Difference Between Competence and Competency

In the vast multitude of words that the plethora of English language has to offer, one might come across a handful of words that appear to be exactly the same but, in reality, portray different meanings.


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When one goes into the detailed specifics of such words, they find that they are different in meaning. Competence and Competency are two such semantic words.

Competence vs Competency

The difference between Competence and Competency is that the former is based on the skill while the latter refers to the behavior of an individual. The two words also differ in the ways to attain them, their means of assessment, their components, etc.

Competence vs Competency

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Competence basically means the ability of an individual to do something. This is usually understood to be done at a basic level. Competence is closely related to possessing skill and using it to achieve the task in question. Therefore, competence is said to be skill-based.

Competency, even though considered to be an alternate version for competence, minutely differs from it in reality. Competency focuses on the actual performance that an individual shows.

It refers to the behavior that an individual must have used while performing a task. Therefore, it is said to behavior-based.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonCompetenceCompetency
DefinitionIt refers to the capability of an individual to carry out a particular task.It focuses on the performance that an individual showcases in having completed a particular task.
BasisIt is skill-based. It is behavior-based.
UsageCompetence can be used in casual as well as formal situations.Competency is mostly used in professional jargon.
AssessmentIt assesses the standard of performance that a person shows.It assesses the behavior and way in which the standard has been achieved by a person.
CharacteristicsIts characteristics include skills like communication, leadership, etc., and knowledge.Its characteristics include a person’s behavioral attributes like confidence, determination, honesty, etc.

What is Competence?

Competence refers to an individual’s capability of carrying out a specific task. Herein, a person uses his skills and knowledge to accomplish a task, and the outcome is measured.

The measurement of this outcome can be referred to as the individual’s competence. For this reason, competence is said to be skill-based.

This establishes an interface between competence and skill.

This means that by the application of one or more specific skills, an individual becomes competent or capable of performing the task at hand. Along with skills, knowledge is another component that is required in order to be competent.

The origin of the word, competent, lies in the word competent. Competent, in turn, derives itself from the Latin language. The Latin term was the equivalent of the English word, compete. Competence is a noun that defines one’s ability to do a certain task.

There are certain characteristics that can be used to define the competence of an individual. These include skills as well as knowledge.

Some of the skills that are useful in determining competence are communication, leadership, interpersonal, time management, decision making, etc. And the knowledge part includes technical as well as functional knowledge.


What is Competency?

Competency, which appears to be the same as competence, is in truth different from it. It is different because competency refers to the method and the way an individual has used it in order to have completed a given task. Competency is based on a person’s behavior.

This means that that the individual’s personality, his behavioral attributes are assessed so as to adjudge the manner of his competency. As opposed to competence, it tends to find the procedure undertaken in having accomplished a particular task or duty.

While skill and knowledge are an essential part of assessing a person’s competency, there is yet another component that is of great importance. It is the motive or attitude of the individual. It is this motive that makes competency different from competence.

Competency is an amalgamation of competence, that is, skills and knowledge, and behavioral attributes. These characteristics of competency include honesty, dedication, positive attitude, winning attitude, enterprising, integrity, and so on.

core competency

Main Differences Between Competence and Competency

  1. Competence refers to the capability of an individual to perform a specific task, whereas competency refers to the procedure undertaken by the individual in having accomplished the task.
  2. Competence is assessed on the basis of the skills and knowledge a person possesses, while competency is leaned towards assessing the behavioral aspects of an individual.
  3. Competence is, therefore, skill-based, and competency, on the other hand, is behavior-based.
  4. Competence is the word that is widely used in formal as well as informal situations, but competency is used in professional jargon and is usually used in court proceedings.
  5. Competence focuses on skill sets, including leadership, time management, communication, and interpersonal skills, etc. Competency has its focus slightly tilted towards the behavioral qualities of an individual, for instance, honesty, integrity, discipline, so on and so forth.
  6. Both competence and competency are nouns, but the former has a wider application and usage as compared to the latter.
Difference Between Competence and Competency
  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/pfi.4930451027
  2. https://journals.lww.com/nursingmanagement/fulltext/2001/05000/competence_vs__competency.7.aspx
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