Hard Skills That Are Important to Develop in 2024

As we prepare to start a new year, international students may be thinking about the skills they want to develop. Below, we will focus on hard skills, also known as technical skills. Wondering how to tell whether something is a technical skill or a hard skill?

Hard Skills are something that is usually job specific and can be measured. Investopedia defines hard skills as “abilities that are learned and improved through practice, repetition, and education.”

Some examples of “Hard Skills” include programming languages, data analysis, or graphic design. Read on to find out which skills are on the list of essential Hard Skills for 2024!

Tip: While “ Hard Skills ” are usually job-specific, “ Soft Skills ” are interpersonal, and include examples such as teamwork, communication, and leadership.


In its list of skills to build by 2024, Forbes highlights cybersecurity. More and more organizational data is stored digitally, both on local servers and in the cloud.

This can make services and data vulnerable to electronic attacks such as hacking or phishing.

Whether it’s patient information, credit card numbers, or public utility security, cybersecurity is critical to a wide variety of industries.

(Cloud computing also made the Forbes 2024 list, highlighting the need for employees who can help companies move data from physical records or local storage to cloud services).

Therefore, new graduates who have the ability to keep company data secure, and who can train others in cyber security will be in high demand.

Programs at the university and college level specialize in cybersecurity. The program you choose may change the roles you qualify for.

For example, shorter certifications may qualify you for a junior cybersecurity analyst or IT support specialist role, where university graduates become cybersecurity architects and forensic data managers. Some computer science graduates are also moving into cybersecurity roles.

The National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council share other benefits of building these skills, stating: “Technologically literate people will tend to be more comfortable dealing with the technology required by their jobs and will have an easier time mastering new technologies as they emerge.”

This adaptability has a ripple effect that helps people feel connected to their work and communities, thereby improving their quality of life.

Data Science and Analytics

Although some people may look at this skill and wonder how it relates to their future career, the ability to look at collected data and make decisions accordingly is something that is useful in most disciplines.

To understand data science well, students must have a strong foundation in mathematics, statistics, and programming. To better apply data in a business environment, an understanding of business concepts ranging from recruitment to risk mitigation is helpful.

As more businesses collect more data, and AI tools generate data more quickly, data scientists are increasingly in demand.

These team members can help prevent fraud, minimize risks to the business, improve the customer experience, and ensure that the right products are sold at the right time to the ideal customers.

Generative Artificial Intelligence

While generative artificial intelligence (Generative AI) has many uses, using its abilities to solve problems is where new graduates can really shine.

Typically, a career in developing AI requires data science and analytics knowledge, as well as software engineering, statistics, and computer programming skills.

However, generative AI engines, such as ChatGPT, Bard, or Jasper are used across industries by people with a wide variety of qualifications to speed up content creation, run chatbots, or even check mathematical proofs.

Do you know? Strong communication capabilities are a key strength when using this tool: pushing AI with the most effective language, as quickly as possible, has resulted in an unexpected partnership between a technology company and a poet!

Want to create a generative AI tool? To get the skills you need, start with a bachelor’s degree in a field like computer science or mathematics.

Higher positions may require a graduate degree in a related field. Other roles may involve building ethical guidelines into AI models, where a legal background would be helpful, or using an arts or humanities background to improve the quality of output of generative AI tools.

Companies also look for candidates who show personal initiative. So, joining an event like a hackathon can help your resume stand out when looking for an internship, or when applying for a full-time job as a new graduate.

Talent Acquisition and Retention

Many businesses are focused on retaining and developing their workforce. So, graduates with talent acquisition and retention skills will be in high demand.

Human resources (HR) professionals who can use data to address hiring gaps, develop employee wellness strategies, and engage candidates and existing employees remotely will excel in the coming year, as companies continue to compete for the best candidates.

To work in talent acquisition, most companies require a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, finance, or communications.

Experience in operations or customer service is also very helpful in building an understanding of business principles and strategies. Students who are responsive and empathetic can also excel in this HR role.

Sustainability Skills

Rising to the top of a number of top skills lists is sustainability literacy. As the world enters its hottest year on record, companies are looking for employees who can help their organizations reduce their ecological footprint, while remaining competitive.

Understanding how to guide a business towards a goal of zero emissions is becoming increasingly important for many companies.

Want to know how to train yourself for a career in sustainability? Many areas of study can help. For example, a background in engineering may lead you to jobs where you design devices to prevent groundwater runoff, or improve active transportation options.

Studying political science or other humanities can prepare you to work with cities developing sustainability plans. Many business programs also include a specialization in sustainability. Or, a law degree can prepare you to tackle some of our planet’s biggest challenges as sustainability regulations evolve.

Of course, this is just a short list of the key skills to develop as an international student in 2024. Many of the skills employers are looking for are more easily transferable from one role to another, and include things like communication and project management skills.

We’ll quantify them in our upcoming article on the “soft skills” or interpersonal skills that need to be developed in 2024.

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