Certificates vs. Certifications - What's the Difference
There is a buzz in the natural resources industry surrounding certifications. But does certification provide the confidence that a practitioner is truly qualified? By extension, what then is the role of assessment-based certificates? There are important differences between assessment-based certificates and professional/personal certification.
An assessment-based certificate course as defined by The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (www.credentialingexcellence.org):
- Provides instruction and training to aid participants in acquiring specific knowledge, skills, and/or competencies;
- Evaluates participants’ achievement of the intended knowledge, skills, and/or competencies; and
- Awards a certificate only to those participants who meet or exceed the assessment passing standard (hence the term, “assessment-based certificate program”).
The certificate course provider conducts the training that is required for the certificate. The assessment is aligned with the training and is designed to evaluate accomplishment of the intended knowledge, skills, and/or competencies that the provider has identified for the course.
A professional or personnel certification as defined by The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (www.credentialingexcellence.org) is:
- A voluntary process by which individuals are assessed against predetermined standards for knowledge, skills, and/or competencies.
- The assessment is independent of a specific class, course or other training program and also independent of any provider of classes, courses, or programs.
- The assessments are NOT designed to evaluate mastery of the intended learning outcomes of a specific class, course or training program and the certification program provider is NOT the sole provider of any education or training that may be required for certification.
Participants who demonstrate that they meet the standards by successfully completing the certification assessment process are granted a time-limited credential. In order to retain the credential, certificants must maintain continued competence.
Assessment-based certificate courses assist individuals to acquire/enhance specific knowledge and skills sets and increase their confidence in applying acquired knowledge and skills. These courses may assist the individual gain/maintain the competency required for a professional/personal certification from an independent certifying body.
In contrast, courses that, upon completion by the participant, grant certifications are probably not true certifications because the certification is not independent of the learning outcomes of the course, nor is the certifying body independent of the training course. Certification does not infer mastery of an area of practice; however, it does indicate the certificant has met the qualifying standard for the certification. Be aware in some instances it is largely predetermined that certification course participants will receive certification. In reality, many certifications are actually assessment-based certificates.
Ultimately both assessment-based certificate courses and certification programs exist and both have a defined purpose. A simple question to ask yourself – am I looking for knowledge and skills training that may advance my competency in an area of practice or am I looking for an independent assessment of my existing knowledge and skills against predetermined standards. If you are looking for the skills and knowledge training, focus on assessment-based certificate courses. Certification programs can evaluate your present skills and knowledge against predetermined standards set by independent certification bodies.
For more information on assessment-based certificates, please see www.credentialingexcellence.org.