The Difference Between Certificates, Certification and Licensure

How does a certificate differ from certification and licensure?

Certificates and certifications are becoming a major part of how education and expertise is recognized all over the world.  The days of just have a degree or even a secondary degree is quickly fading and most employers are now looking for proof of specialization or a specific skill set.  The true indicator of your expertise is most clearly noted with a certification or a certificate.  So what is the difference between a certificate, certification and a license?

certificate represents successful completion of a body of coursework focused on a specific area and sometimes includes an examination of knowledge. Completion of the courses indicates a significant commitment on the part of the student to make the Certificate topic an area of expertise.

Examples of Popular Certificates: Continuing Education Certificate of Completion, High School Diploma, General College Degree

A Certification is essentially the process of publicly attesting that a specified quality or standard has been achieved or exceeded. Professional certifications, such as those obtained through a credentialing program like IBCCES,  use a formal process to identify and acknowledge individuals who have met a recognized set of standards. Usually these standards include formal education, documented work experience, and an examination of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform the job. When an individual meets the standards, he or she receives certification from a certifying agency. Certifications are nearly always offered by a private, non-governmental agency. These agencies are typically made up of industry experts who identify and acknowledge those who have met a set of approved industry standards. Certification is voluntary and usually represents recognition of the expertise itself. Completion of the certification requirements indicates a significant commitment on the part of the applicant to make the certification topic an area of expertise. An individual takes the certification exam because they want to enjoy the benefits of certification which may include career promotion, increase in compensation and many other benefits.

Examples of Popular Certifications: Microsoft Certification, Certified Autism Specialist, Six Sigma Certification

Licensure usually refers to a state-based regulatory system, where a professional is required to document education, work experience, and perhaps some examination of knowledge level in order to legally provide a given type of service. It grants permission to an individual to engage in an occupation if it finds that the applicant has attained the degree of competency required to ensure the public health, safety, and welfare will be reasonably protected. Licensing it always based on the action of a legislative body. Once a licensing law has been passed it becomes illegal for anyone to engage in that occupation unless he or she has a license. The health care professions are typically licensed at the state and/or local level, but not usually at the federal level.

Examples of Popular Licenses: Physical Therapist, Speech Language Pathologist, Registered Nurse

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