Computer Skills: What They Are and How to Improve Them

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Interested in expanding your knowledge of computers and technology? Read on to learn about various computer skills and how to use them to your advantage.

[Feature image] A person with a blue, butterfly-patterned shirt sits smiling in front of a laptop computer.  Behind the person is a window with a view of the outside.

In this era of digital technology and media, it's more important than ever to know certain computer skills. Such skills can be applied to nearly any industry. From navigating Microsoft Office to coding and computer programming, you can benefit from learning various tech skills depending on the job you have or want to enter. This article will discuss different types of computer skills, why you might want to learn them, and how to get started.

What are computer skills, and why are they important? 

An ability related to or involving computers counts as a computer skill. The term, therefore, encompasses a wide variety of skills and disciplines, some of which are industry-specific and others more basic.

Companies tend to use different software, produce different types of media, and ultimately use technology differently daily. This means that you may need to learn a new computer skill for your next job. A basic understanding of computers is a good place to start before you can learn increasingly complex or job-specific skills like email management, data entry, spreadsheets, and Microsoft Office—more complex skills can include graphic design, data visualization, and automation.

5 types of computer skills to put on your resume

Regardless of what industry you work in—food service, education, IT, marketing, finance, and so on—your employers will use certain technologies and interfaces to streamline tasks and communicate with employees. A few key technologies, however, are common in many job positions. Consider learning or improving your computer skills in the following areas.

1. Data analytics

Data analytics may require a firm understanding of statistical software and spreadsheets. When working with data, you’ll be expected to gather, quantify, and analyze data for a specific goal, such as increasing traffic to your website. You may be tasked with estimating trends or giving reports on current lead data using data software. Data skills are especially important in fields like digital marketing, project management, or data science—three examples of higher-paying data analysis jobs.

2. Digital communication

Digital communication streamlines contact between employers and employees. Examples include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and standard email platforms like Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo. Your employer may use these platforms to contact you, and vice versa, through written, audio, or video format. By understanding how to use these types of resources, you will be able to communicate better with your employers, peers, clients, and stakeholders. 

3. Microsoft Office Suite

Microsoft Office Suite is a client software collection containing applications such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Teams, and Excel, among others. Employers may expect you to be proficient in Word for creating documents, PowerPoint for making presentations, Excel for organizing and analyzing data, and Outlook for emailing.

If your employer doesn’t use Microsoft applications, they could probably use similar ones with different interfaces, such as Google Sheets (in lieu of Microsoft Excel) for more collaborative work. Regardless of the interface your employer uses, being proficient in word processors and spreadsheets can give you an advantage in your workplace or job hunt.

4. Social media

As we move into this digital era, the need for social media following is ever-increasing among companies. Organizations use various social media platforms to build and promote their brands as they attempt to build their clientele. To work with social media, you may need to be familiar with platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and skills like marketing, data analysis, and copywriting.

5. Programming

Programming is the process of giving a computer instructions through a coding language. As a more job-specific skill, a basic understanding of coding or computer programming may be useful in multiple fields, such as web development, computer programming, or systems analysis. 

If you are interested in learning to code, you can start with some common languages: JavaScript, Python, and C++. Knowledge of computer programming may very well set you apart from other applicants in various job fields that don’t require IT work.

How to learn computer skills

From learning the basics to mastering a coding language, many resources can help you expand or begin developing your computer skills. Below, you’ll find several ideas to accomplish this.

Take classes.

When applying for a job with industry-specific computer qualifications, an employer may require you to complete specialized courses or certifications. But regardless of your job industry, there is always more to learn with computer technology. Universities worldwide offer courses in computer science or related disciplines, any of which may help you in your endeavors to build a more expansive computer skillset.

There are also hundreds of online courses that may better suit your needs. On Coursera, you can find various courses to improve your computer skills, such as Introduction to Computers and Office Productivity Software. These courses can help you develop your skills and bolster your resume.

Practice what you learn.

An important part of maintaining your computer skill proficiency is practicing. Apply what you learn in different areas of your life. For example, if you want to improve your understanding of different word processors, try a new application instead of the one you regularly use to write your school work. You can use Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to manage your budget. Knowing these skills can help you become a more marketable job applicant, and the more you employ them, the easier it will be for you to learn additional skills.

Be patient.

Acquiring new skills is not only important when applying for jobs, but also very rewarding on a personal level. Different skills will require different levels of difficulty; however, this shouldn’t discourage you. Remember, the time and energy you’re investing into learning a new skill will eventually pay off.

How to list computer skills on your resume

Adding computer skills to your resume can set you apart from other candidates. Doing so can give you a better chance of catching the attention of hiring managers. They can also help your resume get properly scanned by applicant tracking software (ATS), which many companies use for relevance to each position. Follow these tips to update your resume with the right skills.

List industry-specific skills.

When applying for a new position, it’s best to include industry-specific skills on your resume. For example, if you’re applying for a position in IT, you might want to include information about your proficiency in programming or coding instead of your work with word processing software.

On the other hand, if you’re applying for a teaching job, you’ll want to include relevant work experience with Microsoft Word and other word-processing platforms. If you’re unsure of which skills you should include in your application, read the job description of the position you're applying for. It should help you discern which skills the company considers the most valuable.

Provide relevant examples.

While listing all the computer software and hardware you’re familiar with may be easier, try referencing specific and relevant experiences from your previous jobs. This way, you’ll convey to a potential employer that you are familiar with this useful technology and know how to use it properly.

Provide only the most relevant information you have—this will streamline your resume and make it easier for potential employers to read through. As you demonstrate your skill level with a specific technology, be concise. For example, instead of writing, “Have experience with leading word processors,” try “Expert in Microsoft Word.” 

Using simple language on a resume will make it easier for a hiring manager to read your work history and for you to expand on certain skills or experiences during a job interview.

Sharpen your computer skills with Coursera

To learn more about computer skills used in today's workforce, consider the Key Technologies for Business Specialization course to understand the technologies that drive modern businesses in cloud, data, and artificial intelligence (AI). You can also browse the course catalog for specific skills you'd like to sharpen and sign up for Coursera Plus to access more than 7,000 courses from leading universities and companies.

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