What is a KSA? (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities)


K.S.A. stands for Knowledge, Skills, Abilities. It is a term most often encountered in federal job applications. KSAs describe what an applicant needs to be able to do a job. It is derived from the Position Description or PD. KSAs also appear in performance standards.They describe the level of accomplishment and accountability needed to succeed in a position. Individual Development Plans or IDPs describe the learning an employee may need .

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities

KSA Pyramid

In general you can think of a knowledge, skill, or ability as increasing in difficulty. It goes from being aware of something, or understanding a concept to applying the knowledge as a skill, to combining skills into a capacity to do tasks, activities, or work.





Think of driving a car:
• You need to know the rules of the road and what each control does.
• You need to practice driving skills to move, turn, stop, and park safely in a controlled environment.
• To be certified as a motor vehicle operator you need to demonstrate your abilities to combine many knowledge and skills to operating a car safely in public.

Knowledge – An organized body of information, usually factual or procedural in nature.

For example, having knowledge of human resources’ rules and regulations.

  • Indicate what human resources rules and regulations you wish to become familiar or knowledgeable.
  • How would you apply these rules and regulations in your current or future work.

Skill – The proficient manual, verbal, or mental manipulation of data or things.

For example, having the skill to operate personal computers.

  • Indicate the type of personal computers you want to operate or the type of software programs you want to use.
  • Describe how you want to use these skills to accomplish work or tasks.

Ability – The power or capacity to perform an activity or task.

For example, having the ability to use a variety of laboratory instruments.

  • Describe the types of laboratory instruments you want to learn to use and what assignments you want to complete with this lab equipment.
  • Describe the impact the ability to use the laboratory equipment will have on your current or future work.


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