As you play through Starfield, your choice of Skills will have immediate impact on your experience. The ones you choose affect nearly every aspect, from peaceful interactions to battle survivability and everything in between. After hours of play, we’ve identified the ones we wouldn’t want to live without, as well as the ones we barely care to touch on our way to greater things. Here is our guide ranking the best skills in Starfield.
Related: Before you even spend skill points on your first skill, you’ll create a character. For help with that process, check out our guide ranking the best Traits in Starfield.
All Skills in Starfield
We’ve counted and know of 82 Skills in Starfield. That’s a lot. Below is a list of all of the Skills with brief descriptions outlining what they do upon initial unlock (ranking them up improves their efficiency and may add additional skills at the highest ranks). We have divided them into the five categories: Physical, Social, Combat, Science, and Tech. They’re listed in the order the game lists them within those categories. After the full list, we’ll offer some quick advice and rank our favorites.
- Boxing – Unarmed attacks do 25% more damage. 25% less O2 used when using a power attack.
- Fitness – You have 10% more oxygen available.
- Stealth – Adds a Stealth Meter. You are 25% more difficult to detect when sneaking. Suppressed weapons do an additional 5% sneak attack damage.
- Weight Lifting – Increase total carrying capacity by 10 kilograms.
- Wellness – Increase your maximum health by 20%.
- Energy Weapon Dissipation – Energy damage is reduced by 5%.
- Environmental Conditioning – Gain 10 resistance to Airborne environmental damage.
- Gymnastics – Unlock the ability to combat slide. Take 15% less fall damage.
- Nutrition – Food and drink are 10% more effective.
- Pain Tolerance – Physical damage is reduced by 5%.
- Cellular Regeneration – Slightly increased chance to recover from injuries naturally.
- Decontamination – Slightly increased chance to recover from infections naturally.
- Martial Arts – 15% increased chance to crit with a melee or unarmed attack.
- Concealment – You no longer set off enemy mines. Ranged sneak attacks do 2.5x normal damage and your melee sneak attacks do 4x normal damage.
- Neurostrikes – 10% chance to stun an NPC with an unarmed attack.
- Rejuvenation – Slowly regenerate health outside of combat.
- Commerce – Buy for 5% less and sell for 10% more.
- Gastronomy – You can craft specialty food and drinks, and research additional recipes at a Research Lab.
- Persuasion – 10% increased chance of success when persuading someone.
- Scavenging – There’s a chance you’ll find extra credits when searching containers.
- Theft – Unlock the ability to pickpocket targets.
- Deception – Ships 10% stronger will automatically surrender to piracy demands. Enemy contraband scans are 10% less effective.
- Diplomacy – You can force a target NPC at or below your level to stop fighting for a while.
- Intimidation – You can force a target NPC at or below your level to flee for a limited time.
- Isolation – Do +10% weapon damage and gain 15 Damage Resistance for each Spacesuit and Helmet equipped when you don’t have a companion or any crew.
- Negotiation – You now have access to Bribery in speech challenges.
- Instigation – You can force a target NPC at or below your level to attack their allies for a limited time.
- Leadership – Companions gain affinity 25% faster.
- Outpost Management – Additional cargo links can be placed at outposts.
- Manipulation – You can force a target NPC at or below your level to obey commands for a limited time.
- Ship Command – You can have up to four active crew members.
- Xenosociology – You can force a target alien creature up to 10 levels higher than you to stop fighting for a limited time.
- Ballistics – Ballistic weapons do 10% more damage.
- Dueling – Melee weapons do 25% more damage. Take 10% less damage while wielding a melee weapon.
- Lasers – Laser weapons do 10% more damage.
- Pistol Certification – Pistols do 10% more damage.
- Shotgun Certification – Shotguns do 10% more damage.
- Demolitions – Throwing grenades now shows a trajectory arc. Explosions have a 25% larger radius.
- Heavy Weapons Certification – Heavy weapons do 10% more damage.
- Incapacitation – EM weapons do 5% more damage.
- Particle Beams – Particle beam weapons do 10% more damage.
- Rifle Certification – Rifles do 10% more damage.
- Marksmanship – Increase critical hit chance with non-automatic ranged weapons by 3%.
- Rapid Reloading – Reload Ballistic weapons 30% faster.
- Sniper Certification – Scoped weapons are steadier and have less sway.
- Targeting – Increased accuracy and range when shooting without aiming. Marks up to one enemy within 25m that damages you.
- Armor Penetration – Attacks ignore 15% of a target’s armor.
- Crippling – Human enemies have a 30% increased chance to enter a downed state after taking enough damage.
- Sharpshooting – Increase headshot critical damage by 50% with ranged weapons.
- Astrodynamics – Increase grav jump range of jump drives by 15%.
- Geology – Get more common and uncommon inorganic resources from surface objects.
- Medicine – Med Packs, Trauma Packs, and Emergency Kits restore 10% additional Health 10% faster.
- Research Methods – Resources required to craft items and complete research projects is reduced by 10%.
- Surveying – Adds an optional zoom to the hand scanner, and scan distance is increased to 20 meters.
- Botany – Get more common and uncommon organic resources from plants, learn additional info about them from the scanner, and allows some plants to be cultivated at your outposts.
- Scanning – You can detect uncommon inorganic resources on planet and moon surfaces, and more information about ships in space.
- Spacesuit Design – You can craft improved spacesuit, helmet, and pack mods, and research additional mods at a Research Lab.
- Weapon Engineering – You can craft improved weapon mods at a Weapon Workbench, and research additional weapon mods at a Research Lab.
- Zoology – Get more common organic resources from creatures and harvest from them without harming them, learn additional info about them from the scanner, and allows you to produce animal resources at your outposts.
- Astrophysics – You can scan the moons of your current planet. You have a 10% chance to discover a trait when scanning.
- Chemistry – You can create improved chems, and research additional chems at a Research Lab.
- Outpost Engineering – You can construct improved outpost modules, and research additional modules at a Research Lab.
- Aneutronic Fusion – Ship reactors produce 1 extra unit of power.
- Planetary Habitation – You can build outposts on planets with extreme temperatures (Deep Freeze and Inferno). Increase the maximum number of Outposts you can build by 4.
- Special Projects – You can research experimental projects at a Research Lab.
- Ballistic Weapon Systems – Ballistic ship weapons have 10% increased damage and cost 20% less to use in Targeting Mode.
- Boost Pack Training – You can now utilize boost packs.
- Piloting – You can now utilize ship thrusters.
- Security – You can attempt to hack Advanced locks, and 2 auto attempts can be banked.
- Targeting Control Systems – Unlocks ship targeting functionality.
- Energy Weapon Systems – Energy ship weapons have 10% increased damage and cost 15% less to use in Targeting Mode.
- Engine Systems – Your ship’s top speed is increased by 10%.
- Payloads – Ship cargo holds have 10% more capacity.
- Shield Systems – Your ship has 20% increased shield capacity.
- Missile Weapon Systems – Ship missile weapons do 10% more damage, and their Targeting mode cost is reduced by 20%.
- Particle Beam Weapon Systems – Ship particle beam weapons do 10% more damage, and Targeting mode cost is reduced by 10%.
- Robotics – You deal 10% more damage to Robots and Turrets. You can force a target robot up to 10 levels higher than you to stop fighting for a limited time.
- Starship Design – Allows the installation of improved ship modules.
- Starship Engineering – All ship systems repair 10% faster.
- Automated Weapon Systems – Automated ship weapons do 10% more damage and reduce all targeting mode costs by 20%.
- Boost Assault Training – Nearby enemies take damage when you boost and have a chance to catch on fire.
- EM Weapon Systems – EM ship weapons have 10% increased damage and cost 15% less to use in Targeting Mode.
Unlocking more advanced Skills in Starfield
You can’t unlock skills in any order you like. The game uses tiers of its own: Basic, Advanced, Expert, and Master. Many of the best skills are locked away in the Expert tier. Unfortunately, you must invest enough skill points at one tier before you can make selections from the next one. You also spend skill points to upgrade the rank of an individual skill, once you fulfill any other requirements.
Try to spend your precious skill points where they will do the most good. Points spent ranking up a particular skill count toward the requirements to reach another tier within the category. For instance, you can upgrade Wellness to Rank 4 in the Physical category to access the Advanced tier of skills in that same category.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, you can access the Master-tier skill, Manipulation, by completing a series of missions for the Ryujin Industries faction. In such cases, you will still have to unlock access to the overall tier to learn any other skills at that tier. When you choose Traits at the start of the game, you may also get a jump on learning some of the Basic skills.
Best Skills in Starfield, tier list
Before we say anything more, let’s get one thing out of the way: any tier list is subjective. That’s especially true with a game like Starfield, where so much of what you might choose should cater to your play style. However, we’ve put enough time into the game to feel confident we know what the best Skills are.
Remember that there’s no such thing as a completely awful Skill. They may have value we haven’t yet discovered. We’ll update accordingly if we find we overlooked something important.
S-Tier Skills in Starfield
- Weight Lifting (Physical)
- Rejuvenation (Physical)
- Commerce (Social)
- Manipulation (Social)
- Lasers (Combat)
- Armor Penetration (Combat)
- Research Methods (Science)
- Outpost Engineering (Science)
- Targeting Control Systems (Tech)
- Starship Design (Tech)
Despite being available to learn and upgrade right from the start, Weight Lifting is arguably the most useful skill in the game. You have to haul stuff around a lot. The skill directly addresses the related issues. Rejuvenation, available only deep into the skill tree, can make a huge difference in how much time you have to spend worrying about your life meter.
With Commerce, you spend less to acquire everything (useful, given how rare credits seem to be) and receive more when you sell things. That will prove useful across the entire campaign. Manipulation makes most other social skills feel unnecessary and has applications when you’re exploring hostile territory, as well.
I like the Lasers ability because it makes the Cutter weapon more useful. You get that weapon right at the start of the game and it doesn’t require ammo, making it very reliable. Armor Penetration ensures all enemies fall more swiftly in battle, which is especially useful as you deal with larger mobs.
Research Methods cuts back on the number of resources you need to complete research projects, which translates to less time wandering planets and carrying around a bunch of heavy crafting components. Outpost Engineering lets you add improved modules so your outposts more quickly become useful rest stops on your frequent travels.
You’ll want to unlock Targeting Control Systems early. I sometimes have a difficult time surviving space combat, but the ability to slow down the action while I target enemy vessels gives me a fighting chance. And Starship Design lets me outfit my ships with better modifications. That’s important in the early going especially, when a player might not have sufficient credits to just buy a better ship.
A-Tier Skills in Starfield
- Fitness (Physical)
- Pain Tolerance (Physical)
- Outpost Management (Social)
- Ship Command (Social)
- Crippling (Combat)
- Marksmanship (Combat)
- Surveying (Science)
- Astrophysics (Science)
- Security (Tech)
- Payloads (Tech)
As you run around the various planets, you’ll find it consumes oxygen. That’s especially true while you’re encumbered, which can happen quite regularly. Fitness helps limit how much harm such moments inflict, and also limits how inconvenient they are. Pain Tolerance, which reduces damage taken in general, is also most welcome.
Outpost Management is a vital skill if you plan to do a lot of trade between your outposts. You can create additional links and basically create thriving little economies within a given system. Ship Command increases how many crew members you can have on your ship, which lets you enjoy more of the skills they bring to the table.
If you find yourself in combat on the ground, one goal is to reduce the amount of time your foes can spend shooting at you. With the Crippling skill, you can attack swiftly and decisively to eliminate weaker targets and even the tables. Marksmanship works toward the same end by improving the likelihood that you will land critical hits.
As you explore planets, you’ll spend a lot of time looking for resources to improve your position in the galaxy. Surveying lets you find the rarest of them much more easily. From space, you can also use Astrophysics to quickly scan new planets and find their best features, especially as you upgrade its rank.
Most Tech abilities relate to your spaceship, but Security gives you some help on land. You can use it to more easily pick locks and open doors and safes. If you don’t activate it and rank it up, you could miss out on a lot of loot. Payloads allows you to haul around significantly more cargo on your ship. That means you can stash more loot and continue exploring a planet without having to find a merchant to buy your goods.
B-Tier Skills in Starfield
- Stealth (Physical)
- Wellness (Physical)
- Theft (Social)
- Leadership (Social)
- Targeting (Combat)
- Dueling (Combat)
- Spacesuit Design (Science)
- Weapon Engineering (Science)
- Shield Systems (Tech)
- Missile Weapon Systems (Tech)
A number of skills relate to your ability to catch adversaries by surprise, and Stealth is a starting point for that sort of approach. If you like to strike from the shadows, you should access it as soon as possible. Wellness improves your life meter so you can also withstand more damage or survive the effects of ailments.
Theft introduces the ability to pick pockets. At its higher levels, it also allows you to steal weapons, which is very cool. Leadership, meanwhile, enhances your relationship with the companions you encounter on your journey. That should make up for the occasional conversational blunder.
With Targeting, you can hit your mark more readily while you run and gun, which I do often. As you level it up, you’ll ‘mark’ enemies, making it easier to find an exposed weakness in the middle of the chaos. Dueling improves the efficiency of melee weapons. I don’t tend to use those a lot, but they have their uses. For instance, some of them might prompt enemies to drop more Med Packs.
Spacesuit Design is one of my favorite upgrades, because you can create better suits and mods to go with them. This is a good way to enhance your defenses, but it can also add unexpected attributes, including the ability to carry more resources. Weapon Engineering works on a similar principle, except it impacts your offensive capabilities.
In space combat, Shield Systems might make all the difference in the world. You can soak up a bit more damage before your ship explodes. If I lose a battle in the air, it is often by a slim margin. A second or two more spent shielded can make a lot of difference. Missile Weapons Systems are only one way to improve your offensive capabilities in those battles, but I’ve found that some of the best weapons available early on do seem to be missiles. It’s not a bad idea to add tot he damage they inflict.
C-Tier Skills in Starfield
- Concealment (Physical)
- Martial Arts (Physical)
- Deception (Social)
- Negotiation (Social)
- Sharpshooting (Combat)
- Rapid Reloading (Combat)
- Chemistry (Science)
- Special Projects (Science)
- Piloting (Tech)
- Starship Engineering (Tech)
If you have already learned Stealth, you should pair it with Concealment. Enemy mines are no longer a threat, plus your sneak attacks rack up damage a lot more quickly. Martial Arts adds to the damage you inflict in melee combat, which you might also favor while sneaking around planets and bunkers.
Deception is useful in space, if you’re feeling like a bit of a pirate. Not only that, but scans for contraband become less efficient. Smugglers will like that. Negotiation, which lets you offer bribes when the situation calls for it, can also prove useful.
In combat, sometimes it’s fun to strike from a distance. Sharpshooting adds to the fun by adding critical damage on headshots, using ranged weapons. On the other side of the coin, there’s close-quarters combat, where it’s easy to burn through a bullet clip in a hurry. Rapid Reloading puts you back in the action without the usual delay, provided you have the ammo.
I really like the Science branch, and Chemistry is one of the better options. You can produce helpful items so that you’re not constantly needing to buy them from merchants. The Special Projects skill allows you to dive deeper into your research, which allows you to access options many players may not even see.
Piloting allows you to use thrusters on your ship. This is important in space battles, because you’re less likely to remain a stationary target as enemy ships swarm you. Starship Engineering is also nice, if you find yourself with a damaged vessel. You’ll repair more quickly, which may be necessary to survive the next enemy onslaught.
D-Tier Skills in Starfield
- Boxing (Physical)
- Energy Weapon Dissipation (Physical)
- Environmental Conditioning (Physical)
- Gymnastics (Physical)
- Nutrition (Physical)
- Cellular Regeneration (Physical)
- Decontamination (Physical)
- Neurostrikes (Physical)
- Gastronomy (Social)
- Persuasion (Social)
- Scavenging (Social)
- Diplomacy (Social)
- Intimidation (Social)
- Isolation (Social)
- Instigation (Social)
- Xenosociology (Social)
- Ballistics (Combat)
- Pistol Certification (Combat)
- Shotgun Certification (Combat)
- Demolitions (Combat)
- Heavy Weapons Certification (Combat)
- Incapacitation (Combat)
- Particle Beams (Combat)
- Rifle Certification (Combat)
- Sniper Certification (Combat)
- Astrodynamics (Science)
- Geology (Science)
- Medicine (Science)
- Botany (Science)
- Scanning (Science)
- Zoology (Science)
- Aneutronic Fusion (Science)
- Planetary Habitation (Science)
- Ballistic Weapon Systems (Tech)
- Boost Pack Training (Tech)
- Energy Weapon Systems (Tech)
- Engine Systems (Tech)
- Particle Beam Weapon Systems (Tech)
- Robotics (Tech)
- Automated Weapon Systems (Tech)
- Boost Assault Training (Tech)
The rest of the skills listed immediately above can still be super useful. In some cases, depending on how you wish to play, they may very well be better than some of the ones ranked in a superior tier.
For the most part, you should play for a few hours and decide on the approach you find yourself enjoying. If you don’t plan to do much with your outposts but plan to fight everything that moves, for instance, prioritize skills in the Combat category. The most important thing is to have fun and find the combinations that work for you. You’ll level up a lot over time, if you look into everything the game offers.
Now you have a better idea how the skills rank. If it’s all a bit much to consider right now (the first few hours throw a lot at you), you may also want to check out our guide explaining what the best starter skills are. After all, you may need to spend dozens of hours before you even have access to some of the better ones referenced above.
Starfield is available to purchase on Steam and the Microsoft Store.