Upskilling: What It Means and How It Can Help Your Career

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Through upskilling, you'll build on skills you already have and fortify your expertise.

[Featured image] A young professional studies printed charts and data at a desk in front of her laptop and various notebooks to continue learning her craft through upskilling.

As you progress through your career, you may find opportunities to build upon your existing skill set. Over time, these new or advanced skills may be why you move into a management position or take on more interesting projects at work.

Although skills development can happen naturally over time, some people choose to actively pursue their professional development goals by upskilling. Likewise, some companies encourage their employees to upskill in order to generate growth opportunities internally.

In this article, we’ll discuss what upskilling means and how you can work toward higher-level skills that align with your career path.

What is upskilling?

Upskilling means learning new and enhanced skills that relate to your current role. Think about it as “leveling up” your skills.

Often, you’ll deepen your knowledge about your role and industry as you gain more experience. Upskilling is typically a more intentional learning process where you’ll gain exposure to that deeper knowledge sooner through skills development courses, certifications, or mentorship programs.

Depending on your role, you may find it beneficial to elevate your workplace skills, technical skills, or both.

Upskilling vs. reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling are two terms that tend to go hand in hand. Whereas upskilling involves elevating your current skill set, reskilling involves learning new cross-functional skills. With reskilling, you may be able to move into a new role or widen the scope of your current role.


Benefits of upskilling

Often, the benefits of upskilling are listed from a company perspective. Namely, companies that invest in upskilling their employees tend to see better employee engagement and a greater retention rate. In the long-run, this can save money by reducing recruitment costs.

However, upskilling is beneficial for individuals as well. Through upskilling, you could:

  • Progress toward goals

  • Remain competitive in the job market

  • Qualify for a promotion

  • Secure a new job

  • Earn a higher salary

  • Continue self-improvement

How to upskill

The process for upskilling is closely related to the process of working toward your career goals. In fact, you’ll likely want to consider your goals as you determine the areas in which you want to upskill.

To get started, compare your current skill set to the skills you’ll need in order to achieve your long-term career goals. Some skills you may already have, while others may be skills you need to develop. Depending on your goals, you can address any gaps you see by upskilling or reskilling.

Tip: To organize your path forward, it may help to write your career development plan. In this document, you can outline your goals, skills, and resources, and track your progress over time. Find a free template here.


Here are some ways you can start upskilling (and reskilling) today:

  • Learn about your available resources. Some companies sponsor access to career development programs or upskilling platforms, such as Coursera, to their employees. Ask your People Operations or Human Resources representative about any offerings available to you.

  • Earn a certificate. For an enhanced credential, consider enrolling in a certificate program. Typically more labor intensive than an individual course, a certificate can demonstrate additional expertise in a particular area.

  • Work on a project. If you learn best with hands-on practice, try taking on a project that enables you to practice the skills you’re trying to build. You may be able to join a project at work, or you can start your own endeavor outside of work. Over time, your projects can become a cohesive portfolio.

  • Find a mentor. As you figure out the areas you’ll most benefit from upskilling, it can help to talk to someone who has already achieved the type of goals you’re working toward. A mentor can offer personalized guidance as you move toward progress. Learn more about how to find a mentor.

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