Difference between Skill and Ability

Difference between Skill and Ability

The terms skills and abilities are often used interchangeably.  However, they are different.  The difference is whether the quality in question was learned or innate.  If it was innate it would be considered an ability, while if it was learned it would be a skill.  

Basically, ability refers to being able to do something.  If a person can do something, they have the ability to do it.  Alternately, a skill is being able to do something well.  

Additionally, in order to develop a skill, a person would have to possess the underlying ability to perform that skill.  For example, if a baseball pitcher wanted to develop the skill of throwing a curveball for strikes, they would need the ability to throw a ball and the hand eye coordination.  Without the necessary underlying abilities, a person could not develop the skill. 


Skills and Abilities Defined

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

Abilities:  Innate traits or talents that a person possesses

About Skills and Abilities


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.  It can be further developed through and hands-on experience.   

A skill can be thought of as a competency gained by knowledge, practice, or experience that 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
  • problem solving
  • programming software
  • communication



Abilities are the qualities of being able to perform or do something.   It can be thought of simply as a person’s capability.

Abilities tend to be innate traits that a person possesses or acquired without formal instructions.  These include areas such as talent and emotional intelligence.  They are much harder to teach, test, or measure then skills or knowledge.


  • running
  • planning and organizing
  • being flexible
  • showing empathy
  • fast
  • self-
  • determination and persistence


Difference between Skill and Ability

In basic terms, abilities are natural or innate, while skills are learned behaviors.  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.

Since skills are the proficiencies developed through or experience they can be further developed and improved over time by through knowledge and practice.  There are however abilities that can be improved and honed to some extent.  For example, planning and organizing can be an ability that was inherited, but can further developed by new techniques.  


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