The Difference Between a Certificate and Certification

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 16:15

Certification vs certificate

Selecting the right training to advance your career can be very challenging. It’s difficult to know exactly what training will meet your specific needs, that will give you the knowledge and technical skills you require today, that will ultimately increase your hire ability and/or value to your employer.

Two commonly misunderstood types of training are certificates and certifications. Both provide important value, but are quite different in terms of purpose, content, oversight and commitment required to complete them. Because these terms are so similar they are often used interchangeably, producing confusing mixed messages.

Our technical training programs provide certificates that indicate a mastery of the assigned content and are accredited by our institution, George Brown College. Contrast this with an industry association certification like the ETA that requires passing industry- approved exams and includes a requirement that candidates meet a minimum length of time working in the field.

Here is a more detailed comparison of Certificates vs Certifications.

Training Certificate Industry Certification
Awarded by an educational institution or training organization Awarded by a third party organization that sets industry standards
Course content developed with specific learning outcomes & set by dean/instructor/trainer to meet industry needs Content/practice/experience standards determined by third party including senior members and corporate industry leaders. Independent from training program
Assessment validates mastery of content Assessment validates an individual as having met a variety of standards
Indicates completion of courses, evaluated by successfully completion of exams Typically indicates mastery or assessment of industry knowledge as set by third party organization, including exams, practice and experience
Typically open to anyone regardless of work experience. Typically shorter term Typically a minimum of one year or more of industry related work experience is required, with additional ongoing requirements
Used on resume to document training or professional development Typically used to explain a professional designation and required recertification over time to stay current in one’s field

Here are a few questions to help you think about which type of training, Certificate vs Certification, to undertake:

  • What new skills do I need to acquire?
  • Will the training help me acquire those skills?
  • How will my knowledge and skills be evaluated?
  • What types of jobs will I be able to do once I earn the Certificate or Certification?
  • How will companies recognize the Certificate or Certification?
  • Is the Certificate or Certification offered by a credible institution

The field of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), for example, does not have one standard governing body that sets an industry certification for experienced technicians, but you can receive a training certificate in this subject that provides you with the knowledge and skills needed to operate, maintain and program PLCs. These skills can give you the foundation to become a trained technician to build your career and reputation in the industry. Over the past 15 years thousands of students have used this GBC certificate to further their careers.

There is a great deal of confusion as to the true meaning of a certification versus a certificate, especially as individuals and companies strive to achieve and validate competencies in today’s job market. Both options are of value and must be evaluated based upon specific career goals and needs.

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