Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

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What Does Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Mean?

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) is a competency model used to recruit and retain qualified individuals for successful job performance. Job vacancy announcements usually include specific KSA requirements.


KSAs are also known as the following:

  • Evaluation factors
  • Knowledge, Abilities, Skills and Other Characteristics (KASO)
  • Rating factors
  • Job elements
  • Quality ranking factors

Techopedia Explains Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

Originally, U.S. government job applications required KSAs in the form of narrative statements, in addition to resumes and security clearances. Hiring officials expect brief and factual narratives describing previous work related to a desired position. Thus, KSA narrative formats facilitate thorough application review.

In 2009, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (USOPM) mandated that narrative statements be removed from all official federal agency recruiting processes. However, the KSA concept and format is still used by federal, state and local government, as well as private organizations.

KSA features, as defined by USOPM, include:

  • KSA: Required job attributes and qualifications based on service, education and/or training
  • Knowledge: Information applied to performance and function history
  • Skill: Measured competency of a learned psychomotor activity
  • Ability: Competency related to behavior or behavior resulting in an observed product

KSA classifications are segmented as follows:

  • Technical: Evaluates an applicant’s acquired knowledge and specific technical skills
  • Behavioral: Evaluates factors related to human characteristics and skills, such as attitude, work approach and collaborative abilities

Each government agency follows separate guidelines. Generally, each KSA section should be one-half to one-and-a-half pages in length. KSA scoring is from 0-100. Most agencies require a minimum score of 71.

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.