Certification vs. Certificate


One of the most frequently-asked questions that AHLEI staff members receive is, “What’s the difference between certification and a certificate?” So, to assist you and to help avoid confusion, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

How do you receive it?

Certification: Results from an assessment process

Certificate: Results from an educational assessment process

Who is it for?

Certification: For individuals

Certificate: For individuals

Is professional experience required?

Certification: Typically requires some amount of professional experience

Certificate: Typically earned by a student, not tied to professional experience

How is it awarded?

Certification: Awarded by a third-party, standard-setting organization

Certificate: Awarded by educational programs or institutions

What does it indicate?

Certification: Indicates mastery/competency as measured against a defensible set of standards, usually by application or exam

Certificate: Indicates completion of a course or series of courses with specific focus; is different from a degree granting program

How is it developed?

Certification: Standards set through a defensible, industry wide process (job analysis/role delineation) that results in an outline of required knowledge and skills

Certificate: Course content set a variety of ways (faculty committee; dean; instructor; occasionally through defensible analysis of topic area)

What do you receive upon completion?

Certification: Typically results in a designation to use after one’s name (CHA, CLM, CFBE, CHRM, CLS, CLSD, CMHS, etc.); may result in a document to hang on the wall and a lapel pin to wear

Certificate: Usually listed on a resume detailing education; may issue a document to hang on the wall

Are there ongoing requirements?

Certification: Has on-going requirements in order to maintain; holder must demonstrate he/she continues to meet requirements

Certificate: Is the end result; demonstrates knowledge of course content at the end of a set period in time