Career, Technology

What are ‘computer skills’? The most valuable things to know about computers

These days, practically all jobs require computer skills. Sometimes it is phrased differently – e.g. ‘applicants must be computer literate – but...

avatar Written by Robin Khokhar · 4 min read >
What are 'computer skills'? The most valuable things to know about computers

These days, practically all jobs require computer skills. Sometimes it is phrased differently – e.g. ‘applicants must be computer literate – but it all comes down to the same thing; because of how prevalent computers and technology have become in modern-day society, it has meant that they have also become prevalent, and practically essential, for modern-day work. 

So what examples are computer skills? Most people these days know how to use a computer, but is that enough? There are whole university degrees based around Computer Science and Software Engineering – is this what employers mean by computer skills? We spoke to TechQuarters, a London-based IT support provider, about this topic. According to TechQuarters, most office roles come with the expectation that people have basic computer literacy, and so computer skills usually refer to above-average knowledge in certain fields of computer.

Hardware or Software?

Usually, computer skills in a business context are split into two camps – hardware and software.

Hardware skills concern the physical operation and management of a computer. In the most fundamental terms, a hardware skill is knowing how to turn on a device and use it. Usually, however, hardware skills involve complicated jobs – such as how to fix a broken computer, how to change parts, how to connect a machine to a network, etc. These types of hardware skills usually require specific training – if you are not specializing in IT and hardware support, it is unlikely that high-level hardware skills will be a requirement for your work.

Examples of hardware skills include:

  • Internet connectivity – the internet is a critical tool for most businesses, and so it is very important that an organization’s internet network is running properly, and that any issues are managed and resolved in a timely way. An issue might arise with a single computer that means it is unable to connect to the internet; or there might be an issue that causes all computers to go offline. In either situation (and there are many more still) someone with knowledge and experience with internet connectivity will be able to troubleshoot and eventually fix the problem. Due to the reliance we have on the internet, this is considered an essential hardware computer skill.
  • Configuring drivers and components – The technology businesses use is not just limited to computer. There are a wide range of peripheral devices that are commonly used. For instance, printers, scanners, external hard drives, speakers and microphones – these are just a few examples of the kind of components that need managing in an office. Every device that connects to a computer requires a driver in order for the device to run and operate properly. Businesses usually use a specific type of each component, and may even use a specific model of computer – therefore, components need to be configured for that computer, and the computers need to have the right drivers installed on them.
  • System maintenance – This skill is largely concerned with software, but focuses on ensuring that all hardware is both consistent and current with updates on their software. This means knowing how to operating a wide variety of computers and other devices.

Software skills concern the use of computer applications and programs. For instance knowing how to operate a word processing program, how to use a web browser or search engine, or how to use a certain email client are all basic examples of software skills. High-value software skills usually include knowledge of specific or niche fields of software usage – data visualization and analytics are examples of this, as they require an understanding of specific software and how to read specific types of information, which is not something everyone knows how to do. Another prized software skill may be knowledge of Coding languages. It should be noted that in some cases, software skills may not be listed on a job description, purely because it is assumed that all viable applications will have those skills – the earlier examples we listed, such as knowledge of word processing or email clients would be examples of software skills that employers may assume you have.

Examples of software skills include:

  • Operating system literacy – As most people will know, the operating system (or OS) is the collection of programs that execute all the functions necessary for a computer to work, and also to be usable by people; for instance, every OS features a unique user interface. For this reason in particular, OS literacy is a valuable skill, because most businesses have a specific OS they use, and will only be familiar with that interface. The two most common operating systems are Windows and MacOS – although Linux is another widely used family of systems that may be worth learning.
  • Spreadsheets & Word Processing – These are the two most common types of software used in a business or office context. Word processing is of course a software designed for creating and writing our documents – whether they are reports, letters, user manuals, etc. Spreadsheets are programs for the storage, analysis and organization of data – the most common spreadsheet is Microsoft Excel.
  • Computer Programming – A skill most people specialize in, but one which also has value even if you have just a basic understanding of it. For instance, many people learn computer programming to become a software or app developer. However, having a basic understanding of coding and app development can help you work with developers from outside of the field, which is also important. 
  • Web Development – similar to app and software development, but specifically for websites. Web Dev may refer just to backend development (the behind the scenes programming), or the front end, which involves a lot of visual design and user functionality. Some people can do both, and are known as Full Stack Developers.

Often certain computer skills are so niche, or else so extensive, that people will train and specialize in those fields. With that said, it is often valuable to have a fundamental understanding of some more advanced computer skills. 

Why are computer skills important?

As mentioned earlier, most jobs these days require using a computer in some capacity. Whether it is a desktop or laptop PC, a mobile device, a workstation, etc. Office jobs in particular rely heavily on computer hardware and software. Some jobs might even involve the use of a specific set of software – in which case, they will either require prior knowledge, or else they might offer training once you have joined the company. In either scenario, having prior knowledge or experience with a range of different commonly used programs and applications can give you an advantage in the application process.

Every single industry in the world uses some form of hardware or software to make their work more efficient and productive. TechQuarters can attest to this, as they have provided business IT support London businesses from many different sectors have all used for a range of applications. It might be to automate tasks, streamline workflows, or make communications more efficient. The one thing that doesn’t change is that businesses need employees who are not only computer literate, but capable of learning new computer skills as required of them.

If you happen to have extensive knowledge in sought-after computer skills, you will find it much easier than some to find a job. On the other hand, it is also worth familiarising yourself with a wide range of software or hardware – even if you do not have extensive knowledge, having diverse knowledge can demonstrate your skill with computers, and your ability to learn new skills, which is an equally attractive trait for employers.

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Written by Robin Khokhar
Robin Khokhar is an entrepreneur and blogger who runs this blog. Thus sharing the tips and tricks related to SEO, WordPress, blogging, and digital marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @jacoblucky3.
       
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