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Certificate vs Certification

Earning a certificate is a way for you to earn credits in a structured, discipline-specific way. A certificate can prepare you to advance in your career, or to gain the extra knowledge needed to stay competitive and up-to-date in your field. Completion of the certificate demonstrates evidence of specialized education achievement. It is recognized on a University of Virginia transcript.

There are many fields, however, that have professional certifications that may be recommended or required (teaching, project management, accounting). A certificate program does not lead to a professional certification. Yes, the courses you take in a certificate program could help you prepare to earn a professional field-specific certification, but earning a certificate is not the same as becoming certified.

Result of an educational processResult of an assessment process
For newcomers and experienced professionalsTypically requires experience
Indicates completion of a course or series of courses with a particular focusIndicates mastery/competency measured against a standard – usually by exam
Course content set through academic processStandards set through an industry-wide process
Usually listed on a resume detailing educationTypically results in a designation to use after one's name (CPA, SPHR, PMP)
Demonstrates knowledge of course contentOften has ongoing training requirement (C.E.U.s)
Gateway to a degreeNo relationship to attaining higher education/degree