IT skills: definitions and examples
Updated 16 August 2023
The technology revolution has made information technology skills, or IT skills, essential in almost every industry. Most people rely on several IT skills in their workplaces. While advanced IT skills are essential for the IT sector and technical roles, most positions need at least basic IT skills. In this article, we explore IT skills you may need and how to promote and improve them.
What are IT skills?
IT skills are hard or technical skills used in operating and manipulating technology. This includes using computers, mobile phones, tablets, cash registers and other digital technology. These skills are essential for roles in small to large businesses across a variety of sectors.
Why are IT skills important?
IT skills matter because modern industries rely on information technology for customer service, operations, reporting and planning. Strong IT skills also make people more efficient. Many common workplace tasks now involve computer interaction. People must feel confident using this technology to work to their potential. Computers and other digital tools also automate many processes to save time. When people feel confident using these tools, they can spend less time on simple duties and focus on complex tasks.
Related: How To Become an IT Engineer
What IT skills are employers looking for?
The IT skills employers look for vary from one industry or job to another. But these skills usually include:
Basic IT skills: Required for a variety of jobs, these technical skills are often self-taught. They include proficiency using common office programs, such as word processors and spreadsheets, sending emails, data entry and conducting online research.
Advanced IT skills: Required for technology jobs, people often learn these complex technical skills at school and university. They include programming in a variety of languages and managing cybersecurity.
Soft skills: Required for a variety of jobs, these non-technical skills are often self-taught. They include problem-solving and logical thinking.
Job-specific skills: Required for particular roles, these skills are usually taught on the job. They include operating cash registers and scanning equipment.
Employers usually look for a mix of technical IT skills and soft IT skills. Some of these skills are required to secure positions, while others are just desired IT skills. This means while companies prefer candidates with these skills, they aren't essential for securing the role. Workplaces will often teach new hires the desired IT skills they do not already have.
Examples of IT skills
The IT skills you will need depend on the role you are applying for. They might include some of the following examples:
Word processing is creating and manipulating text-based documents. Letters, articles, reports and brochures are typically made with a word processor. This skill involves data entry, editing and formatting. It is desirable in most industries. Common word processing programs include Microsoft Word and Google Docs.
People with spreadsheet skills can create, manipulate and analyse spreadsheets. They also work with related tools, including charts and graphs. Working with spreadsheets involves data entry, applying formulas and writing macros. It is a common requirement for roles in marketing, finance and sales. Popular spreadsheet programs include:
People with presentation software skills create and format engaging and informative digital presentations. This skill involves slide creation, slide editing and animation. It is used in a variety of industries, especially marketing, sales and finance. Common word processing programs include:
Programming involves creating, troubleshooting and editing code for computer software, websites and mobile apps. Programmers, website developers and software engineers are some of the professionals needing programming skills. Most people with programming skills can program in several languages, such as:
Computer networking involves establishing and maintaining network operating systems so electronic devices can communicate with one another. Typically, network operating systems connect computers, printers and file servers. This allows them to share information freely across the network. People with IT skills ensure networks operate reliably and securely.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence
Machine learning and artificial intelligence skills are some of the most innovative and in-demand. This area involves creating and refining algorithms for results that improve or learn through experience over time. Fields concerning innovation, including healthcare, cybersecurity, technology and business all need machine learning or artificial intelligence skills.
Cloud computing is another modern IT skill desirable in a wide range of industries. Cloud computing introduces a new dimension to programming. Proficiency in common cloud computing platforms is becoming more desirable as more businesses move data to the cloud. These platforms include:
Amazon Web Services
Google Cloud Platform
Businesses need people with cybersecurity skills to keep their data, including customer data, safe. This area involves a variety of skills, including establishing and maintaining secure networks, conducting risk assessments, detecting and neutralising threats and implementing cybersecurity measures such as multi-factor authentication, encryption strategies and secure protocols.
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
Financial services, retail and other sectors want people skilled with blockchain and cryptocurrencies. They want workers who understand blockchain and cryptocurrency platforms, blockchain and cryptocurrency security and the standards surrounding these new currencies. People with blockchain and cryptocurrency skills can help these businesses innovate while staying safe.
The soft skill of problem-solving can help people find creative solutions to tech challenges. This skill works alongside other IT skills. For example, someone programming might use problem-solving skills if a website does not display as intended. They will look for errors in their coding and then write new code that creates the desired result.
Analytical thinking is another soft skill that often works closely with other IT skills. This skill can make IT work more effective and meaningful. For example, imagine a spreadsheet with data showing a company's sales figures over time. Analytical thinking can help people understand what the data shows about the company's strategies.
How to improve your IT skills
If you want a promotion or a role in a field more reliant on information technology, improving your IT skills can help. Technology also changes quickly, so improving your IT skills can ensure your knowledge stays current. There are several ways to improve IT skills, including:
Enrol in an IT course. You can learn and develop many IT skills through formal training programs. Study online in your free time or see whether your employer will give you time to attend classes in person.
Use online training materials. Online materials can teach you more about IT without entering a formal training program. Affordable options include self-paced lessons, how-to guides and online teaching materials.
Ask for advice. If you know someone with the IT skills you want, ask them for their advice. They may teach you some tips for free or for a small fee.
Take part in workplace programmes. Many workplaces want their employees to learn new skills, including IT skills. Ask your supervisor if they will run a training course or let you attend a conference to improve your IT knowledge and application.
Practise your skills. Spending time refining your IT skills can help you work more efficiently. Volunteer for workplace tasks using IT skills and consider ways to practise at home. For example, creating a simple computer game in your spare time could improve your programming skills.
Ways to promote your IT skills
Promoting your IT skills can benefit your career in several ways. It can help you secure work and advance in your career. It may also help you expand your duties, making your job more diverse and rewarding. During your career, you might invest time:
Promoting IT skills on your CV
Add a skills section to your CV that highlights the IT skills relevant to the position you are applying for. If you have a wide range of IT skills, focus on the most important ones for the vacant role to ensure these skills stand out. If you are applying for a technical role, focus on advanced skills rather than assumed ones such as proficiency using email and word processing. As IT evolves rapidly, update your CV regularly to reflect your current IT skills.
Promoting IT skills in your cover letter
Mention some of your most valuable IT skills briefly in your cover letter. Cover letters should be concise but compelling. Write just enough about your IT skills to encourage a hiring manager to explore your CV and learn more.
Related: IT Cover Letter: Tips and Examples
Promoting IT skills in an interview
Spend time in job interviews, expanding on the IT skills in your CV and cover letter. Listen to the interviewer's questions carefully and use relevant examples of times you used your IT skills to answer them. Also, note the requirements of the role and promote your skills accordingly. Promoting IT skills is essential for a technology role, but it may be less important for a marketing position, for example.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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