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Article | Beyond Data

Hot jobs and disciplines you will compete for in 2024

By Mei Nishiwaki | February 12, 2024

Even with the targeted layoffs and recession threats of the past year, hot and high-demand jobs still exist.
Compensation Strategy & Design
Beyond Data

Geopolitical and military conflicts, historically high salary budget increases and recessionary threats have afflicted the job market in the past few years. The latest – and possibly most significant – event is the impact of explosive growth in generative AI applications.

Each disruption has created a demand for concomitant jobs. Even with targeted layoffs and the threat of recession, hot and high-demand jobs still exist. Compensation and HR professionals need to know which jobs those are in light of prevailing market and economic conditions to effectively formulate competitive and cost-effective compensation strategies.

Defining a hot job

WTW has developed a systemic methodology to identify which jobs are hot and quantify how hot an individual job is, then supplements traditional metrics (e.g., job with the highest pay) across several dimensions:

  • Recent pay increase: Based on annual base salary percent increase (current vs. prior)
  • Sustained pay increase: Based on 3-year average base salary increases (current vs. two years prior)
  • Surge in demand for the job: Based on incumbent count percent increase (current vs. prior)
  • Overall talent scarcity for the job: Based on the discipline percentile positioning within the career level

We consider jobs to be hot when they rank among the top 15% across several individual indicators. In addition to the four metrics noted, the methodology also includes a combined heat indicator that incorporates all four dimensions into a single metric.

2024’s hot jobs

Applying our methodology to data from our 2021, 2022 and 2023 General Industry Middle Management, Professional and Support (MMPS) surveys revealed the top five jobs (see Figure 1).

Top 5 hottest disciplines by heat indicator
Figure 1. Top 5 disciplines at the P3 (career professional) Level based on combined heat, top pay and sustained increases, surges in demand, and top paying disciplines.
Source: 2024 Hot and High Demand Jobs Report – U.S.
Rank Combined heat Top pay increase Top sustained increase Top surge in demand Top paying disciplines
1 Technology strategy General operations management (manufacturing) Information and cyber security strategy Secretarial/ executive administrative assistance geophysics
2 Site reliability engineering Employment law General outsourcing management Corporate development and licensing generalist/ multidiscipline Employment law
3 Supplier diversity program management Secretarial/executive administrative assistance Technology strategy E-commerce management generalist/multidiscipline Legal generalist/ multidiscipline
4 Product development - creative/industrial design Merchandising Merchandising Information and cyber security strategy Machine learning
5 Artificial intelligence applications Aviation operations Employment lawArtificial intelligence applications Artificial intelligence applications

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It is rare for a discipline to be hot in every dimension. However, as shown in Figure 1, technology strategy and artificial intelligence are among the top five across multiple dimensions. Our 2024 Hot and High-Demand Jobs Report includes an extended list of the top 10 disciplines for each dimension.

Trends in hot and high-demand jobs

In addition to identifying which disciplines are hot across multiple dimensions, it also is interesting to see the year-over-year changes to the list of hot disciplines. In the 3 years we have published the Hot and High-Demand Jobs Report, these jobs made the top 10 list every year in at least two heat dimensions each year.

Top 5 job disciplines in 2022, 2023 and 2024
Figure 2. 3-Year history of hot jobs
Source: 2022, 2023, 2024 Hot and High Demand Jobs Reports – U.S.
Combined heat Top pay increase Top sustained pay increase Top surge in demand Top paying discipline
2022 2023 2024 2022 2023 2024 2022 2023 2024 2022 2023 2024 2022 2023 2024
Artificial intelligence
Info and cyber strategy
Technology/digital product owner
Technology strategy
User experience

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Prioritize and be strategic in your compensation spend for hot and high-demand jobs

Tight labor markets, inflationary pressures and employee retention concerns have fueled salary increases to rates not seen in nearly two decades. In 2022 and 2023, average actual salary increases in the United States were 4.2% and 4.4%, respectively, which is significantly higher than the 2.7% to 3.0% range for salary increases since 2010.

To manage compensation costs and achieve maximum return, organizations need to be extremely thoughtful, even conservative, about changes they make. Avoid making changes – like broad salary increases – that will be difficult to maintain if there is an economic downturn. Instead, focus on creating a segmented compensation strategy for various employee populations and allocate spend to attract and retain critical skills. Our analysis indicates that the top 15% highest pay-increase disciplines typically dominate annual salary increase dollars (see Figure 3).

Annual base salary percent increase, by top pay-increase heat tier
Figure 3. Annual base salary increase percentage for career levels P1 to P5 and the top 3 heat tiers.
Source: 2024 Hot and High Demand Jobs Report – U.S.
Heat tier P1 P2 P3 P4 P5
Top 5% 17% 16% 20% 14% 17%
Top 10% 12% 12% 12% 12% 12%
Top 15% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%
Other 3% 3% 3% 5% 4%

Annual incentives differentiate pay while maintaining a flexible cost structure

Annual incentives often are used to retain talent with critical and high-demand skills. This is reflected in our data, with disciplines in the top heat tiers showing significantly higher actual bonuses. Figure 4 shows us, for example, that the bonus for a job at the P3 career level that is in the top 5% is $11,000 compared to $9,000 for jobs not in the top 15%.

Note that annual incentive is just one aspect; our methodology looks at multiple dimensions to determine heat. In some instances (such as at the P3 level), other heat dimensions such as surges in demand or higher base pay increases may drive a job’s heat more than annual incentives.

Median actual annual incentives by combined heat tier
Figure 4. Median actual annual incentives based on the top 5%, 10%, 15% and other heat tiers at career levels P1 to P5.
Source: 2024 Hot and High Demand Jobs Report – U.S.
Heat tier P1 P2 P3 P4 P5
Top 5% 5,000 7,000 11,000 18,000 37,000
Top 10% 5,000 7,000 9,000 16,000 34,000
Top 15% 3,000 6,000 10,000 16,000 26,000
Other 4,000 6,000 9,000 15,000 23,000

Leverage data to make defensible decisions

Without a structured quantification of the heat felt around individual jobs, compensation and HR professionals have no way to differentiate – or defend – their programs in response to objectively measurable hot jobs. By identifying market heat early, you can put mitigation strategies in place (e.g., hiring early, upskilling current employees). And detecting market heat around certain jobs will be critical as the talent market continues reshaping itself in a new business landscape.


Product Development Director, Rewards Data Intelligence

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