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Competence vs Competency

In English language there is a word called competence that refers to abilities or set of
skills possessed by an individual. Competence is a noun that describes the ability of a
person to be qualified to do a job. There is another word called competency (also a
noun) that is the quality or state of being legally qualified. However, as the words are
interrelated and have almost similar meanings, there is a lot of confusion among the
people as they cannot differentiate between competence and competency. This article
attempts to highlight the meanings and the contexts in which these two words are used.
What is Competence?
The word competence, though common in day to day parlance as ability or qualification
of an individual, has many connotations in different fields. For example, in biology,
competence refers to the ability of a cell to take up DNA. In geology, competence of the
rock the resistance it offers against erosion. In jurisprudence, competence of a witness
means the mental capacity of the person to participate in legal proceedings. However,
the maximum use of competence is done in the industry where it has come to refer to
specific requirements from an individual to perform a given job.
What is Competency?
Competency on the other hand, in industrial jargon, refers to description of skills and
knowledge along with experience and other attributes that are necessary to perform a
task or job. In simple words, competencies are skills required for a job. Thus when you
are shown competencies, it means you have been described what has to be done and
how well.

In brief:
Competence vs Competency
Though both having similar meanings, competence and competency are used in
different contexts.
Competence refers to a persons ability or skills and knowledge that he possesses.
Competencies of a job refer to description of how things have to be done and at what

If you search the dictionary, the words competence and competency will produce basically the same
meaning. However, as a concept, competence and competency are very different in their definition
and area of focus. Also you may find as many definitions of competence and competency, as people
who "dare" to formulate it as, while in different dimensions, competence and competency reflect
human driven behavior characteristics towards a certain performance environment.
As a first approach I sugest David Dubois definition of competency as those characteristics
knowledge, skills, mindsets, thought patterns, and the likethat when used whether singularly or in
various combinations, result in successful performance. Dubois, D. (Ed.) (1998), The competency
casebook. Amherst, MA: HRD, & Silver Spring MD: International Society for Performance
Thomas Gilberts definition of Human competence as a worthy performance, which is a function of
the ratio of valuable accomplishments to effective behavior, measuring specific, and objective
milestones describing what people have to accomplish to consistently achieve or exceed the goals
for their role, team, division, and whole organization. Gilbert, Thomas F.; Human Competence:
Engineering Worthy Performance, Pfeiffer, March 1, 1996), ISBN 978-0-9616690-1-0