• AscendPsychology

I don't have an Aptitude for Art, can I still develop the Skill?

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

Examining the difference between Skill, Ability and Aptitude.

Choosing their line of work is one of the most crucial decisions that a person takes in their life.

It then might be prudent to know our strengths and inclinations that help us decide which path suits us the best, one that can be suggested after careful analysis of aptitudes and interests.

One of the most often asked questions is regarding the difference between Abilities, Skills, and Aptitudes. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are different.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Skill is an ability or proficiency acquired through training and practice. Abilities are very similar to Skill, which refers to an existing competence to perform a specific physical or mental activity. A person's ability might be either innate or developed through experience.

Aptitude, however, is the ability to benefit from training, or one's potential for acquiring skills. What this means is that if someone has a high mathematical aptitude, and is given the proper training, then they would absorb training for Accounting with relative ease (as against if they had low aptitude for the subject) and do well in the field. Someone with a strong verbal reasoning aptitude may grasp training quickly and do well in roles involving Management and Decision making.

Therefore, as one can see, the difference is that Ability is something that can be developed through repeated training, whereas Aptitude is the ease with which one can get trained. In other words to develop the ability in a field, a person with high Aptitude would require lesser effort than another, who would require more effort to develop the same amount of ability.

This information is crucial to understand a career development process.

Picture this: An individual (we shall call this individual 'Jerry') is passionate about pursuing Medicine, and this is their 'ultimate' career goal.

However, when Jerry recently underwent a psychometric career assessment, to their dismay, it was observed that while their Interest for Medicine was prominent, the overall Aptitude to pursue the same fell a little short, particularly, due to lower scores in Verbal Reasoning. Jerry panicked! Was this the end of the road? Did Jerry have to kiss the stethoscope and Doctor's coat bye-bye?!

Luckily for Jerry, there is hope. Just because their Aptitude fell short doesn’t mean that Jerry doesn’t have the potential to pursue this field at all. It doesn’t mean that Jerry is going to fail in Medicine, should this be the chosen path. It only means that they would require more effort to grasp training. So, Jerry might need to work a little harder than the other batch-mates , who have better aptitudes (maybe coaching would help). Jerry may also need to develop the Verbal Reasoning skills that may have fallen short.

So, while it is a good idea to focus on one's stronger aptitudes as an important factor when deciding on an appropriate career, having a less developed aptitude doesn't imply that one won't succeed in a given career.

With appropriate training and with a little hard work, individuals can enhance their abilities and succeed in their chosen path. Another point worth mentioning is regarding compensatory mechanisms that come into play - What this means is that, while one may have one less developed aptitude, they may also have another highly developed aptitude (for example: Dexterity, in the case of Jerry) which may compensate for the areas one is lacking in.

And if Jerry is a hard-working, dedicated student willing to put in the hard work and extra effort, who’s to say that Jerry won’t be the next Dr. House of the medical fraternity?


VandenBos, G. R. (2015). APA dictionary of psychology. Second edition. Washington, DC:

American Psychological Association.

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