Professional Skills

We explain what professional or work skills are, and what the basic, generic and specific skills are.

A tinsmith shapes metal thanks to his work skills.A tinsmith shapes metal thanks to his work skills.
Professional skills guarantee better performance at work.

What are professional skills?

Professional skills or work skills are those abilities, knowledge, skills and talents that a person has and that make them suitable for a specific jobthat is, they guarantee better performance compared to someone who lacks the same skills.

Although not a single or universal set of characteristics, many job competencies are commonly desired by employers, that is, they constitute core or general competencies, while others are specific to a job, position, or work sector. For example, it is desirable for a worker to be responsible for his or her tasks, no matter what they are; while to apply for a position as a proofreader, it is also essential to have certain knowledge and skills linked to the use of written language. Thus, some skills are more technical than others.

There is, however, a certain difference between professional skills and work skills. This is because the former are associated with a legal figure of professional practice (for example, the ability of an architect to sign construction plans), that is, with certain powers and faculties specific to the profession; while Job competencies tend to refer to the most general aspects of the job. However, this situation may vary depending on the specific context.

Thus, professionals who have the ideal characteristics to perform a job are usually called competent, since they have the competence to achieve a labor standard. This word comes from Latin competenscomposed by com (“next to”) and Peter (“address to” or “seek”), so it can be understood as “one who seeks or obtains something altogether.”

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See also: Training

Basic skills

The basic skills are those essential to carry out a task or integrate a community. In fact, they are often called “life skills,” and every adult is expected to know how to perform them to a certain degree, since otherwise they would depend on third parties to provide them with the minimum elements of subsistence. On the other hand, the term can also refer, in a specific social context, to the set of minimum traits that the group requires of its members to belong or to integrate an organization.

Examples of basic competencies are:

  • Reading and writing (literacy).
  • Effective interpersonal communication.
  • Decision autonomy.
  • Elementary mathematics.
  • Minimal cultural knowledge.
  • Responsibility and honesty.

Generic skills

Generic competencies are those capabilities, attitudes, skills and knowledge that a person requires to perform successfully in any work environment. That is, they are general, not specific, work competencies that describe the requirements expected when performing in a work environment, whatever type it may be.

Examples of generic competencies are:

  • Leadership.
  • Decision-making capacity.
  • Strategic thinking.
  • University studies and/or extensive work experience.
  • Management of software and digital tools.

Specific competencies

A professional pastry chef puts her specific skills into play in her work.A professional pastry chef puts her specific skills into play in her work.
Specific competencies require particular learning at a higher technical level.

Specific competencies are, unlike basic and generic competencies, a more precise and particular set of capabilities, which depends entirely on the work, social or professional contextl. These competencies are distinguished from each other depending on the specific area of ​​knowledge or work activity that is to be carried out, and they have a higher technical level, which is why they also require specific learning.

Examples of specific competencies are:

  • Management of programming languages.
  • Knowledge of laparoscopic surgery.
  • Capacity for artistic creation (literary, pictorial, musical, etc.).
  • Knowledge about orimulsion and oil extraction.
  • Management of database management programs.
  • Professional sports skills (in football, basketball, tennis, etc.).
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Continue with: Job specialization


  • “Generic competencies” on Wikipedia.
  • “Radication of the competent word” in the Online Spanish Etymological Dictionary.
  • “What are professional skills?” on Sesametime.
  • “Do you know what professional skills are?” at COE Higher Education (Argentina).