Education is constantly changing. Now it is easier than ever to get an education with online courses. You have the opportunity to study at an American university while living in China or in Brazil because of the access to education through online courses. But like education, the economy and job marketplace are also changing. Skills your parents and grandparents needed to learn to become employable are not necessarily the skills you need in the 21st century.

Nowadays, many people have to juggle student life, adulthood, and working all at the same time. To be successful in these three areas, you need to acquire a set of universal skills. The list of “Critical 21st-century skills that every student needs to thrive” varies depending on who compiled it. However, we have managed to put together a list of the most frequently mentioned ones and why students should acquire them.

According to the framework by the National Education Association, key 21st-century skills fall under one of  these three categories:

  1. Learning skills
  2. Literacy skills
  3. Life skills

1. Learning Skills

The most important learning skills are:

  1. Critical thinking – It’s the ability to analyze different kinds of facts in order to form an opinion or to come to a conclusion.
  2. Creativity – It’s a skill required in almost every profession. Creativity is the ability to come up with new ideas or concepts in a given field.
  3. Collaboration – Being able to work with other professionals in the field as part of a team is one of the most essential skills out there. 
  4. Communication – This is the skill that links together all the other learning skills. Skills like being able to think critically, being creative, and collaborating with others can only be put to use if you know how to communicate ideas clearly and effectively.

2. Literacy Skills


The most important literacy skills are:

  1. Information literacy – The ability to work with statistics and data and sift through the plethora of information online to find what you are looking for.
  2. Media literacy – Nowadays, media consumption is something that is constant, and being able to differentiate between reliable and unreliable (fake news) sources is a must. 
  3. Technology literacy – The constant use of technology in business is here to stay. Technology literacy is one of the few skills that are applicable in nearly every industry. Knowing things like how to use email, social media, and PowerPoint presentations are essential in today’s world. The internet is a wonderful thing if you know how to use it right. Not only can it allow you to take an education course from the comfort of your home, but you can also communicate and even do business with people in other countries. Not only do employers love having employees with technology skills, but it is helpful in everyday life as well.

3. Life Skills

The most important life skills are:

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  1. Adaptability or flexibility – This is very important for every field. The economy can change hourly, and sometimes what worked yesterday may not work today. The inability to adapt has led to many people becoming unemployed and has made businesses fail.
  2. Leadership – While many people think you only need leadership skills for managerial positions, this is not the case. Virtually everyone needs leadership skills, even those in entry-level positions. Even though they are not in leadership positions, they can better understand company decisions and prepare to take on leadership roles in the future by acquiring leadership skills.
  3. Initiative and determination – Sometimes, getting a degree and working regular hours simply aren’t enough to be truly successful. Nowadays, employers seek out people who constantly show initiative , i.e., willingness to complete tasks out of their job description or work overtime in order to grow professionally. More and more companies reward their employees less on how long they have been in a company and more on what they can contribute to a company. Hard work and the ability to come up with new ideas for improvement will lead to success.
  4. Efficiency – With today’s massive use of technology, there is a constant need to do better in terms of quality and speed. This can only be achieved through efficiency or the ability to get the job done faster without compromising the quality of it. Being efficient is essentially the same as being productive, which means this is a skill everyone can acquire; it might just take some time to figure out.
  5. Social skills – One of the most influential factors in one’s career success is networking. As you have probably heard, sometimes the “who you know” is as significant as “what you do and how well you do it.” The ability to socialize and form work relationships with professionals that are part of the same industry, as you as well as other industries, can do wonders for your career, and this is only possible if you develop great social skills.

Some other highly applicable skills

  1.  The ability to self educate – For all industries, new developments will be made that can lead to new opportunities for you. It is important to stay up to date on what is happening around you, which includes reading news articles, learning any foreign language, going back to school, or learning more skills. Only you know what’s really best for you, and you can only make educated decisions if you stay educated in the world around you.
  2. Writing skills – More and more work is being conducted online today through social media posts, emails, blogs, and articles. No matter what industry you go into, you will need to know how to write well. This means proper formatting, knowing your audience, and basic grammar, at least.
  3. Global awareness – As we have previously mentioned, technology has changed nearly every aspect of our lives. One of the most pivotal skills you can develop in today’s market is global awareness, or the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills in a global context. This includes the ability to work for international companies, collaborate with people of different nationalities and cultures, learn a new language, etc.

For more information on skills needed in the 21st century, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.