What Are Technical Skills?
Technical skills refer to the specialized knowledge and expertise needed to accomplish complex actions, tasks, and processes relating to computational and physical technology as well as a diverse group of other enterprises. Those who possess technical skills are often referred to as "technicians," with the expression referring to audio technicians, electronics technicians, market technicians, computer technicians, engineering technicians, and a variety of other designations.
Technical skills may also refer to the expertise of a certain type of market participant who uses technical analysis signals to buy and sell stocks, bonds, futures, and other financial instruments.
- Technical skills are sets of abilities or knowledge used to perform practical tasks in the areas of science, the arts, technology, engineering, and math.
- Technical skills typically require the use of certain tools and the technologies required to use those tools.
- In finance, technical skills may refer to traders and analysts who follow the procedures of technical analysis, using charts, indicators, and patterns to generate buy and sell signals.
- In most cases, the acquisition of advanced technical skills requires specialized training or education, which takes both time and resources.
- Technical skill requirements are listed for most career fields.
Understanding Technical Skills
Technical skills are practical ones, typically related to the fields of mechanics, information technology, mathematics, and science.
The term can refer to the ability to perform tasks that require the use of certain tools, whether tangible or intangible, and the technology required to master their intended uses in a variety of scenarios. In this regard, the knowledge in a technical skills capacity is seen as practical in nature because it allows an individual to complete a designated task in a real-world, not theoretical, manner.
Given the growth of technology within worldwide and local economies, the need for diverse technical skills and knowledge is likely to continue to grow into the foreseeable future.
What Technical Skills Are Employees Looking for?
Data science is an increasingly popular discipline, combining advanced mathematics and statistics. As more companies use data to measure performance and better understand consumer trends, the demand for data science practitioners grows. Data scientists often work alongside and have overlapping duties and responsibilities with data engineers, data analysts, and machine learning engineers.
Key technical skills for data science professionals include:
- Language programming (e.g., R, Java, Python)
- Data visualization
- Statistical analysis
- Machine learning
In addition to advanced technical skills, some data science jobs require professionals to have formal training or academic backgrounds in computer science, engineering, or statistics.
In finance, sought-after technical skills are more advanced than those in traditional business and accounting disciplines. Core financial technical skills include:
- Advanced computation
- Quantitative analysis
- Financial modeling and forecasting
- Technical analysis
Technical analysis requires a variety of mathematical skills, often advanced in nature, to produce price chart analysis and model trends that look at historical information to predict future price movements.
Technical skills in this context usually refer to an individual who possesses the knowledge and expertise to complete the mathematical tasks required to gather historical data, produce a data model set, and perform directional analysis on the various outputs.
For example, to produce a linear regression model for technical analysis, the market analyst must have the skills and knowledge necessary to properly gather the historical data, perform any necessary calculations, and use the output to generate a visual representation of current and legacy historical data.
Once the linear regression is complete, the market analyst needs to have the skills and expertise to extrapolate future market activity based on the directional patterns identified in the model set(s).
Akin to finance, accounting requires specific technical skills that extend beyond basic mathematics. Such skills include:
- Financial statements preparation
- Accounting software proficiency
Unlike the olden days when paper and pen were used for documentation, today's accounting professionals rely on a suite of software products, such as Microsoft Excel, for computing and analysis. Therefore, these workers need an advanced working knowledge of various software.
Although most accounting processes are automated, accountants still need to be proficient in understanding and preparing financial statements (e.g., balance sheets, income statements, and statements of cash flows). Central to accounting, these documents shed light on the health of a company or person's portfolio.
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) outline the rules and regulations for US accountants, whereas the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is the standard in other nations.
Research is another important and often overlooked technical skill needed in accounting. Some situations require extensive and independent research. For example, an accountant may need to learn how a new law affects how assets are classified or about a new accounting principle.
Software developers must understand and know how to successfully create programs and applications. To become a software developer, you must be able to:
- Create and edit code
- Use complex software
- Manipulate hardware to increase computing capabilities
Software developers must be proficient in coding, also known as software programming. Much like human languages, there are many coding languages in which a developer can be fluent. Coding translates human language into instructions the computer uses to perform specific functions.
Software developers also need to know how to organize and use data to solve computing problems or simplify processes. Along with data structure, the use of algorithms helps software developers solve issues. Computers use algorithms' step-by-step instructions to produce solutions.
How to Improve Your Technical Skills: Education and Training
The acquisition of advanced technical skills requires specific education or training, often with a hands-on learning component and many advanced topical elements. Technical skill requirements are listed for the majority of career fields, with the highest concentrations being employment in areas involving scientific, technological, engineering, computational, and mathematical capabilities.
Here are five steps to help you acquire or improve technical skills:
1. Establish Career Goals
Identifying your career goals is critical in determining what technical skills you need. If not in your desired career, your goals will likely differ from those established in their careers. Professionals who seek to stay in the same career might have goals of securing promotions or enhancing their performance. Examples of goals for those seeking career changes include:
- Pursuing a career in a new field
- Pursuing a new career that promotes better work-life balance
- Seeking different opportunities where diversity is promoted and celebrated
Examples of goals for those occupying their desired career might include:
- Increasing productivity and efficiency
- Pursuing opportunities with higher salaries
- Advancing to higher-level positions
Because some fields, such as marketing, are multi-faceted, it might be helpful to narrow your career goals to specific roles that you wish to pursue. For example, instead of establishing a goal to pursue a career in marketing, you could set a goal to pursue a career in digital marketing.
Once your goals are established, research what you need to do to accomplish them. Begin by searching the Internet for the basic and advanced technical skills of a job. The Internet can provide a wealth of information; however, you can often glean more from direct interaction. Consider interviewing or shadowing someone in the field you wish to occupy. Firsthand accounts from experienced professionals and direct observations can give you more insight than what can be gathered online.
3. Itemize Technical Skills
From your research, you should be prepared to document the skills you need to realize your goals. Consider the specializations, certifications, and education needed to obtain them.
Create categories and list all the associated skills that fall within each. For example, under the Certification category, you could list Lean Six Sigma or Prosci Certified Change Manager. Some skills are more important than others. Consider listing them in order of importance. Spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Excel, are great tools to organize your lists.
4. Identify What You Need
From your inventory, reorganize the skills list according to what you have versus what you need. You might be surprised to find that you already possess some of the skills needed.
Identify what you need to do to acquire or enhance technical skills. For example, if a career requires a bachelor's degree in a specific field of study, research what institutions offer that degree program. If seeking a promotion in your current field and a specialization is required, find institutions that offer the specialization.
Before enrolling in an academic program or pursuing professional certifications, consider what alternatives may be accepted in lieu of a specific requirement. For example, some jobs may list a certain degree as a requirement but will accept a degree in a related field or tenured working experience in its place.
5. Develop Technical Skills
Now that you know what is needed, it is time to plan and build. Develop a plan itemizing the skills you are pursuing, how you will obtain them, your timeline for completion, and resources to help you accomplish your pursuit.
Some skills can be acquired on the job, whereas some must be obtained through a formal program or training. If the latter, enroll in the program that helps you develop the skills needed and accommodates your lifestyle.
Some employers offer training courses to help their employees develop technical skills.
Sometimes, you may have enough critical technical skills to qualify for a job or promotion. Many employers will invest in skill development for the right candidates. Explore what the employer will do to help you develop your skills before undertaking expensive and time-consuming training and academic programs.
How to List Technical Skills on a Resume
A well-constructed resume will present the qualifications, experience, and skills that make you a qualified candidate. When including technical skills, it is important to list those pertinent to the job for which an application is submitted. Begin with the technical skills most critical to the role, and then follow with general skills.
Many employers look for basic technical skills like data analysis, management, accounting, project management, and marketing. Highly-specialized jobs may require specific technical skills that the applicant must possess to qualify.
Here are the steps to list technical skills on a resume:
- Create a skills section using an appropriate heading (e.g., Skills, Technical Skills, etc.).
- Organize your skills in a list format, with the most relevant skills listed first.
- For readability and added flair, group related skills into categories. For example, a resume might have an Engineering category with the applicable skills listed beneath.
- For the required or preferred technical skills, highlight your expertise in the Experience section.
Not every technical skill listed in a job requisition is required. However, the more skills you have, your chances for selection are better. The right technical skills show the employer that you have what it takes to perform the job.
Which Jobs Require Technical Skills?
Many professions—such as audio technicians, electronics technicians, market technicians, computer technicians, and engineering technicians—require technical skills. Careers in the scientific, technological, engineering, computational, and mathematical fields have the highest concentrations of technical skills.
Why Are Technical Skills Important?
Most jobs require their employees to use specific tools and complete certain processes to fulfill their job duties. To do so effectively and efficiently, employees need to know how to use the tools and complete steps in a process. This adaptation is acquired through the development of hard or technical skills. Without these skills, companies lose their competitive advantage, employee satisfaction is adversely affected, and productivity suffers.
How Can I Improve My Technical Skills?
Technical skills can be improved through education and training. For example, enhancing technical skills in computer programming may require prospects to take computer programming courses and receive training on specific software applications.
The Bottom Line
Technical skills are the abilities and knowledge that enable someone to perform certain functions. Workers need these skills to successfully perform their day-to-day job duties. Whether attained through training or education, technical skills are essential for increased productivity and to achieve a competitive advantage.