What is the difference between a certificate program and a certification program?

According to ICE – the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, (formerly NOCA, the National Organization for Competency Assurance) accrediting standards, a “certificate program” is a non-degree granting program that:

  1. Provides a course of instruction with intended learning outcomes.
  2. Evaluates participants’ achievement of those same learning outcomes via an examination.
  3. Awards a certificate ONLY to those who have taken that specific course and passed that specific examination.

The purpose of this kind of certificate program is to educate participants, and the examination is used as a mirror to show students their progress toward learning those specific outcomes.

professional certification program is a non-governmental program that does two things:

  1. Delivers an assessment based on industry knowledge, independent from training courses or course providers.
  2. Grants a time-limited credential to anyone who meets the assessment standards.

In some cases, a certification examination may be used as a component of either state or national licensure.

As the standard explains, it is the role of TRAINING and its relationship to credentialing that sets these two types of credentials apart.