Critical Thinking

Why This Is an Essential Skill

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

is the process of carefully and systematically analyzing problems to find ways to solve them. It involves identifying several possible solutions and then logically evaluating each one, comparing them to one another on their merits, and then selecting the one that you conclude is the most promising.

Why Should You Become a Critical Thinker?

The ability to think logically about a problem in order to solve it is a valuable soft skill. Employers prefer job candidates who can demonstrate a history of using critical thinking skills. They want to have employees who can solve problems quickly, but more importantly, they want ones who can solve them effectively.

Tips to Help You Develop Critical Thinking

You may think there isn't enough time to take a slow and measured approach to problem solving. After all, time is scarce, and quick and easy answers are appealing. However, rushing to make a decision is less productive than using critical thinking.

Critical thinking is one of several you should try to develop while still in school. Sign up for science classes, for example. Your assignments will require you to generate hypotheses and then test them before coming to conclusions.

Students taking classes also use critical thinking. To complete projects, you will have to select media and techniques that will best allow you to achieve your artistic vision. 

Join a debate club. Examining issues, adopting stances on them, and then arguing your point will force you to think critically.

Graduates aren't out of luck. Practice your critical thinking while performing everyday activities. Before voting, for instance, learn about each of the candidates. When deciding where to have dinner, weigh your alternatives regarding the type of food, healthfulness, and cost. If making a purchase, do your research and read reviews of different brands.

That Require Strong Critical Thinking Skills

While you can expect to use critical thinking in most occupations, there are some in which they are a primary part of the job. These occupations involve regularly making decisions and solving problems:

  • Judges preside over criminal and civil legal cases, making sure they are handled fairly. 
  • Attorneys represent people who are involved in civil and criminal legal cases.
  • Actuaries estimate the probability of certain events occurring and assess how much it will cost their employers or clients if they do.
  • Doctors examine patients in order to diagnose and then treat illnesses and injuries.
  • Operation research analysts solve problems for companies and organizations using their knowledge of mathematics.
  • Principals manage everything that goes on inside school buildings. They establish educational goals and make sure their faculty meets them.
  • Biomedical engineers first analyze and then solve problems having to do with biology and medicine.
  • Biochemists study the chemical composition of living things. Biophysicists investigate how electrical and mechanical energy relates to living cells and organisms.
  • Medical scientists research the causes of diseases and find ways to treat and prevent them.
  • Financial examiners make sure banks and other financial institutions adhere to government laws and regulations.
  • Engineers use their scientific and mathematical expertise to solve problems.
  • Physician assistants, under doctors' supervision, examine and treat patients.
  • Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients' teeth and mouth tissue.
  • Special agents collect information in order to determine if people or organizations have violated any laws.
  • Geoscientists study physical aspects of the earth and may search for natural resources.
  • : Before developing a treatment plan, clinical and counseling psychologists assess patients for mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.
  • Anthropologists study the origin, development, and behavior of human beings.
  • : Optometrists diagnose and treat eye diseases and disorders.
  • Audiologists diagnose hearing difficulties and balance disorders.
  • Archaeologists excavate and analyze artifacts left behind by earlier civilizations.
  • Chemists use knowledge about chemicals to create products that improve our lives. 
  • Occupational therapists help patients recover their ability to perform daily living and work activities.
  • Pilots 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.
  • Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, supervise the preparation and serving of meals, and promote healthy eating habits.
  • EMTs and paramedics treat ill or injured people who need immediate care.
  • Marriage 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 educators teach individuals and communities how to live healthy lifestyles.
  • Computer and information systems managers coordinate companies' and other organizations' computer-related activities.
  • Financial advisors help clients plan for their financial goals.
  • Physical therapists help rehabilitate people who received injuries in accidents or who have disabling conditions.
  • : Fashion designers create clothing and accessories.
  • Marketing managers formulate companies' marketing strategies.
  • Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and provide them with information about how to use them.
  • Human resources specialists select job candidates who are most likely to meet their employers' needs.
  • Urban and regional planners help communities figure out how to best use their land and resources.
  • Survey researchers design questionnaires and other tools that are used to collect data about people.
  • Assessors determine the values of multiple properties for cities, counties, and other municipalities.
  • Forensic scientists gather and analyze physical evidence from crime scenes.
  • Desktop publishers produce publication-ready materials using computer software.
  • Event planners coordinate conventions, business meetings, trade shows, and private parties for organizations, businesses, and individuals.