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Capability vs. Competency: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on November 10, 2023
"Capability" refers to the potential or ability one possesses, while "Competency" denotes the demonstrated skill or expertise in a specific area.

Key Differences

"Capability" implies a person's or organization's innate or acquired potential to accomplish something, even if that potential hasn't been realized yet. On the other hand, "Competency" refers to the specific skills or expertise that someone has already demonstrated, often within a professional or formal context.
A person's "Capability" does not guarantee that they can perform tasks effectively now, but suggests they have the capacity to develop the necessary skills with time or training. In contrast, "Competency" is about current abilities and the application of knowledge and skills to meet standards consistently.
"Capability" is a broader concept that can apply to various contexts and implies adaptability and the potential for growth or learning in any field. Conversely, "Competency" often relates to specific areas, tasks, or industries, and is usually measured against predefined standards or qualifications.
In a work setting, "Capability" might suggest an employee has the potential for a promotion or to learn new skills because of their aptitude or previous accomplishments in other areas. "Competency", however, would be the set of specific skills or proficiencies that the employee already possesses, making them suitable for a role or task.
When assessing "Capability", factors such as general intelligence, adaptability, and problem-solving skills might be considered. For "Competency", assessment would be more about checking whether an individual has the specific knowledge, behaviors, and skills necessary to perform tasks effectively in their role.

Comparison Chart


Potential or aptitude
Demonstrated skill or knowledge


Future-oriented, potential
Current, actual performance


More subjective, potential-based
Objective, often against set standards


Broader, adaptable across contexts
Specific to tasks, roles, or industries


About growth and learning
Requires demonstration and proof

Capability and Competency Definitions


Potential waiting to be used or developed.
Despite her young age, her artistic Capability is astounding.


The skill, knowledge, or ability to do something successfully or efficiently.
Her Competency in negotiations led to the company's best quarter.


The quality of being capable; aptitude.
His problem-solving Capability makes him an invaluable asset.


A specific range of skill, knowledge, or ability.
Language Competency is a must for this translation job.


The power or ability to do something.
The company has the Capability to revolutionize the industry.


Demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills.
His Competency in project management was evident from his successful track record.


The quality of being capable; ability.




Often capabilities A talent or ability that has potential for development or use
A student of great capabilities.


A skill or ability.


The capacity to be used, treated, or developed for a specific purpose
Nuclear capability.


(obsolete) A sufficient supply (of).


The power or ability to generate an outcome


(obsolete) A sustainable income.


(computing) A digital token allowing a user or process to interact in a specified way with an object that is subject to access control.


The ability to perform some task; competence.


The quality of being capable; capacity; capableness; esp. intellectual power or ability.
A capability to take a thousand views of a subject.


(legal) Meeting specified qualifications to perform.


Capacity of being used or improved.


(linguistics) Implicit knowledge of a language’s structure.


The quality of being capable -- physically or intellectually or legally;
He worked to the limits of his capability


The quality of being adequately or well qualified physically and intellectually


The susceptibility of something to a particular treatment;
The capability of a metal to be fused


The quality or state of being legally competent or qualified.
The court questioned the defendant's Competency to stand trial.


An aptitude that may be developed


An important skill that is needed to accomplish a specific task or function.
Digital literacy is a core Competency for the modern workforce.


The capacity to achieve results.
The team demonstrated its Capability by meeting tight deadlines.


A feature or faculty capable of development.
The new software's capabilities include advanced data analysis tools.


Is "Capability" the same as talent?

Not exactly; while talent is innate, "Capability" can be both innate potential or developed ability.

Can "Competency" be learned?

Yes, "Competency" typically involves acquired knowledge and skills through learning.

Are "Competencies" job-specific?

Often, yes. "Competencies" are usually specific skills or knowledge necessary for a job.

Does "Capability" refer to future potential?

Yes, "Capability" often refers to one's capacity to grow, learn, or achieve in the future.

Can "Capability" be inherent?

Yes, "Capability" can be an inherent aptitude or potential one possesses.

Can "Competency" change over time?

Yes, "Competency" can improve with practice, learning, and experience.

Is "Capability" always tangible?

Not necessarily. "Capability" can refer to both tangible and intangible potentials.

What's a "Competency framework"?

It's a structure that outlines the skills and behaviors required for a role or industry.

Do organizations have "Capabilities"?

Yes, in terms of resources, strengths, and potential to achieve objectives.

Is "Capability" related to skills?

It's broader, referring to overall potential, which may include various skills.

How is "Competency" measured?

"Competency" is often measured against specific standards or through assessments.

Can "Capability" involve learning ability?

Yes, "Capability" often includes the potential to learn or adapt.

Can "Competencies" be innate?

They're usually acquired, but can be based on innate abilities.

Does "Capability" imply success?

Not guaranteed success, but the potential or capacity to achieve it.

Is "Capability" a static trait?

No, "Capability" can develop and expand over time.

Do "Competencies" require validation?

Often, yes. "Competencies" are usually validated through assessment or demonstration.

Are "Competencies" always technical?

No, "Competencies" can also be behavioral, like leadership or communication skills.

Is "Competency" demonstrated through action?

Yes, "Competency" is typically shown through successful task performance.

Can "Capability" be a collective attribute for teams?

Absolutely, teams can have collective "Capabilities" or potential.

Are "Competencies" linked to qualifications?

They can be, especially in professional or educational contexts.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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