Key qualification

Also known as: Interdisciplinary qualification, soft skill

The term “key qualification” is indicative of several general qualifications that characterize a person's general ability to act. In addition to the so-called professional competence, the key qualifications in the area of personnel development are a second, central area.

Definition / explanation

Subject-specific knowledge is not characteristic of key qualifications. Rather, key qualifications enable a competent handling of specialist knowledge, based on a broad spectrum of overarching competencies from the affective and cognitive area. These skills can be transferred and used in different functions and situations in a flexible and innovative way.

In principle, key qualifications cannot and should not replace subject-specific knowledge. However, key qualifications provide significant support in developing specialist knowledge, which in some cases is rapidly and constantly changing. Key qualifications are therefore generally content-neutral and are used in everyday interpersonal relationships as well as in professional life.

Structure in five areas of competence

In a rough breakdown, key qualifications can be grouped into five so-called competence areas:

Social competence - Here, social competence describes, among other things, the abilities and skills of a person to be able to interact socially as well as his ability to deal with conflicts, work in a team and to cooperate.

Self-competence - Self-competence as a personality trait, on the other hand, is characteristic of attitudes and abilities in which an individual's personal attitude towards the (work) world is expressed.

Media literacy – Die Medienkompetenz als Schlüsselqualifikation beschreibt die Kompetenz eines Menschen, sich in der heutigen Knowledge society als mündiges und reflektiertes Individuum einbringen zu können. Dies beinhaltet auch die Fähigkeit, Medien selbst gestalten zu können.

Methodological competence - In addition, methodological competence is characteristic of those abilities and skills that enable tasks and problems to be dealt with on the basis of selection, planning and implementation.

Action competence - The action competence, as the fifth competence area of the key qualifications, stands for a situation-related appropriate behavior, a self-responsible competence in solving problems as well as the ability to actually provide previously defined services.


  • Key qualifications are generally acquired skills, attitudes and elements of knowledge
  • are useful in problem solving and in acquiring new skills
  • represent a basis for the general ability to act
  • Key qualifications can be grouped into five competence areas
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