What's the Difference Between a Certificate and a 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.

Certificate Certification
Result of an educational process
Result of an assessment process
For newcomers and experienced professionals
Typically requires experience
Indicates completion of a course or series of courses with a particular focus
Indicates mastery/competency measured against a standard – usually by exam
Course content set through academic process
Standards set through an industry-wide process
Usually listed on a resume detailing education
Typically results in a designation to use after one’s name (CPA, SPHR, PMP)
Demonstrates knowledge of course content
Often has ongoing training requirement (C.E.U.s)
Gateway to a degree
No relationship to attaining higher education/degree