Learning & Development, Recruiting

5 Workforce and Career Trends for 2024

As technology, demographics and cultural movements evolve, so do careers and workplaces. Today, the United States is undergoing a significant transformation in both the nature of work and how people engage in it, largely propelled by remote work and the rapid advancements in AI and digitalization following the pandemic. While the full extent of these changes remains to be seen, several key trends are emerging that will shape careers and workforce structures.

Remote Work is Here to Stay

Remote work, which initially surged due to the pandemic, isn’t going anywhere and will continue to influence the way Americans work. Employers have discovered the benefits of offering remote or hybrid work, as it can reduce overhead costs and expands talent pools. Estimates suggest that by 2025, 32.6 million Americans will be working remotely, which equates to about a quarter of the workforce.

One of the most striking statistics regarding remote work indicates that 57% of workers would consider leaving their current job if their employer stopped allowing remote work. This suggests workers value the autonomy and flexibility that remote work offers and consider it a key factor in employment decisions.

Ultimately, both studies mark a shift in expectations: Instead of employees persuading employers to allow them to work from home, employers now often need to justify why employees should be in an office.

AI Will Both Advance and Disrupt the Workplace

In parallel to remote work, the rise of generative AI is accelerating the automation of tasks across industries both enhancing and disrupting the workforce. A study by McKinsey indicates that by 2030, up to 30% of the tasks currently performed in the US economy could be automated.

A clear example is the retail industry where AI-powered automated checkout systems were once novel and futuristic. Today, they are commonplace in supermarkets, restaurants and retail stores. These systems use machine learning algorithms to scan items, eliminating the need for traditional cashiers. Additionally, AI-driven inventory management systems can optimize stocking levels and predict demand more accurately. While these technologies streamline the checkout process for customers, they also reduce the need for human employees, resulting in potential job displacement, barriers to workforce entry, and limitations on future talent pipelines. Organizations will need to carefully balance the implementation of AI to maximize efficiencies without overlooking the value of human capital at all levels.

In the long run, AI will likely benefit individuals in highly skilled roles by providing data-driven insights and analysis, offering solutions or innovative ideas, and reducing repetitive tasks. It will reshape various aspects of the workforce, empowering skilled professionals while prompting those in lower-wage positions – who, according to the same McKinsey study, are up to 14 times more likely to need to change occupations than those in higher wage positions — to enhance or acquire additional skills to adapt to evolving job requirements.

Skills Will Take Center Stage

The increasing demand for higher skill levels will impact the entire workforce, not just those displaced by AI. Employers are increasingly emphasizing skills making it critical not only for workers to adapt and enhance their skill sets to remain competitive, but also for employers to create upskilling opportunities for their workforce. These initiatives empower employees to remain competitive but also foster a sense of optimism and confidence.

Additionally, traditional career paths are evolving, with rising longevity in the workforce and a growing interest in alternative career options such as the gig economy, entrepreneurship, or value-driven work. While formal degrees are still expected to be listed as educational requirements for many jobs, the evolving nature of career paths and the growing preference for skills-based hiring strategies emphasizes the importance for individuals to prioritize skill development, irrespective of their education or previous experience.

High-Growth Careers in 2024 and Beyond

There are numerous high-growth career opportunities emerging in the coming years, promising both job stability and growth potential. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)* reveals several rapidly growing industries, particularly in healthcare, technology, and trade work. Additionally, sectors including ride services, actuarial work, and veterinary support are expected to experience noticeable growth.

In the healthcare sector, high-growth jobs include medical and health services managers, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. While salary, responsibilities, and growth rates vary depending on location, education, licensure requirements and other factors, these roles generally offer high salaries and double-digit growth rates. In addition, other high-growth positions in the healthcare sector include specialties such as telemedicine specialists, and mental health counselors. These roles are increasingly vital for addressing the changing needs of healthcare delivery and the growing emphasis on mental health awareness and treatment.

Tech industry positions such as data Scientists, information security analysts, and software developers are experiencing high expected growth. These roles typically require advanced degrees and industry certifications but also command high salaries. The tech industry offers diverse career pathways beyond traditional roles. Specialized areas such as artificial intelligence/machine learning, cloud computing, and cybersecurity present opportunities for professionals with niche skills and expertise. Individuals with a passion for innovation and a willingness to explore emerging technologies can carve out rewarding careers in these fields.

Sometimes overlooked (especially when compared to more traditional white-collar professions), trade careers offer steady income, growth opportunities, and long-term job security. These positions often do not require higher level degrees and instead may require apprenticeships or professional certificates. They can be rewarding options for those inclined to practical, hands-on work. Jobs like wind turbine service technicians and solar panel installers are expected to be in high demand over the next few years, especially with an increasing focus on renewable energy.

Tips for Job Seekers

Job hunting is hard work and often takes a toll on one’s emotional and mental well-being. Acknowledging this and being intentional about caring for your physical and mental health may not seem like conventional advice, but it is a fundamental component that lays the foundation for a successful job search. As you embark on your job search journey, take care to prioritize and monitor your mental well-being by making time for activities you enjoy, getting enough rest, and nurturing your personal relationships. Doing so will help to minimize burnout during the job search process.

When applying for jobs, it is common for hundreds or even thousands of applicants to compete for the same position, particularly in the case of remote jobs. Instead of submitting applications to anything that seems like it ‘might’ fit, focus instead on postings where you are truly qualified. Additionally, consider enhancing your skillset through advanced education, industry certifications, or training to align yourself more closely to positions you are interested in.  Many platforms such as Coursera or LinkedIn Learning even offer free courses that can help bridge skills to better align you to a position.

As you refine your job search and narrow down your target positions, you must customize your resumé for each job application. While this does require effort and time, being selective in your applications better positions you to invest the time necessary for tailoring your resumé. Highlight relevant skills prominently at the top of your resumé by creating a dedicated skills section aligned to the requirements of the position. Then, ensure your experience section focuses on accomplishments related to the posting’s job duties.  This targeted approach enhances your chances of grabbing the attention of hiring managers and showcasing your fit for the role.

Finally, while it often brings about reluctant groans, networking remains a top job searching strategy. Being recommended for a job significantly increases your chances of getting an interview and ultimately being hired. Use your professional network to reach out to former colleagues who might know of opportunities or can pass along your resumé to a hiring manager. Consider broadening your search beyond traditional job boards by exploring professional associations, local networking groups, or LinkedIn communities. These platforms enable you to establish new connections that may uncover unadvertised opportunities.

Predicating with absolute certainty how the world of work will change is impossible. To best prepare for whatever happens, workers should remain resilient and adaptable, prioritize skills and build social connections. These are all keys to thriving in the job market and finding work that truly matters, no matter what trends are in play.

*Source: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm

Jessica Roper is the director of Career Services at University of Phoenix, where she leads a team of career advisors serving students and alumni in their career planning. She is passionate about mentorship and coaching and driven by helping others succeed in their careers. Jessica is an active member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). She actively mentors through the UOPX women’s employee resource group and the Arizona Foundation for Women She Leads program. Her love of reading has inspired her to venture into writing, where she is eager to share her insights about the latest workforce trends as well as leadership guidance and advice. Jessica earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication from Arizona State University and her MBA with University of Phoenix.

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