Skills in EvE Online are the basic measurement of what actions you can perform and which equipment and ships you can use. Unlike other games, skills in EvE are automatically earned in real-time, not awarded for an in-game action (like killing an enemy).
Note you can have as many skills in your training queue as you want.
Skills are trained in real-time, whether your character is online or offline.
Each skill has three factors that determine how long it will take to complete the next rank:
Each subsequent level of a skill takes more time to complete than the previous. For instance, a basic skill like Electronics will take 15 minutes to complete Level I. However, Level II would take about an hour and a half to complete and the final Level, V, would take nearly 10 days to complete.
More complicated skills take even longer to complete. This is represented by a training time multiplier (rank) on the skill's info page.
The rate at which a skill is trained is also affected by the primary and secondary attributes listed on the skill's info page. The higher your character's attributes (shown on your Character sheet's "Attributes" tab), the faster the skill will train.
For a more complex, math-heavy example of how skills are trained, see Mechanics of Skill Training.
Each character starts with a number of basic skills, including Level 3 in your starting race's frigate skill.
To obtain more skills, you will need to purchase Skillbooks, which can be permanently injected into your character to enable them to learn each skill.
Beginner Skillbooks are relatively inexpensive, but you should ask in the GS_Help channel or Gooniversity on Jabber for assistance and isk to purchase the skills that you need. Do this as soon as possible - we'll be happy to give you everything you need within minutes of creating a character. Never carry Skillbooks with you. Always inject the skills you can immediately by right-clicking on the book and selecting "Inject This Skill". If you can't inject a skill yet, leave it in the station. Once a skill is injected, it is always available to train, wherever you are.
These skills allow you to more easily equip your ship with modules. They are the core skills that will be used with every ship you will own, ever. If you are ever unsure on what to train, these skills will never be the wrong choice.
Offensively or defensively, these skills will improve your ability to combat enemies. This generally includes all skills in the following categories;
With the exception of Weapon Upgrades, these skills will highly depend on your choice of ship. Consult the ship page for your specific ship to see suggested weapon types. Note: With the exception of Weapon Upgrades, these skills do not affect Missile Launchers.
Used primarily by the Caldari (and some Minmatar) ships, these skills are the missile versions of the Gunnery skills. See individual ship pages for recommended Missile types. Note: These skills do not affect turrets.
While Gallente have the most drone bonuses, you will probably want to have drones for nearly every ship, eventually. However, just picking up Drones III, Combat Drone Operation, and Scout Drone Operation is plenty for new players. For more information about using Drones, check out Drones (Module).
The targeting skills, Target Management, Long Range Targeting, and Signature Analysis are all very valuable, while the compensation skills are vital for ships which expect to go up against jamming ships
The EWAR skills. Very important for new players, who typically fill the EWAR role because it is easy to train into, although many mainline ships now make use of some form of EWAR. Propulsion Jamming, Cloaking, Frequency Modulation, and Long Distance Jamming are the most important and generally useful skills, followed by the skills for specific types of EWAR Signal Suppression, Target painting, Weapon Disruption, and Electronic Warfare.
Skills which improve your shield tank. Shield Management, Shield Upgrades, Shield Operation, and Tactical Shield Manipulation are the important skills here. The compensation skills are situationally useful, but aren't needed for most subcaps.
Navigation and Evasive Maneuvering are vital skills for all ships, Afterburner, MicroJumpDrive Operation,and High Speed Maneuvering are all very important because they let you use propulsion mods, and Cynosaural Field Theory is very useful to have. They will never be wasted skills.
Industry, Science, Social, Leadership, and Corporation Management are full of skills that are of dubious value to either new players, or in 0.0 space. You should read the individual skill pages or ask more veteran players before training skills in these categories.
For recommendations on what to do next, check out:
Also, there’s an application you should use for further skill planning: go to https://evemondevteam.github.io/evemon/ and download EVEMon. EVEMon is a free, open source program that you can use to plot out your skill training program weeks in advance, look at how long things will take, etc. Most people pick a specific ship type as a long-term goal -- say, battleships, or covert ops frigates, or whatever -- and then work towards that goal over time. Familiarize yourself with the different types of ships out there, talk to people, figure out what you'd like to do, and work towards it!
If you are using a mac, you may want to consider getting MacEveApi, a (very) basic skill-planner for macs. Nowhere near the features of Evemon, but at least it runs. Get it here: http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1096971