Job Skills That Lead to Bigger Paychecks

Do you have the skills to pay the bills? While increasing your overall skill set is one of the fastest paths to a higher paycheck, certain skills pay more because they are more valuable to employers. Which skills are they, and can you integrate them into your career?

“For most of the skilled labor force, increased competency within one’s role is the main road to higher pay levels,” says Katie Bardaro, lead analyst at online salary database PayScale.com. Bardaro says you can obtain some skills through education, but you can pick up many others through on-the-job training. “If you want to see bigger paychecks, focus on a specialized skill of your job and increase your knowledge and aptitude within this skill,” she says.

For example, in today’s “big data” world, Bardaro says that any use and application of data modeling is a highly valuable skill. Likewise, good management is a must to bring any project to fruition, which is why employers value project-management skills.

According to PayScale, the following eight skills can boost your annual earnings anywhere from 4 to 17 percent. See the pay difference within a job for those who have a given skill and those who don’t.

Skill No. 1: SAS

  • What It Is: Pronounced “sass,” this software helps workers perform a variety of tasks, including business forecasting, project management and statistical analysis.
  • How to Get It: Read books, review online forums or ask questions on SAS discussion forums
  • Job with Skill: Data analyst
  • Pay with Skill: $52,500
  • Pay Without Skill: $44,900
  • Percent Difference: 17 Percent

Skill No. 2: Ruby on Rails

  • What It Is: Rails is an open-source framework that gives developers structure for the code they use to build Web sites and applications; its programming language is called Ruby.
  • How to Get It: Read a book or take a class or online tutorial.
  • Job with Skill: Web developer
  • Pay with Skill: $50,700
  • Pay Without Skill: $44,900
  • Percent Difference: 13 Percent

Skill No. 3: Java

  • What It Is: This programming language allows software developers to create everything from business applications to video games. More than 3 billion devices run Java.
  • How to Get It: Learn from a book, on the Sun/Oracle Web site or take a class.
  • Job with Skill: Computer systems analyst
  • Pay with Skill: $53,500
  • Pay Without Skill: $49,100
  • Percent Difference: 9 Percent

Skill No. 4: Project Management

  • What It Is: This multitasking skill involved organizing and executing a plan that will achieve specific goals.
  • How to Get It: Find a mentor, take a training course or learn on the job.
  • Job with Skill: Quality control manager
  • Pay with Skill: $47,600
  • Pay Without Skill: $44,500
  • Percent Difference: 7 Percent

Skill No. 5: Data Modeling

  • What It Is: In software engineering, data modeling is a process for number and information crunching that’s used to define and analyze data requirements for information systems.
  • How to Get It: Some people are self-taught, while others take online classes.
  • Typical Job: Financial analyst
  • Pay with Skill: $54,700
  • Pay Without Skill: $52,100
  • Percent Difference: 5 Percent

Skill No. 6: Strategic Marketing

  • What It Is: Using a structured approach, this thought process helps businesses get the most bang out of their marketing bucks.
  • How to Get It: Earn a marketing degree or take targeted classes or seminars.
  • Job with Skill: Marketing manager
  • Pay with Skill: $52,900
  • Pay Without Skill: $50,400
  • Percent Difference: 5 Percent


Skill No. 7: Spanish

  • What It Is: With a growing Latino community in the US, the need to communicate in both Spanish and English has created a demand for bilingual job candidates.
  • How to Get It: Take a class, learn online or immerse yourself in Spanish-speaking culture.
  • Job with Skill: Social worker
  • Pay with Skill: $40,700
  • Pay Without Skill: $38,800
  • Percent Difference: 5 Percent

Skill No. 8: Negotiation

  • What It Is: It’s the back-and-forth dialogue that takes place between two or more parties who want to find a solution to a problem.
  • How to Get It: Read, take classes and practice.
  • Job with Skill: Retail buyer
  • Pay with Skill: $44,900
  • Pay Without Skill: $43,200
  • Percent Difference: 4 Percent

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