Knowledge, skills, and abilities

Knowledge, skills, and abilities

Knowledge, skills, and abilities

Each career has certain required or desired knowledge, skills, and abilities that are essential for success on the job.

Knowledge is the theoretical understanding of a subject. It’s what you’ve learned through education or work experience. For example, in building and construction, you will require knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.

Ability is synonymous with capability, potential, or capacity. It determines whether or not you possess the means to do something. For example, stamina is the ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath. It’s an essential ability for professions like fitness trainers, firefighters, or waiters/waitresses, for example.

In the workplace, there are two kinds of skills: technical skills and soft skills. Knowing how to accomplish specific tasks like cooking, computer programming, or teaching, are called technical skills. They relate to a particular occupation. You may have learned technical skills from past work experience, school, or training. These skills are often included in job listings to describe the tasks of a position. Examples are:

  • Build a cabinet
  • Read an image
  • Operate equipment
  • Paint a portrait
  • Write computer code
  • Teach a lesson
  • Investigate a scientific question
  • Sell products to customers

Employers also want employees who fit in and get along well in the workplace. That requires soft skills.  These are so valuable that soft skills are often the reason employers decide whether to keep or promote an employee. Some soft skills can be taught in school. But most you learn in everyday life and can improve at any time. For example:

  • Good communication skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Working well in a team
  • Self-motivation
  • Being flexible
  • Determination and persistence
  • Being a quick learner
  • Good time management
Action Steps

Use CareerOneStop's Skills Matcher to create a list of your skills and match them to careers that use those skills.

Enter your previous occupation in mySkills myFuture to see the types of careers that would be a good fit with your skills and experience.

Look up your strongest skills in O*NET to see which occupations match.