The terms award and reward sound pretty similar and people often get confused regarding their meanings and correct usage. For common people, the line of differentiation between two terms is very thin but, however, the difference is massive for a person who is highly concerned with feelings and behaviors.

The term award denotes to a prize or some other form of recognition that may be presented to an individual person or an organization in front of a mass public with the aim of acknowledging or honoring some specific achievement. Reward, on the other hand, refers to a form of compensation that may be given to individuals as well as organizations for their efforts to perform an action or fulfil a task. Awards don’t need to be given in front of public.

In article “award vs reward“, we will further explain the words award and reward in detail and discuss the main points of difference between two terms.

Definitions and meanings


Awards refer to a token of appreciation or recognition that is given to individuals or organizations for accomplishing something extraordinary. Basically, they signify a symbol of recognition given to a person for making a significant contribution towards something good for humanity or exhibiting excellent performance in a certain field. For example, Microsoft may give MVP (Most Valuable Professional) award to an employee, an exceptional teacher may receive global teacher prize (a $1 million award) from Varkey Foundation. The use word reward is not acceptable for senses like these.

Awards may also be given on breaking a record previously made by some other contributor. The common forms in which an award may be given include gift, accolade, trophy, prize, cash, certificate, medal, title or badge.

Awards are generally given by established bodies including institutions, organizations and companies, and not by individuals. They are also given by governments to people for showing their excellence in a specific field or for making an exceptional effort or contribution towards their country’s betterment. The significance or worth of an award is largely determined by the status, reputation and popularity of the awarder (i.e., the one who gives the award).

Awarders organize ceremonies, commemorations and seminars in which they distribute awards to award winners in front of the participants. Besides participants, these functions, sometimes, may also be watched by general public at large on television or internet.

The individuals or organizations that meet the criteria to receive an award are nominated in a list, the best one is then selected to receive the award. The selection of the best candidate for the award is not an easy task; hence, the decision is often made either by a jury or by voting where voters choose the winner.


Reward refers to a fair monetary or non-monetary benefit that is provided to an individual person, group of persons or an organization for performing an action. It signifies incentivizing someone for his efforts to fulfil a task, provide a service or assist someone in need.

Unlike in case of an award, the receiver of a reward is less concerned with achievement and more concerned with action and exchange. For example, a flyer for a lost dog mentions a reward of $50 for the person who will find the dog. We can’t use the word award for situations like this.

Organizational employees are given rewards at their workplace when they fulfill their targets within the required deadlines or when they show outstanding performance. They may be allowed increments, bonuses or promotions to show the acknowledgement of their hard work and to motivate them to continue exhibiting the excellence in their future work.

Rewards may be given privately and need not be publicized; however, if a reward is helpful for motivational purposes, it may be given in front of a group of selected people.

Difference between award and reward

Some notable points of difference between award and reward are listed below:

1. Basic meaning

The award is an indicative of honor bestowed upon an individual, group or organization for accomplishing something extraordinary and unusual. On the other hand, a reward is a type of incentive paid to someone in respect of his services and contribution.

2. Scope and impact of achievement

An award is given for outstanding work or significant contribution in a specific field. The scope of achievement behind an award is wide and its impact is huge on the society. A reward is given for the services, assistance or completion of a work target etc. Its scope is not as wide and the impact is usually small.

3. Usual forms

Awards are generally given as trophy, medal, gift, cash, accolade, etc. On the other hand, rewards may be granted as financial benefits, promotions, incentives, leaves etc.

4. Appropriate environment to give

Since the awards involve a feelings of honor and acknowledgement, they are mostly given in front of an audience or public at large in an organized award function. However, rewards are usually given in private, without disclosing to the general public.

5. Nomination and selection

The recipient of an award is chosen through nominations. After a list of eligible individuals or organizations have been accomplished, a jury or a panel of experts decides the best one to give the award. However, reward is determined by the one who receives the benefit from the services or action performed by the person or organization. Nominations are less relevant to rewards since the rewarders often clearly know who is entitled to the reward and who is not.

Award vs reward – tabular comparison

A comparison of award and reward in tabular form is presented below:

Award vs Reward
Basic meanings
Honoring or acknowledging a person for exhibiting excellence in a specific field Appreciating a person for their services and efforts
Scope and impact of achievement
The scope and impact is wider The scope and impact is small
Usual forms
Trophy, medal, title, badge, cash prize, accolade, certificate, etc. Financial or non-financial benefits (such as promotion and incentives)
Appropriate environment to give
Is given in front of audience or public at large Is given privately
Selection and eligibility
Nominations are made, carried out by an expert panel or jury No nominations, carried out by the one receiving the benefit

Conclusion – award vs reward

Now we can conclude that both award and reward look similar but actual they are not. In above discussion, we have mentioned several points that clearly distinguish an award from a reward. However, a few similarities between awards and rewards also exist. For example, both are given when something good or positive is done or achieved. Their purpose is to acknowledge, encourage and motivate individuals to keep on showing excellence in their respective fields of work at both micro and macro levels.

In addition, the diligence behind awards and rewards serves as an inspiration for others. They show how effort, dedication and consistency can lead to the accomplishment of something really remarkable.