Key qualifications: importance, examples and more

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A key qualification plays an increasingly important role in professional life and especially when looking for a job. In addition to the required professional skills, companies also focus on key qualifications that an employee should and must have. But what exactly are key qualifications? What examples are there?


The first thing to do is to define the concept of a key qualification. This topic first appeared in the 1950s under the term “suprafunctional qualification”. Finally, the concept of key qualifications Dieter Mertens in the 1970s shaped.

Since then, the basic meaning of this term has not changed. Key qualifications are those abilities and skills which it will support you in managing working life with its frequent innovations and changes. With such skills, employees can learn more easily and quickly adapt to changing conditions and requirements. Key qualifications do not include professional skills, but rather those skills that are important for the competent application of professional knowledge.

So the key qualifications are interdisciplinary and useful and applicable in many different areas of working life. They are available and in turn help each other to be able to acquire new skills in the future.

English term “fine skills” corresponds to the German term key qualification and is used more often than the original term today.

Classification according to Mertens

As already mentioned, the concept of key qualifications was created by Dieter Mertens in the 1970s. He was a researcher in the field of education and work and advocated for a greater focus on key qualifications in the preparation of skilled workers. He defined 4 areas key qualifications.

The first area is der Basic qualifications or “higher-order qualifications”. These qualifications enable one to do so so that they can use all their skills and abilities together and connect with each other. Examples include critical and logical thinking.

Another defined area is der horizontal qualifications which are also “horizon broadening qualifications” she called will. These are primarily aimed at Information and knowledge processingaccess to them and their effective use. Relevant information can be targeted and found, it can be understood and processed and then used effectively and efficiently.

Another area is der latitude elements. This means knowledge and skills that useful in many areas of the working world they are, that is, they are not specifically focused on a profession. An example of this is knowledge of occupational safety.

The last defined area is the so-called vintage factors. These have a goal Reduce generation gaps and differences and reduce Differences may exist in knowledge and skills, for example due to different training. These could be purposefully absorbed and captured in adult education through courses.

Key qualifications today

The areas of key qualifications defined by Mertens focus mainly on thinking and general skills. Little or no attention is paid to personal skills and qualifications, which are increasingly important today. Nowadays, key qualifications are divided into the following areas.

For one thing, it’s about them social skills. These skills aim to do just that interpersonal community, dealing with other people and general social situations. Examples are empathy and empathy, team skills, conflict resolution skills, communication skills and much more.

We go further there is Individual or own competence. This focuses on character traits and personality away. It is about motivation, attitudes, values, commitment, resilience, flexibility and much more.

There is another thing methodological competence. Skills are focused on possession Cope with tasks and problems in everyday work be able to This includes skills in problem solving, recognizing context, processing information, analytical thinking and much more.

Another area is action competence. This consists of Social, individual/self and methodological competence together and thus form an individual intersection of competences. It’s about being able to adapt to situations and being able to act independently. This is influenced, among other things, by a person’s ability to reflect and his values ​​and norms.

The last area is media literacy, which some also refer to as methodological competence. This is it Competent and reflective use of analog and digital media meant. This area of ​​competence is increasingly important these days.


Key qualifications play a role in working life role for a long time. IN Mertens shaped the 1970s date. He is there after him 4 areas key qualifications. These are basic qualifications, horizontal qualifications, breadth elements and historical factors. today is a classification of key qualifications in Social competence, individual or self-competence, methodological competence, action competence and media competence more common. These competencies complement technical competencies extremely important in everyday work and already on job search. You can acquired and trained will.

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