Skjelsbæk's M.A. thesis in psychology (1996) at the University of Trondheim was entitled Women and War: A Qualitative Study of the Construction of Femininity in the Wars in the Former Yugoslavia, El Salvador and Vietnam. Her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Trondheim was entitled Sexual Violence In Time of War: Sexuality, Ethnicity and Gender Diversity in the War in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Skjelsbæk has been a researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo since 1996. Her fieldwork has mainly been in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Skjelsbæk has published articles in several academic journals, and is a member of the editorial board of International Feminist Journal of Politics. She has edited two books and contributed book chapters to several edited volumes. In addition, Skjelsbæk is the author of numerous research and policy oriented reports and has been an active lecturer and commentator. In 2011 and 2012 she is a guest researcher at the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley.