How to Gain Skills

Do you have the skills and education that employers want? Not sure? Explore Careers can help you learn about employers.

One of the best ways to expand your skills is through education and training. Make sure that your education connects to occupations that fit your interests and skills.

There are five steps to help get the right education for you. The exercises will help you look at schools that fit your needs.

Step 1: Pinpoint occupations that interest you.

One of the best ways to expand your skills is through education. Make sure that your education connects to occupations that fit your interests and skills.

Use the Rank Your Occupations (pdf) worksheet  to list your desired occupations and the education needed. List the pros and cons of each. Rank them in order to help you decide.

Step 2: Look at your education options.

Here are education options for you to think about. You can ask at a library about local options. You can also talk about your options with a career coach.

An apprenticeship program is a training plan based on employers’ needs. It helps potential employees learn the skills of an occupation or trade. Students learn the standard skills in a classroom. Also, they learn on the job and sometimes get paid. Sometimes they are supported by trade or labor groups. Directory of Apprenticeship Programs
Online learning is a great option for many students. You can take one course, or you can earn a certificate or a degree. For the right students, online learning makes it easier to go to school. The Distance Education and Training Council  provide links to online education and training programs.
Adult Basic
Adult Basic Education classes are free. They help people who are 16 and older and who are not in school. Students can improve their basic skills such as reading, math, listening, and speaking. Some classes help prepare people for better jobs or for getting ready for more education. Pennsylvania Department of Education
U.S. Military The military offers hundreds of jobs to help you get skills and meet your goals.
Licenses Licenses are the required knowledge and skills for some jobs. Licenses often vary by state. It is against the law to work in these jobs without a license. These workers need to keep going to school to keep up their license. Interested students should ask if a school will prepare them for a license. Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs
Degrees A degree is given by a college or university. It means that you completed a course of study. An associate’s degree usually takes 2 years or less. A bachelor’s degree usually takes 4 or more years. You may need to take classes to get ready for college. Pennsylvania Department of Education
Certifications Certifications are tests that measure your work knowledge. Some employers like hiring people with these skills. Interested students should ask if their school will prepare them for certifications. Many certifications require a degree.

Step 3: Look at what the schools offer.

Do you need to go to school? Make a list of what you want from a school or program. Then, research schools and programs that fit your list. You can use your library to find your education options.

Schools tend to tell you about strengths and may hide their weaknesses. Only you can decide if a school is the right one to help you meet your career goals.

Use the tips listed below to see if you agree with the school's claims.

  • Read the materials from the school. Is it accredited? Do their courses match your goals?
  • Find out about the training. How long will it take? How much it will cost? What about tuition, fees, supplies, and books? Are there evening courses? How well does it prepare you for occupations that interest you?
  • Find out about the school’s equipment. Is it current? Is it similar to what you will use in the workplace?
  • Ask about services for students. Do you need help with finances, daycare, tutors, computer skills or other things?
  • Ask about “must haves” to enroll. Are there tests you need to pass? Do you need a GED or high school diploma? What else do students need to get enrolled?
  • Ask about credit options. Can you transfer your credits from other schools? Can you get credit for prior learning?


Step 4: Track your research of schools.

In order to make good decisions about school, research your options. You can look online or call the school directly. Think about what you will get out of any program before you enroll in it.

Use the School Research Worksheet (pdf) to keep track of the type of training and any services each school offers students. If you are looking at more than one occupation, make a new worksheet for each one.

Step 5: Choose education options.

You've found several options that fit your goals. How do you choose? Use the results of your School Research on the Weigh Your Options (pdf) to help you make decisions. Talk over your decisions with people who are supportive of you.

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