Professional certification is the recognition by an independent certification body that an individual has acquired and demonstrated specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities in the standard practices necessary to execute the duties of their profession. Certification also provides the general public with a means of identifying those practitioners who have successfully demonstrated compliance with established requirements. In addition, certification provides that professionals maintain technical proficiency and ethical standards of practice. Professional certification programs can include: written and/or practical testing; an evaluation of education, training, and practical experience; requirements for continuing education; and adherence to a code of ethics.
Certificate programs are offered by a diverse assortment of organizations. Quality guidelines exist for continuing education and training providers offering personnel certification programs (for example, ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024:2003 and ASTM E2659-09).
Currently, it is challenging to distinguish a certificate earned through the focused learning and assessment offered through a certificate program from one granted through other means. That a certificate is issued is not a distinguishing factor. The word “certificate” is used broadly as a document awarded to designate the attainment or completion of something. An individual might receive a certificate from an education or training provider as verification of attendance at a learning event (often called a certificate of attendance) or receive a certificate as verification of active participation in a learning event’s learning experiences (often called a certificate of participation). The distribution of a certificate, however, does not indicate that the education or training program completed was a certificate program. In a certificate, an individual participates in a learning event or series of events designed to assist him or her in achieving specified learning outcomes within a deﬁned scope; the individual receives a certificate only after verification of successful completion of all program requisites including but not limited to an assessment of learner attainment of intended learning outcomes.
It is also important to distinguish certificate programs from the certification of individuals. Certification is a process through which a nongovernmental entity grants a time-limited recognition to an individual after verifying that he or she has met established criteria for proficiency or competency, usually through an eligibility application and assessment. While certification eligibility criteria may specify a certain type or amount of education or training, the learning event(s) are not typically provided by the certifying body. Instead, the certifying body verifies education or training and experience obtained elsewhere through an application process and administers a standardized assessment of current proficiency or competency.
In contrast, in a certificate program, the learning event(s) and the assessment(s) are both developed and administered by the certificate issuer, and there is an essential link between them. That is, the learning event(s) are designed to help participants achieve learning outcomes and the assessment is designed to evaluate the learners’ attainment of those intended learning outcomes.
Also, certifications have ongoing requirements for maintaining proficiency /competency and can be revoked for not meeting these ongoing requirements. In contrast, certificates do not have ongoing maintenance or renewal requirements and therefore, cannot be revoked.
If you’d like to explore the creation of a certificate program for your industry or business, or if you’re curious as to how certification might work for your chosen profession, we can help. Contact us today.