What’s the Difference Between Training, Education, and Development?

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “you train dogs not humans” in my career. This has always rubbed me the wrong way because it shows a distinct misunderstanding about the differences between training, education, and development.


Training is the act of imparting a skill, something a person will do. People who think you train dogs not people are taking a decidedly Pavlovian view of training where stimulus begets an automatic reaction. In fact, training just means that I am going to teach you how to do something but not necessarily why that approach was chosen. This doesn’t mean you ignore motivation (what’s in it for me) or limit your instruction to the lowest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.

Training is the base of learning. I really can’t tell you why we do something the way we do until you can do that task. Training can be quite complex, often requiring a large number of steps to finish a task. Training can also encompass stringing together a number of complex tasks into a complete job. Training is rarely a simple Pavlovian moment.

Training can however be used to develop automatic responses. The military in particular trains repetitively in order to elicit this exact reaction in confusing situations. I can attest that when things are very stressful and disorienting, training to respond automatically can mean the difference between life and serious injury or death.


Some prefer to use the term education when discussing teaching humans. This too shows a level of confusion. Education is the next level up from training where we impart the “why” to learners. You might think of it as the theory behind the action. Why do we perform tasks the way we do? Are there alternatives? When do we use those? How do we choose one?

How much education a worker needs can be a matter of debate. Everyone needs to be trained to perform tasks but does everyone need to understand the why behind it? This is the difference between a technician who can use a computer and have it tell him what is wrong  with the item she is fixing and one that understands the underlying theory of how the item works to know when the computer is wrong about the cause of the issue.

Education is a critical base to being ready to move to the next level. How much education is needed before you can go deeper?


Development is where learners gain experience. Not just random experience but planned experiences to round out vocational knowledge. Development is a plan of purposeful exercises designed to prepare the learner for higher responsibility. It is most often used for management but really should be considered for senior workers as well. Senior workers tend to plateau in their education so the only real avenue for personal development is to have a development plan.

It is common for people moving into executive levels to be slated to fulfill a track of job experiences. For example, one might be tasked with several operational jobs, then move into financial positions, and finally into a C-Level position that may lead to CEO one day. Less common is a development plan for employees designed to round out experiences to make them more flexible and have deeper insights into their work.

What’s the Point?

Understanding these broad layers of vocational education can help a person appreciate the value of each level and its place in the spectrum of learning. By looking at it this way, training isn’t something to be looked down upon but is a key stepping stone to a better prepared workers as they progress through their careers.

What Do You Think?

What are your views? Feel free to leave a comment below.