What Is Upskilling?

Upskilling Explained

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Upskilling is the process of adding new competencies to an existing skill set. Employers may upskill staff through corporate training programs in order to gain a more proficient workforce. Workers may upskill themselves via continuing education, certification, and private training.

Key Takeaways

  • Upskilling adds new abilities and qualifications to your knowledge base.
  • Unlike reskilling, which is aimed at helping you train for a new job, upskilling is intended to keep you current with the job or career you have. 
  • Upskilling may help you land a promotion, get a raise, or keep on top of emerging technology and trends.

How Does Upskilling Work?

Upskilling builds on your current proficiencies through training, education, or on-the-job learning. Unlike reskilling, which involves learning an entirely new skill set, upskilling adds to the knowledge you already possess. 

Major employers including Walmart, Verizon, and Marriott make heavy investments in upskilling and reskilling programs. Many employer-sponsored programs focus on hard skills like coding, cloud computing, and digital marketing. But soft skills are also in demand—Verizon’s Skill Forward program focuses on communication and teamwork, as well as technical skills. In a ZipRecruiter survey, 93% of employers said that soft skills play a critical role in their hiring decisions. 


You can also upskill yourself on your own, taking continuing education classes, participating in internships, or completing a certification. 

Upskilling can help you become better at your job, earn a promotion, or adapt to new challenges in your industry. It can also help you future-proof your career. In a McKinsey survey, 87% of companies said that they had skills gaps or expected to have them in the next three to five years.

Rapidly evolving industries mean that even workers who stay in their current jobs will need to add to their skill sets in order to stay current.  

Example of Upskilling

Let’s say that you’re a software developer. You have a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology and several years of experience designing and developing software to suit users’ needs. 

You like your job, which allows you to use your creativity and problem-solving skills to help design new solutions to challenging issues. But your ultimate career goal is to become a chief technology officer, which may require you to earn an MBA and gain experience as a computer and information systems manager. 

Your current employer offers a continuing education benefit that includes tuition reimbursement for programs related to your job. After researching programs and getting your manager’s approval, you’re able to start on your MBA. Your company benefits because you’re more likely to stay in your job while completing your education—plus, you might choose to gain management experience with the organization after graduation. You benefit by earning a free or lower-cost MBA and securing a path to your dream job. 

Types of Upskilling

Corporate Training Programs

Many companies offer free training to their employees either through a proprietary program or a third-party vendor, like LinkedIn Learning. Corporate training has several advantages—it’s free for employees, may sometimes be completed on company time, and is already familiar to your employer. Completing the company’s training program can help you get a promotion, a better performance review, or find new opportunities within the organization. 

Degree Programs

Not every job requires a four-year degree and not every four-year degree leads to a job. However, there are times when going back to school is the best way to advance your career. To find out whether additional education makes sense, consider scheduling some informational interviews with people who have your desired job. How did they prepare for their role? 

Some colleges and universities offer bridge programs for professionals who have training and experience but lack a given degree. For example, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can become registered nurses (RNs) through LPN-to-RN bridge programs. 

You may also be able to find programs that are partially or entirely online. 


Look into whether your company provides continuing education benefits. You may be able to get your tuition reimbursed for education or training that you acquire outside of work. 

Continuing Education and Professional Development

Continuing education doesn’t need to lead to a degree in order to be valuable. For example, securities and commodities sales agents typically attend training seminars regularly to keep up with emerging products and trends in their industry. In health care, many practitioners are required to complete continuing education courses to keep their license current. 

You may also be able to take advantage of free or low-cost online classes through Coursera, edX, Udacity, or other online training and education companies. 


Many career paths require certifications at various points. A computer support specialist may need to acquire vendor-specific certifications to support a new product. A dental assistant might earn certifications in infection control or radiography to advance in their career. 


Use CareerOneStop’s free certification finder to research certifications and find programs in your area.

Upskilling vs. Reskilling

Upskilling Reskilling 
Builds on your existing knowledge base  Adds new competencies to your resume
May help you earn a promotion, land a new job, or stay current in your field  May help you retrain for a new job or career 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do employers offer training?

Employee training programs can help develop current employees and provide new workers with in-demand skills. Companies provide training to ensure that their workers know how to do their jobs, understand goals and expectations, and continue to grow as their industry evolves. 

How can I learn new skills for free?

Look for free online classes via university extension programs or online education platforms like edX, Khan Academy, Alison, and FutureLearn. Also, look for opportunities to learn on the job via apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing, and informational interviews. 

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Global Opportunity Initiative. "5 Companies Invested in Reskilling the Workforce." 

  2. Verizon. "A Family That Codes Together, Grows Together." 

  3. ZipRecruiter. "The Job Market Outlook for Grads." 

  4. McKinsey. "The Skillful Corporation." 

  5. PubMed.gov. "Reskilling and Upskilling the Future-ready Workforce for Industry 4.0 and Beyond."

  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How to Become a Computer and Information Systems Manager."

  7. LinkedIn Talent Solutions. "LinkedIn Learning." 

  8. Raritan Valley Community College. "LPN to RN Nursing Bridge Program."

  9. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How To Become a Securities, Commodities, or Financial Services Sales Agent." 

  10. NetCE Continuing Education. "New York Physicians CE Requirements, Accreditations & Approvals."

  11. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How To Become a Computer Support Specialist."

  12. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How To Become a Dental Assistant." 

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