What Are Technical Skills?

Written by Coursera • Updated on Jan 13, 2022

Gain a full grasp of what technical skills are, which technical skills employers are looking for, how to improve your technical skills, and how to list them on a resume.

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Technical skills are the specialized knowledge and expertise required to perform specific tasks and use specific tools and programs in real world situations. Diverse technical skills are required in just about every field and industry, from IT and business administration to health care and education.

In fact, many entry-level positions across industries require basic technical skills, such as cloud computing in Google Drive and navigating social media platforms. Examples of more advanced technical skills that a job might require include programming languages, technical writing, or data analysis. 

Unlike workplace skills, also called “soft skills,” such as communication and time management, technical skills often require specific education and training to acquire. 

What technical skills are employers looking for? 

As a term, “technical skills” often appears in a job-searching or career advancement context. Now that you have a clear definition of technical skills, you may be wondering which of your current skills can transfer to other jobs and which ones you need to get to achieve your career goals. It’s important to monitor how your field or industry evolves and which new skills will help you enter the workforce, perform better at your current job, find new career opportunities, or even explore a new field. 

To provide examples of industry-specific technical skills that employers are looking for, we researched job postings and general career insights through Glassdoor (November 2021). Here are some examples of in-demand industries and their related technical skills:

Cybersecurity

To get hired as a cybersecurity analyst, you may need skills in:

  • Incident response

  • Operating systems

  • Data security

  • Endpoint protection 

With these and other cybersecurity technical skills, you could help protect a company’s networks from cyber attacks and investigate actual security breaches.

Read more: 15 Essential Skills for Cybersecurity Analysts in 2021

Data science 

To get a job as a data scientist, some organizations may require you to be skilled in:

  • Machine learning

  • Statistics

  • Programming languages like Python

With these and other data science technical skills, you could build machine learning models, analyze data patterns and trends, and recommend courses of action that help companies achieve their goals.  

It’s important to note that data skills are valuable in a range of careers, from marketing and sales to human resources and finance.   

Read more: 7 In-Demand Data Analyst Skills to Get Hired

Finance 

To get a job as a financial analyst, some organizations may require you to have skills in:

  • Financial modeling

  • Modern portfolio theory 

With these and other financial technical skills, you could help a company track its financial performance and stay abreast of investment regulations and policies. 

Read more: What Can You Do with a Finance Degree? 7 Career Paths

Marketing 

To get a job as a social media marketer, some organizations may require that you know how to:

  • Create advertising campaigns on Facebook and other platforms

  • Develop paid ad assets

  • Design content 

With these and other marketing technical skills, you could help a company build a social media presence and brand recognition, and increase paid ad effectiveness.

User experience

To get a job as a UX designer, some organizations may require that you be able to:

  • Navigate Adobe Creative Suite

  • Conduct UX research

  • Create wireframes 

With these and other UX design technical skills, you could help companies improve their users’ experiences when navigating websites, mobile apps, and other platforms.  

Read more: 9 Essential Skills for UX Designers

Health care

To get a job as a medical assistant, some hospitals or doctor’s offices may require that you be able to:

  • Operate medical equipment

  • Administer injections

  • Take vital signs

  • Record patients’ health history 

With these and other health care technical skills, you could help medical facilities operate smoothly and deliver excellent patient care. 

Education

To get hired as a K-12 teacher, some schools may require you to have skills like:

  • CPR and first aid

  • Teaching English as a second language (ESL)

  • Video conferencing

  • Online education programs like Blackboard 

With these educational technical skills, you could help students bridge language gaps, advise parents and teach classes from anywhere in the world, and manage class assignments online.

How to improve your technical skills 

Now that you have a better idea of the technical skills that are in demand across industries, you may be thinking about how to improve your skills or learn new ones to enhance your career. It’s important to plan your next steps, so that you prioritize the skills you most need and find the right training programs. 

Follow these steps to streamline this process:

1. Identify your career goals.

Write down exactly what you’d like to experience in your career. While the job market can be unpredictable and there are no guarantees, gaining clarity can help you achieve your goals faster. Start with these general examples and add your own details:

  • Enhance performance in your current job

  • Get a promotion within the organization you work for

  • Pursue a career in a new field with better pay

  • Pursue a career that supports the lifestyle you want

2. Identify the technical skills you need.

Once you know your goals, you’ll need to find out which technical skills can help you achieve them. Search career-building sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Indeed for actual job postings in your desired field. Pay close attention to each job description:

  • Which tasks, projects, and responsibilities would you love to take on, either in your current job or a new one?

  • What kind of lifestyle would these jobs support? 

  • What are the required skills, education, and other qualifications that show up in job listings? 

You might find it useful to create a spreadsheet to keep track of technical skills that employers require and gauge which ones you should prioritize.  

3. Review your current skills and look for opportunities to improve. 

For this step, get into a reflective and exploratory state of mind and ask yourself: 

  • Which of these skills matches the requirements of the jobs I want? 

  • Which required skills do I need to get?

  • How can I rank them in order of importance?

4. Build new technical skills.  

There are several ways you can build career-specific technical skills, from taking a course or training program to getting certified in a particular skill or pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. Find the program that best fits your goals and lifestyle by investigating each program’s details:

  • Course syllabus: What are the required readings? Will you get to complete any career-focused, hands-on projects, gain experience in real-world situations, and explore what it would be like to work in your desired field? 

  • Expected outcomes: What specific skills does this program teach? 

  • Career potential: How do the program’s expected outcomes relate to the skills and qualifications that employers in your field require? Does this program offer certifications or credentials that employers ask for?

Interested in UX Design? Try this guided project on Analyzing User Experience Survey Data, which covers design thinking, visual reporting, and more.

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How to list technical skills on a resume

As you build new technical skills and improve upon existing ones, a very important thing to do is to update your resume with your latest information. This section goes over how to describe your technical skills, so that you feel confident that you are presenting your technical strengths in the most advantageous way.

Adopt these standard resume best practices

  • Tailor your resume to each job you’re applying for by lining up your technical skills and experience with job requirements. 

  • Use action verbs, such as “managed,” “implemented,” or “developed,” to describe the tasks you performed or projects you completed in previous roles.

  • Emphasize quantifiable outcomes.

  • List the names of specific training, courses, and certifications you’ve completed, along with the topics and skills each one covered.

For listing your technical skills, follow these three career-focused examples:

Cybersecurity analyst

  • Implemented a backup system to add a layer of security company data

  • Reduced data loss from cyber attacks by 20 percent

Social media marketer

  • Increased Facebook conversion by 30 percent 

  • Designed visual content to increase brand awareness

UX Designer

  • Increased user satisfaction by 23 percent

  • Created intuitive user interfaces 

Ready to build new career-focused technical skills? Prepare for an entry-level position in a high-demand field with a Professional Certificates on Coursera. Learn job-ready skills from industry leaders like IBM, Facebook, and Google, and earn a career credential in six to eight months.

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Written by Coursera • Updated on Jan 13, 2022

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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