Institute for Credentialing Excellence

Certificate, Certification, or Both? What's Right for You?

Professional or personnel certification programs and assessment-based certificate programs serve different purposes and may require separate business approaches, governance structures, and development processes.

Although the terms sound similar, they are not interchangeable and their distinctions are important to understand when creating your program or programs.

ICE has the tools you need to determine the right program type for your organization and candidates. Evaluate your program's goals, purpose, assessment, and maintenance requirements and identify the correct program path to meet your needs. 

Remember, there is no superior program type - just the right program.

Access resources to learn more

Defining Features of Quality Certification and Assessment-Based Certificate Programs

pdficon_large.png Download the Defining Features document

Assessment-Based Certificate Programs: Why They May Be Preferable

Free to ICE members, access this on-demand webinar series to learn additional features and details about each program type.

Certification Program vs. Certificate Program Bundle

Developed for those newer to credentialing, purchase this bundle to: learn about the differences between certificate and certification programs, hear an overview on he steps involved in developing different programs, and learn what you need in place to offer both.

Certificate vs. Certification: What's the Difference?

The information on this page is produced and copyright protected by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. Use with permission only.

Assessment-based Certificate Program Professional or Personnel Certification Program 
PURPOSE: Build capacity and recognition of a specialty area of practice or set of skills PURPOSE: Recognize professionals who meet established knowledge, skills, or competencies
Provides instruction and training (non-degree granting) Assesses knowledge, skills, and/or competencies previously acquired 
Goal is for participants to acquire specific knowledge, skills, and/or competencies Goal is to validate the participant's competency through a conformity assessment system
Assessment is used to evaluate mastery of the intended learning outcomes; linked directly to the learning event Assessment is best used to assure baseline competencies and to differentiate professionals; independent of a specific learning event
Assessment content may be narrower in scope Assessment content is usually broad in scope
Awards a certificate to recognize mastery of the specific learning outcomes; it is NOT a certificate of attendance or participation, which is awarded to individuals who have attended or participated in a course or training program but did not have to demonstrate mastery of the intended learning outcomes Awards designations to recognize achievement                                                           
To earn accreditation, complies with the ICE 1100 Standard and follows the ACAP application procedures To earn accreditation, complies with the NCCA Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs and follows the NCCA application procedures