What Is the Difference Between Hard Skills and Soft Skills?

You can start today and acquire a new skill that can help lead to career success.

Article Banner Image

You’ve heard of hard skills and soft skills, but what exactly do those terms mean? Hard skills are job-related competencies and abilities that are necessary to complete work, while soft skills are personal qualities and traits that impact how you work. Hard skills are often applicable to a certain career; soft skills are transferable to any type of job. Both are necessary for a successful career in any field.

Examples of hard skills include:
  • Classroom management
  • Video production
  • Carpentry
  • Search engine optimization
  • Budgeting
  • Project management
  • Engineering
  • Copywriting
  • Data mining
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Examples of soft skills include:
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking
  • Integrity
  • Adaptability
  • Professionalism
  • Creativity
  • Resilience
  • Dependability
  • Empathy
  • Organization

The hard skills for a nurse and a chef are very different, but nurses and chefs could both apply the same soft skills to be successful in their individual careers.

How to gain new skills

The great news is that hard skills and soft skills can be learned. Hard skills can be acquired by earning a degree, completing on-the-job training, or taking courses. Soft skills are, at some level, innate—for instance, some people are naturally better communicators or more punctual than others. But there are ways to develop or take those skills to the next level. Groups like Toastmasters International, for example, can help introverts become better public speakers. Someone who tends to be disorganized can hire a professional organizer and follow tips to reduce the clutter in their home. Anyone who finds themselves in a leadership role with no experience as a manager can take a course and learn how to lead.

Whether you need to develop hard skills or soft skills to prepare yourself for a new role or a new career altogether, online education is a great option. Online learning is flexible—you don’t have to drive to a campus to take classes at a specific time. All you need is an internet connection, and you can learn anywhere that is convenient for you. You can earn a degree online, but sometimes earning a professional certificate or completing a course online could be all you need to gain valuable skills that you can put to use immediately on the job.

Three skills, three courses

Need to improve your leadership soft skills? Try Meeting the Leadership Challenge. You can start learning right away—even today—and discover how to assess and strengthen your leadership skills. This online learning path has an estimated 48-hour workload, but you’ll have up to 180 days to finish it.

If grant writing has been added to the list of duties in your nonprofit role, Grant Writing for Nonprofits can help you acquire this hard skill. You’ll learn how to develop and write a grant proposal, as well as how to manage grants. This self-paced learning path is estimated to take 15 hours to complete, but you have up to 180 days to complete it.

Do you want to start a side hustle? If so, Go Gig or Go Home can help you assess your hard and soft skills to determine what sort of freelancing roles to pursue. In this one-hour micro-course, you’ll learn how and where to search for opportunities and how to market yourself in the gig economy. You can revisit the course material for up to 180 days.

All of these online courses of study are available through Walden University’s School of Lifelong Learning, which offers quality, flexible continuing education options for acquiring hard skills and soft skills quickly. Online learning through an accredited university such as Walden is a smart way to meet professional development needs. Whether you need to gain hard skills or soft skills, and whether you want to pursue an online degree or take a quick micro-course, Walden is ready to provide online education that meets your needs.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online courses for credit, professional development courses, and tailored employer training programs through its School of Lifelong Learning. Degree seekers may wish to explore Walden’s suite of online degree programs, offered at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. Learn new skills in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.