruition.
  • Is this skill aligned with the life you want?
    • Lastly, anytime you pick a new skill to learn ask yourself whether that skill aligns with your idealized life.
      • For example, if you imagine yourself traveling the world and working remotely while doing so, don’t pick a high income skill that requires you to be in a specific location. If your idealized life includes more time with your family, then don’t pick a high income skill that requires long hours (e.g. law).
      • By aligning the skill you choose with the lifestyle you want, you will be far more likely to succeed and enjoy the process while doing so.

In conclusion, picking the right high income skill is a blend of self-awareness and forward-thinking. Spending time to make the right decision will ensure that you’re not just chasing a high income, but also building a fulfilling career for your future.

The Bottom Line

The landscape of the professional world is ever-evolving, shaped by technological advancements, socio-economic shifts, and global events. In such a dynamic environment, the pursuit of high income skills offers a way for career advancement in an uncertain world. But as we’ve discussed, it’s not just about your paycheck. It’s also about aligning your career with your passions, strengths, and the future you envision for yourself.

The high income skills of 2023 are both diverse and exciting, offering avenues for tech enthusiasts, creative minds, strategic thinkers, and much more. Choosing the right one requires introspection, research, and a bit of foresight.

But once you find what works for you, you’re not just securing a source of income, you’re also building a more fulfilling future. Thank you for reading.

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This is post 360. Any code I have related to this post can be found here with the same numbering: https://github.com/nmaggiulli/of-dollars-and-data


 

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