The terms used to describe academic achievements and professional qualifications can be a bit confusing. What is the difference between a certificate versus a certification? How can a certificate or certification help you advance your career?
In this article, we look at the major differences between a certificate and a certification. We also discuss the different types of certificates and certifications and how to acquire them. Importantly, we consider their practical applications, such as how a certificate or certification can help you land a job.
What Is a Certificate?
A certificate is a document that a person earns by successfully completing an educational program, such as a series of required courses. Usually, a learner will take a certificate program voluntarily, as a supplement to other education.
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More than a document, a certificate is also an educational credential. You can pursue a certificate program as part of your professional development to fulfill an additional requirement your role may entail. Even the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recognizes that certifications are a great way to get qualified quickly for a range of industries and fields.
The time it takes to earn a certificate varies. You can attend a brief learning event and receive a certificate of attendance, or you can meet a program’s learning objectives over the course of several months to receive a certificate of completion.
Types of Certificates
- Certificate of attendance
- Certificate of completion
What Is a Certification?
By contrast, you earn a certification by passing certification exams and meeting other requirements determined by a third-party organization that sets industry standards. Certification typically demands both breadth and depth of professional knowledge. For this reason, you need to already have some experience in the field you are seeking certification in.
In many cases, once you pass the certification exam and meet other requirements, you are conferred a professional designation that you can use after your name. Professional credentials, such as CPA for accountants and CCRN for nurses, show that a person has met eligibility requirements and passed one or more industry exams.
Types of Certification
- American Board of Medical Specialties Certification (ABMS)
- Project Management Professional Certification (PMP)
- Critical Care Registered Nurse Certification (CCRN)
Is a Certificate Faster Than a Certification?
Yes, a certificate takes a shorter time to acquire than a certification. Certificate courses are part of educational programs, whereas certification requirements include educational and other training programs. The learning outcomes of each are a little different. A certificate program usually takes place within a fixed timeframe. Earning and maintaining certification can involve retaking exams and participating in regular professional development.
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Is a Certificate Easier Than a Certification?
Yes, a certificate is easier than a certification. You can earn a certificate as a newcomer to a field. To earn a certification, you must have prior educational or professional experience and already possess certain baseline competencies.
Is a Certificate Better Than a Certification?
No, a certificate is not better than a certification. Certification signifies a higher level of accomplishment than a certificate and is more difficult to attain. In some industries, you can begin your career with a certificate. A field such as medicine, however, would require you to have the appropriate certification.
5 Key Differences Between a Certificate and a Certification
Certificate programs are open to all, both newcomers and professionals. Anyone from a high school graduate to a PhD holder can enroll in a certificate course. Conversely, for certification, a person must have years of professional experience. Every industry has unique eligibility requirements that must be met before a person can take a certification exam.
Another difference is that you must complete some form of educational program to earn a certificate. This program will have a set of learning objectives that you must meet. To obtain certification, you must be eligible to take your industry’s certification exam, which you must pass. Also, certification is not a one-off process. You must satisfy maintenance requirements to preserve your certified status.
A certificate shows that you have successfully completed a course or a series of courses with particular learning objectives. Certification indicates that you are competent in your field and have demonstrated mastery, as measured by an industry standard.
When you obtain a certificate, you can list it on your resume in the section that details your educational background. When you are certified in a field, you are given a designation that you use after your name. For example, if you were a certified neurosurgeon, your name would be something like Joanna Smith, ABNS.
There is a beginning and an end to a certificate program, and a certificate document shows that you have completed a specific course. Certification is a continuous process with ongoing requirements and examinations to show your continued competency in a field.
Jobs That Require a Certificate
- Computer repair technician. You can begin at an entry-level job with computer-based professional certificates on topics such as Linux. There are many different applications for this operating system. Additionally, you can sharpen your skills on different Linux projects and build your portfolio.
- Medical coding. This is a growing industry and has a variety of applications within the medical industry. You can take a certificate course in medical coding from a technical college or a university. Conveniently, there are also online medical coding certificate programs available at your fingertips.
- AI Engineer. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing field. If you have a strong STEM-based educational background, you can build your career along this path. Read more about which jobs use AI to see how wide the scope of opportunities is.
Jobs That Require Certification
- Neurosurgeon. To become a certified neurosurgeon, you must first have a medical license. You will then further train extensively for seven years in neurosurgery before you can sit for the ABNS exams. Additional certification can be obtained in neurocritical care.
- Legal nurse consultant. To be certified as a legal nurse consultant, you must first be a registered nurse. There are several additional courses you must take to begin to build your career in legal nursing and strict industry requirements that you must fulfill before taking the exam. Passing the exam gives you LLNC certification. However, your certification must be renewed every five years through a recertification process.
- Certified public accountant. This term CPA is used to designate someone who holds the certification as well as the name of the certification itself. You will need to complete about 150 semester hours and train under a licensed CPA for one to two years. You will then qualify to take the exam. When you have your CPA, you will be required to renew your license by taking 40 hours each year of continuing professional education (CPE).
Should You Get a Certificate or a Certification?
If you are a newcomer trying to land an entry-level job in your field, then you should consider enrolling in a certificate program. However, some professions require a certification. You will not be able to make significant progress in your career without it. Whether you should get a certificate or a certification depends on your situation and career goals.
Certificate vs Certification FAQ
No, a certificate is not more valuable than a certification. A certificate is beneficial because it provides proof of education. Certifications, however, are more valuable because they are nationally or globally recognized. Certification represents an acknowledgment of your competence by the industry as a whole.
No, your certificate does not mean you are certified. It means that you have completed a course or a series of courses in an area of study. To become certified in that area of study, you will have to take and pass a certification exam.
You can get certified almost anywhere. There is a lot of information online about each industry’s certification examination centers. You can also use university or college networks to find out more about how to prepare to be certified.
No, a professional certificate is not equal to a certification. A professional certificate helps you gain additional technical skills and knowledge. These can help you get a new client, earn a promotion, or begin a new career. Certification gives you industry-wide recognition and respect as an authority.
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