Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities () are categories of qualifications and personal attributes that an individual needs in order to effectively perform the duties of a specific job.  Usually, the hiring organization will create a list of as a guideline to help identify the ideal candidates for a position. 


KSAs Defined

Knowledge:  factual and procedural information a person has accumulated

Skills:  proficient and effective use of a person’s knowledge and abilities in performance

Abilities:  innate traits or talents that a person possesses


About Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities


Knowledge refers to the factual and procedural information a person acquired through education or experience.  It can be obtained from reading reference material, attending a training class, or direct experience. 

Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a concept or subject.  It can be measured with written or oral exams where a person documents or explains what they know about the topic.   

A person can gain additional knowledge or understanding by applying what they know and learning from that experience.  However, having knowledge of how to do something does not necessarily mean that a person can do it.  A person may have an understanding of a topic and all the steps involved in the process, but have no experience applying it.

Examples of knowledge:

  • workplace safety regulations
  • steps involved in a process
  • what to do in an emergency




Skills refer to the proficient and effective use a person’s knowledge and abilities in performance that can be measured in time and precision.  They are the capabilities or proficiencies a person acquires through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort in order to effectively carryout activities or job functions involving ideas, things, and/or people.  It can be further developed through training and/or hands-on experience.   

Skills can be measured and observed.  A test can be used to measure quantity and quality of performance.  

Examples of skills:

  • typing
  • operating a vehicle or machine
  • programming software



Abilities are the qualities or attributes of being able to perform an observable activity.   Abilities tend to be innate traits that a person possesses or acquired without formal instructions.  These include areas such as talent and emotional intelligence.  

Abilities are much harder to teach, test, or measure then skills or knowledge.


  • planning and organizing
  • show empathy
  • thinking fast




Difference between Skill and Ability

Abilities are often confused with skills, yet there is a significant difference.  Abilities are natural or intrinsic, while skills are learned behaviors.

Additionally, a skill can be taught, tested, and measured.  However, abilities are a broad term for human capacity that are harder to teach, test, or measure.



Skill – operate a vehicle

Abilities – process information quickly and to react to other drivers



Skill – Cut hair

Ability – keep hand steady



Interrelationship of KSAs  

Skills are a composite of abilities and knowledge.  Basically, ability and knowledge combine to create skills that can be applied.

Ability + Knowledge = Skill

Skills can be developed and improved over time.  However, the underlying abilities and knowledge are needed in order for the skills to be further developed.


Skill – shoot a basketball

Knowledge – shooting techniques

Ability – hand eye coordination and ability to jump



Skill – make a cake

Knowledge – ingredients and recipe steps

Ability – to measure and mix ingredients 


Additional Links

Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes

Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes and Habits

KASH box






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