From the Chief’s Desk
B y R o n n y J . C o l e m a n One of the best reasons that you might have for getting an education is to achieve promotion. However, rarely do the job requirements in the real world line up with what the college provides you in terms of orientation to course materials. Getting a passing grade, for example, in tactics and strategy may not result in your acquiring the ability to be an effective fireground commander. In the field of human resources there is another set of terms that may apply to the competitive aspects for promotion; this is the
realm of KSAs and JPRs.
KSA is an acronym for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities.
Another acronym is JPR, for Job Performance Requirement.
At a practical level, both are a list of special qualifications
and personal attributes that you need to achieve promotion.
Basically, these are the unique requirements that the hiring
agency wants to find in the person selected to fill a particular
job. In your case, you have to understand the concepts to be
adequately prepared to compete.
A primary purpose of KSAs is to measure those qualities
that will set one candidate apart from the others. A primary
purpose of a JPR is to measure the candidate’s ability to perform the required tasks. JPRs are found within the National
Fire Protection Association standard setting process, whereas
KSAs are most often found in the qualifications process for
promotion. In human resource policy and practice, KSAs
are defined as the factors that identify the better candidates
from a group of persons basically qualified for a position.
How well an applicant can show that he or she matches the
position’s defined KSAs determines whether that person will
be seriously considered for the job. The concept of the KSA
is made up of three components, including the following:
• Knowledge statements refer to an organized body of
information, usually of a factual or procedural nature,
which, if applied, makes adequate performance on the job
possible. It is a body of information applied directly to the
performance of a function.
• Skill statements refer to the proficient manual, verbal,
or mental manipulation of data or things. Skills can be
readily measured by a performance test where quantity
and quality of performance are tested, usually within an
established time limit. Examples of proficient manipulation
of things are skill in operating a vehicle or performing a
physical task to meet a minimum standard.
• Ability statements refer to the power to perform an
observable activity now. This means that abilities have
been evidenced through activities or behaviors that are like
those required on the job (i.e., ability to plan and organize
work). Abilities are different from aptitudes. Aptitudes are
only the potential for performing the activity; abilities can
Agencies may emphasize the most important aspects of
a job by assigning relative weights to each KSA. Others
will designate particular KSAs as being mandatory (M) or
desirable (D). As a job applicant, you will want to focus
most of your effort on responding to the more heavily
weighted KSAs or the mandatory ones, but it is important
to remember that you need to address every one of the items
on the list. If a vacancy announcement makes no distinction
among the position’s KSA, the applicant should assume that
all KSAs are equally important and mandatory.
A key point to remember about all KSAs is that they
must be job related. An agency cannot ask for anything in
a KSA that is not in the job’s position description.
KSAs are used to distinguish the “qualifying candidates”
from the “unqualified candidates” for a specific position.
Human resources should list the KSAs in terms of “
specialized experience.” You must be prepared to demonstrate the
possession of each KSA to see if you qualify for a position.
Read the vacancy announcement very carefully to ensure
that your experience is relevant for each selected factor
requirement. One should be very careful to make sure that
your application for a job covers all the KSAs. As the applicant, it is your responsibility to show how your education
and experience meet the requirements for the position.
On the other hand, JPRs focus more on the job to be
done. A job is a combination of duties and tasks that an
individual performs, and there are several jobs within any
occupational field. For this article, we are talking specifically
about a firefighter, fire officer, chief officer, fire investigator,
public educator, emergency medical technician, hazardous
materials technician, and confined space technician.
Human resources programs often use KSAs and JPRs as
a means of discriminating between the performance level
of individual candidates. It is your responsibility to
understand these distinctions and to compare your
experience in the training and educational world to the
world of competition. Thoroughly understanding both
concepts allows you to build the more responsive
candidacy as an individual.
Ronny J. Coleman is a retired state fire marshal for the State of
California. He has achieved chief officer designation at both the state
and national levels. Coleman has a master of arts degree in vocational
education, a bachelor of science degree in political science, and an
associate of arts degree in fire science. He is president of Fireforceone,
a consulting firm in California.
KSAs and JPRs
The importance of acronyms in career development