Do you know the difference between education and training?

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

Many people use the words education and training somewhat interchangeably when referring to the process of knowledge sharing. Because the terms have become so closely linked, it’s easy to assume that there aren’t any differences between the two. But there are some very real differences between education and training that you should know, especially if you’re new to the eLearning industry.

How do you think of education and training? And how do these learning experiences differ?


One of the best explanations of the differences between the two comes from Jay Cross:

If your sixteen-year-old daughter told you that she was going to take a sex education course at high school, you might be pleased. What if she announced she was going to take part in some sex training at school?”

With this example, we can see that these terms are not at all interchangeable – they can create very different versions of the event indeed! Let’s look closer at the meaning of both education and training, to help you get a clear idea of the exact nature of these terms.

What do we mean by education?

Chris Barnes, Business Development Manager at Can Studios, provides some helpful insight into the real meaning of education.

Education is all about learning the theory. Traditionally, an education may reinforce knowledge in which that you already have a foundation,” he says, using the example of learning English at school. Even though students already know how to speak English, they must still take the subject at school to understand the theory behind it and reinforce their grammar and spelling skills.

When talking about education, it’s common to refer to qualification and institutions, that deal with systematic processes and passing of specific levels. The word often applies to learning that occurs in the classroom, rather than the workplace – although education is certainly not confined to the physical classroom these days, with many institutions successfully using tools such as eLearning.

How does training differ from education?

In contrast, training is more skills-based – it’s about learning by doing. In this way, training helps you to acquire the skills you need to perform certain tasks or work duties, rather than simply knowing in theory how to do them. Whether it’s developing new skills, or building upon existing skills, the objective of training is to allow you to apply your knowledge practically.

Barnes illustrates this point with another helpful example: in physics class, you learn about splitting the atom – but you don’t do it. This is education. Training to split the atom would be a very different thing. While obviously, no training can occur without education, the word does have its own different connotation. Starting to get a clearer idea of the two now?

Training is also usually used in a workplace context, as opposed to classroom, and can generally be tested or assessed. This is to see how effective the learning experience has been and to make sure employees will be able to perform their tasks correctly and efficiently.

Education and training produce different results

Daniel Burrus, renowned business guru and speaker, considers the difference between education and training in his article Teach a Man to Fish: Training vs. Education. For Burrus, the key difference between the two is that “they both produce different results.”

As Burrus explains, “it is possible to be educated but poorly trained, just as it is possible to be well trained and poorly educated.” He uses a fishing analogy to further illustrate this point.

“An ancient truism says that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, and if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life. I’d go a step further: Don’t just teach him how to catch a fish. Educate him about the art and science of fishing. Go beyond the mechanics of catching a fish and enlighten the man by explaining the biological forces underlying the key elements of fishing. Give him the big picture.”

With this, we can see the importance of combining education with training, for the best results. When training new hires or current employees, are you providing them with a big picture understanding, as well as the skills they need to do the job?

It’s important for employers and managers to provide both. With the combination of proper training and education you can expect to see improved skills, increased performance and higher productivity from your staff, leading to better business results for your organization.


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