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Training vs. Education

I often hear clients use the terms “training” and “education” interchangeably. But they aren’t the same at all. Companies may offer both training and education – depending on their goals – to their employees.

Let’s define each term. According to Wikipedia,training “refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies.”  For example, training an individual in the organization how to use Microsoft Project® or training an individual on how to properly respond to customer complaints.  The bottom line – training is teaching someone how to do something.

Education, on the other hand, is defined in Wikipedia as “any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual.” The bottom line – education is helping someone learn how to think, how to problem solve.   For example, providing an individual on the theory behind different communication styles, an understanding of how others communicate based on their style, and helping them understand how to read a situation to understand how to best communicate influentially with other individuals.

So – when would an organization do training and when would they provide education?  Let’s look at some examples…


Training or Education


A company needs to train all employees on the new version of Microsoft Office®.


Employees need to learn how to use new versions of various software programs (Word, Excel, etc.) that makes up the Microsoft Office suite – the company needs to teach them a new skill – how to use the software to perform their job.

A company needs to improve the negotiation capabilities of their procurement group.


Employees need to learn how to build their skills in effective negotiations – this is not simply learning steps to negotiating but rather understanding how to analyze complex situations and read people/understand their motivations to ensure win-win situations.

A company is developing a year long program for developing high potential employees


Employees need to develop a variety of competencies in order to eventually be able to take on leadership roles within the organization – this includes: strategic planning, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.

A company wants their employees working on projects to use earned value management (EVM) systems on all projects that are valued at $2 million plus.


Project managers need to learn the EVM formulas to measure the progress of the projects for which they are responsible.

There is a place for both training and education in every organization.  It’s important to understand which you are doing – think about:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What are the objectives? Are they short term or long term?
  • What do you want to be the end result?

In short, think of it like this: Training is to teach someone how to perform a task while education is to teach someone to think through how to perform a task.