Question: What is Aptitude?

Answer: When you are researching occupations, you will often see something about aptitude listed among the requirements. For example, you may read that in order to work in a particular field you need to have an aptitude for science. Other occupations require having an aptitude in math, visual arts or performing arts; verbal or spatial abilities; or manual dexterity or motor coordination. But, what exactly is an aptitude?

When a career description lists an aptitude among the qualifications one needs to work in an occupation, it is referring to a natural talent or an ability an individual has acquired through life experience, study or training. The word may also pertain to one's capacity to acquire a skill.

Assessing Aptitude

Assessing aptitude can help with career guidance. A career development professional who is helping a client choose a career may administer a multiaptitude test battery to identify the client's abilities and subsequently, occupations that require them. It is important to note that this type of instrument should never be used in isolation. There are many other factors to consider when choosing a career. They include an individual's personality type, interests and work-related values. Example of multiaptitude tests career development professionals use with their clients are the DAT (Differential Aptitude Test) and the GATB (General Aptitude Test Battery). Another is the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) which the United States Military administers to students who are enlisting. They use the results to classify enlistees for training opportunities.

Aptitude tests may also look for the presense of abilities that are specific to a particular occupation or area of study.

Some college programs use these intruments to assess applicants to certain academic programs and employers use them to evaluate job candidates. For example, many pharmacy schools use the the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) to look for "abilities, aptitudes, and skills that pharmacy schools have deemed essential for success in basic pharmacy curricula" (Mental Measurements Yearbook With Tests in Print). The Electrical Aptitude Test is another aptitude test that looks for a specific aptitude. It is administered to "applicants for jobs that require the ability to learn electrical skills" (Mental Measurements Yearbook With Tests in Print).

Some Important Things to Know

It is worth pointing out once more that you should not use aptitude alone as the criteria for choosing a career. You should also learn about your interests, personality type and work-related values by doing a thorough self assessment, and consider that information along with aptitude when choosing a career. Here are a few other things of which you should be aware:

While having a particular aptitude may indicate you can succeed in an occupation, it doesn't mean you will do well in every job within it. Required abilities may vary from one job to another, even in the same occupation.

A number of occupations may require the same aptitude so you shouldn't feel like you are only qualified to do one thing. In reality, there may be several suitable occupations for you.

Just because you are good at something, it doesn't mean you will like doing it. For example, having an aptitude for math doesn't necessarily mean a career using your mathematical ability should be in your future. Do what you're good at, but only if you like it