Critical Thinking

Learn About This Important Soft Skill

Man using critical thinking skills
Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the use of careful analysis to make informed decisions. This highly valued soft skill will help you solve problems and reach goals. You must be able to think critically at work, in school and in everyday life.

Critical thinking involves first identifying the problem you want to solve or the goal you want to reach. Then you will have to gather information that will help you identify possible solutions.

Next you will begin to evaluate these solutions by comparing and contrasting them. This will help you determine which alternative is most likely to help you solve your problem or reach your goal most effectively and efficiently. You should note that not all problems can be solved and not all goals achieved, but critical thinking will help you make your best effort, and it will also allow you to come to the conclusion that there isn't an effective solution. 

Tips to Help You Develop This Skill

With time as scarce as it usually is, taking a slow and measured approach to decision making and problem solving seems almost impossible. We tend to want quick and easy answers rather than thoughtful responses. We are trained to make decisions and solve problems quickly before moving on to the next thing on our to do lists. It is important, however, to reverse that course of action. From now on you must learn how to be a critical thinker.

There are things you can do that will help you develop this skill.

If you are a student, sign up for classes that force you to think critically. The first subject that may come to mind is science because you must test hypotheses before coming to a conclusion. There are other options. Take an art class for example.

When you are assigned a project, you will have to choose between different media and techniques to see which will best let you achieve your artistic vision. Join a debate club. You will have to examine an issue, adopt a stance on it and then argue your point.

If you aren't in school, you are not out of luck. You can practice your critical thinking skills during everyday life. Before forming an opinion about a political or any other issue, take time to learn about the different sides of it. When deciding where to have dinner, weigh your alternatives in terms of type of food, healthfulness and cost. When you are making a purchase, read reviews before deciding what brand to buy.

Careers That Require Strong Critical Thinking Skills

Although good critical thinking skills are useful in most workplaces, some occupations require workers to be stronger in this skill than other careers do. Here is a look at some of them:

  • JudgeJudges presides over criminal and civil legal cases, making sure they are handled fairly. 
  • AttorneysAttorneys represent people who are involved in civil and criminal legal cases.
  • ActuaryActuaries estimate the probability of certain events occurring and assess how much it will cost their employers or clients if they do.
  • DoctorsDoctors examine patients in order to diagnose and then treat illnesses and injuries.
  • Operations Research AnalystOperation research analysts solve problems for companies and organizations using their knowledge of mathematics.
  • PrincipalPrincipals manage everything that goes on inside school buildings. They establish educational goals and make sure their faculty meets them.
  • Biomedical EngineerBiomedical engineers first analyze and then solve problems having to do with biology and medicine.
  • Biochemist or BiophysicistBiochemists study the chemical composition of living things. Biophysicists investigate how electrical and mechanical energy relates to living cells and organisms.
  • Medical ScientistMedical scientists research the causes of diseases in order to find ways to treat and prevent them.
  • Financial ExaminerFinancial examiners make sure banks and other financial institutions adhere to government laws and regulations.
  • EngineerEngineers use their scientific and mathematical expertise to solve problems.
  • Physician AssistantPhysician assistants, under doctors' supervision, examine and treat patients.
  • DentistDentists diagnose and treat problems with patients' teeth and mouth tissue.
  • Special AgentsSpecial agents collect information in order to determine if state, local or federal laws have been violated.
  • GeoscientistsGeoscientists study physical aspects of the earth and may search for natural resources.
  • Clinical or Counseling PsychologistClinical and counseling psychologists assess patients for mental, emotional and behavioral disorders and then treat them.
  • AnthropologistAnthropologists study the origin, development and behavior of human beings.
  • OptometristOptometrists diagnose and treat eye diseases and disorders.
  • AudiologistAudiologists diagnose hearing difficulties and balance disorders.
  • ArchaeologistArchaelogists excavate and analyze artifacts left behind by earlier civilizations.
  • ChemistChemists use knowledge about chemicals to create products that improve our lives. 
  • Occupational TherapistOccupational therapists help patients recover their ability to perform daily living and work activities.
  • PilotPilots fly planes and helicopters for airlines that transport people and cargo on a fixed schedule or companies that offer charter flights, rescue operations or aerial photography.
  • Dietitian or NutritionistDietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, supervise the preparation and serving of meals, and promote healthy eating habits.
  • EMT or ParamedicEMTs and paramedics treat ill or injured people who need immediate care.
  • Marriage and Family TherapistMarriage and family therapists provide therapy to families, couples and individuals. They work from the perspective that those with whom we live have an impact on our mental health.
  • Health EducatorHealth educators teach individuals and communities how to live healthy lifestyles.
  • Computer and Information Systems ManagerComputer and information systems managers coordinate companies' and other organizations' computer-related activities.
  • Financial AdvisorFinancial advisors help clients plan for their financial goals.
  • Physical TherapistPhysical therapists help rehabilitate people who were injured in accidents or who have disabling conditions.
  • Fashion Designer: Fashion designers create clothing and accessories.
  • Marketing ManagerMarketing managers formulate companies' marketing strategies.
  • PharmacistPharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and provide them with information about how to use them.
  • Human Resources SpecialistHuman resources specialists finds job candidates who are most likely to meet their employers' needs.
  • Urban or Regional PlannerUrban and regional planners help communities figure out how to best use their land and resources.
  • Survey ResearcherSurvey researchers design surveys that are used to collect data about people.
  • AssessorAssessors determine the values of multiple properties for cities, counties and other municipalities.
  • Forensic ScientistForensic scientists gather and analyze physical evidence from crime scenes.
  • Desktop PublisherDesktop publishers produce publication-ready materials using computer software.
  • Event PlannerEvent planners coordinate conventions, business meetings, trade shows and private parties for organizations, businesses and individuals.

Find Your Next Job

Job Search by