I learned from the following snippet on this page a term called transferable skills:

With each step along your career path, you are building yourself up to be a significant contributor to any company. We have discussed a number of possible job titles for you to search for when you start exploring project management roles. Regardless of the industry in which you currently work, you have gained transferable skills. Transferable skills are abilities that can be used in many different jobs and career paths. Your transferable skills can likely be utilized in project management roles in many other industries.

And I learned from this book a term called transportable skills:

The people who are most successful in the long term are those who have an abundant supply of what I call “career fuel”: transportable skills, meaningful experiences, and enduring relationships.

I wonder if they are synonyms? I googled the differences between transferable and transportable but found that they seem orthogonal to the differences between these two types of skills.


2 Answers 2


Internet research suggests that there is no difference between them. But as tryingtobeastoic link to ngrams shows, "transferable" is much more common.

It seems that some authors are just "too cool" to use the usual phrase "transferable skills" and so have replaced it with a synonym.


They are synonyms

And @tryingtobeastoic is correct, "transferable" is used much more frequently than "transportable" (although I've heard both used).

But that's boring...

Artistically there can be a difference. (I'm a fan of the quirks of language like this because they add life and flavor to the language.) I've heard "transferable" used to identify a skill that can be moved between industries and "transportable" to identify a skill that can be moved geographically to another location.

An example of this artistry would be to describe the skills needed for hardrock mining as transportable but not transferable because they can be used at any hardrock mining location worldwide, but cannot be used in another occupation (e.g., at a distribution warehouse).

Compare this to describing the secondary skills a miner might learn, such as diesel engine maintenance. That skill would be artistically described as transferable because if the miner were laid off, he/she could work in a non-mining occupation (like a distribution warehouse) because they have a skill that can be transferred from hardrock mining to another occupation.

A skill that, artistically (and practically) is neither transferable nor transportable would be a skill unique to one hardrock mining location or a skill that has become obsolete. An example of the former would be the skill of filling out one facility's paperwork, which might have no relevant anywhere else on Earth. An example of the later would be skills using a Wang or VAX computer system, which have been superseded by modern computing techniques.

That was a bit of fun, but it does not reflect grammar or lexical rules. In a business context, the two words are synonyms.

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