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Job Skills

Job skills are personal abilities that help workers carry out job-related tasks. However, depending on the occupation, the required skills can be very different. For instance, construction workers need a unique set of skills different from accountants, teachers, or production workers.

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Projected Job Skills 2018-2028

Some of the most important job skills come as second nature to employees. The ability to listen well, show up to work on time, to take and apply instructions, and to maintain focus for long periods of time are critical to success in almost any workplace. Basic phone courtesy and computer and email skills fall in this category. Most of the time, these sorts of skills are assumed: that is, employers expect employees to have them. People who struggle with these basic skills or job requirements can take part in what is known as "skills workshops." These sorts of workshops are often held at local job centers, community colleges or non-profit centers. These types of skills are not the focus here.

Rather the focus is on the skills that employers list as "required" or "desired" in position announcements and specific to the sort of work at issue. A corporate manager, for instance, may need to demonstrate meeting leadership skills and lawyers will need to show that they are persuasive. Specialized job skills like this can be thought of as adjectives and short phrases describing how successful employees do their jobs.

Fortunately, these required skills can be summarized across different occupational groups. Using data compiled from the Occupational Information Network (ONET), skills can be categorized into four useful groups that can aid in training and career planning and transitions. The four types of job skills discussed here are: Knowledge Areas, General Work Activities, Detail Work Activities, and Tools & Technologies.

A Knowledge Area is a key educational or experience requirement for an occupation (e.g. Computers and Electronics).

General Work Activities are types of job behaviors that occur across multiple occupations (e.g. interacting with computers).

Detailed Work Activities are types of specific job behaviors or duties particular to an occupation (e.g. use computers to enter, access or retrieve data).

Tools & Technologies are machines, equipment, tools, and information technologies that one could be expected to use in a particular occupation (e.g. Microsoft Access).

In many occupations, prior experience can itself be an essential job skill. People who have held similar jobs in the past are often uniquely qualified to continue, or to expand into new occupations. Many essential at-work skills are transferable to what are called related occupations, which mean that they can easily be applied to a variety of different jobs.


The goal of the Top 50 Job Skills Reports is to highlight the job skills most likely to be required in the workforce by geographic area over the next ten years.

Top 50 Job Skills Reports

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