The Most Important Visual Skills (With Examples)

Chris Kolmar
By Chris Kolmar
- Mar. 17, 2021

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Visual skills are skills that allow you to efficiently examine your environment and make use of the visual information.

They’re often ignored when discussing qualifications and skills required for any given job in favor of interpersonal or technical skills.

Nevertheless, visual skills are often just as, if not more important to have than other types of skills. For some jobs, poor visual skills can make your day-to-day tasks nearly impossible.

In this article, we’ll discuss 17 visual skills that you’re likely to need no matter your profession. We’ll also provide more specific examples of what jobs require each visual skill, so you’ll know which ones to avoid or pursue based on your proficiencies.

The 17 Most Important Visual Skills for the Workplace

The term “visual skills” encompasses how well you can physically use your eyes, as well as how proficiently you can integrate visual information with your movements and decisions.

These aren’t typically skills you’ll see listed as a requirement on a job listing, but can still decide whether you’re successful in your duties.

The 17 most important of these visual skills are:

  1. Gross visual-motor. Gross visual-motor skills describe the ability to navigate through a 3D space using visual information to guide you.

    This ability is extremely important when playing sports, where your success is determined by how effectively you can use your body.

    Gross visual-motor skills are also important for many other jobs such as:

    • Restaurant staff. Wait staff must be able to quickly and carefully navigate through often narrow table aisles and restaurant spaces.

      A clumsy worker might drop a customer’s dish or run into other people, which could cause disastrous consequences.

    • Warehouse worker. Many warehouses expect tight quotas and timely results from their employees, making the ability to move around efficiently absolutely critical

  2. Fine visual-motor. Fine visual-motor skills allow you to accurately engage in close-up tasks using your eyes and hands.

    Examples of jobs where these skills are important include:

    • Surgeon. Surgery often requires the operator to move with absolute precision, with no room for errors.

    • Craftworker. Different trades involve varying levels of fine visual-motor skills. A watchmaker, for example, must be much more precise than a woodworker.

    • Dentist. Dentists often need to perform very precise dental work. The inaccurate movement could harm their patient or destroy delicate tools.

  3. Visual integration. Visual integration is your ability to simultaneously perceive the world with your eyes while using that information to perform tasks.

    This soft skill differs from fine and gross motor skills in that it’s focused more on your mindset and mental abilities, rather than the physical health of your eyes and hands.

    For example, the ability to thread a needle through a small hole is an example of a fine motor skill.

    Examining the different types of needles and using that visual data to inform your decision would fall more under visual integration.

    Visual integration is important for jobs where you need to make quick decisions based on what you see. Examples include professional drivers and air traffic control specialists.

  4. Visual perception. Visual perception describes how aware you are of your surroundings, as well as the width of your visual field.

    Visual perception is used frequently in jobs that require quick reactions and response times.

    A professional driver is the most obvious job that requires this skill. Other examples include police officers, firefighters, and certain military careers.

  5. Color perception. Color perception is simply the ability to distinguish different colors from one another.

    This is important for any job that requires interpreting charts or any other color-coded information.

    Poor color perception can also make it difficult to work in certain creative fields such as painting and design, where you’ll have to present visuals with color to colleagues and clients who may have better color perception.

  6. Depth perception. Depth perception describes how well an individual can determine the distance between them and any object in their visual field.

    Professional drivers, pilots, and athletes make frequent use of this ability.

    If you have poor depth perception, it may be because you spend too much time working indoors. Spending time outside and just looking around will help strengthen the muscles that control your eyes and improve your depth perception.

  7. Central visual acuity. Central visual acuity is the ability to view objects accurately and clearly.

    This includes far away objects as well as those further away from you.

    Central visual acuity is what your optometrist is measuring when they mention the term 20/20 and ask you to read text on a wall.

    The skill is important for any job that requires you to read text up-close, such as most office jobs.

    It’s also important if you need to see far away. Many aircraft operating jobs will automatically disqualify you if you don’t have excellent central visual acuity.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to improve your central visual acuity other than surgery or wearing glasses, as it’s entirely determined by the shape of your eyes.

  8. Visual thinking. Colloquially known as “visualizing”, visual thinking is the ability to analyze and move objects around in your mind.

    The skill is extremely useful to engineers and architects, as it allows them to conceptualize detailed ideas without needing to physically build or draw them out.

    If you’re pursuing either of these or a similar job, you should research strategies to improve your visual thinking skills. It may not seem necessary since visual thinking is rarely ever mentioned as a requirement in job listings.

    However, neither are rhetorical skills for attorneys or many critical soft skills for other careers, even though we all understand how important they are.

  9. Accommodation endurance. This skill describes your ability to use your eyes continuously over a long period without wearing them out.

    Accommodation endurance is critical for students and professionals who need to constantly read text.

    It’s perhaps most important for software developers, as the combined task of staring at a screen and looking at small text demands high accommodation endurance.

  10. Accommodation flexibility. Accommodation flexibility is the ability to quickly and effortlessly switch between looking at objects up close and those further away.

    A common job that requires this skill is being a teacher, as you’ll often switch between looking at your notes or blackboard and looking at the class.

  11. Convergence. This the ability for your eyes to converge towards an object and work together.

    Poor visual convergence makes it difficult to view objects close in front of you. The ability is extremely important for academic activities or any job that has you reading text or computer screens.

  12. Pursuits. These are the movements that your eyes make when switching between looking at one object to another. Many individuals have poor visual pursuit due to nerve or muscle damage.

    If this is the case with you, then you should consider how much you’ll need to physically look around before you apply to any given job.

    Poor visual pursuit will make many day-to-day tasks extremely difficult or even harmful to your health.

  13. Saccades. Saccades are quick movements that your eyes make to focus on different objects. They’re different from pursuits in that pursuits are wider, smoother movements.

    A person can easily perform saccades but struggle with pursuits, or vice-versa. This is due to the different eye muscles responsible for each type of movement.

    Any job that requires you to read text or examine things up close will demand you to have eyes that are comfortable performing saccades.

  14. Visual memory. Visual memory encompasses your ability to remember words, objects, and images.

    A professional driver is an example of a profession that requires excellent visual memory, as you may need to remember landmarks to help you navigate a crowded city.

    A claims adjuster is another example, as they often need to recall details concerning damages sustained to a property that they assessed.

    Without sufficient visual memory, a claims adjuster’s hard skills of claim handling and determining liability are useless.

  15. Binocular coordination. Binocular coordination is the ability of environments to work together as a team. If one eye moves or focuses more easily, the other may develop into a lazy eye due to atrophic eye muscles.

    Having a lazy eye will weaken your ability to perform many of the other visual tasks in this list. For example, if you rely on one eye too much then your depth perception may suffer.

  16. Eye movement control. Eye movement control is simply how easily, accurately, and smoothly you can move each eye. Many individuals have weak eye muscles or nerve damage, resulting in decreased eye movement control.

    If you have such issues, consult medical help before pursuing any jobs that demand your eyes to move frequently. Otherwise, you could damage your eyes even further and worsen the issue.

  17. Peripheral vision. Peripheral vision, or side vision, allows you to perceive objects that aren’t in front of you without turning your head or eyes.

    Having a wide range of peripheral vision is an important aspect of staying aware of your surroundings.

    It’s important for any job that requires one to respond quickly to their changing environments, such as being a police officer, firefighter, or professional driver.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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