Making Sense of Certification, Certificates and CECs

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Making Sense of Certification, Certificates and CECs

ACSM Certification Department |  Oct. 10, 2017

Certification versus Certificate

One of the most difficult concepts to understand in the exercise industry are the terms "certification", "certificate", and "certificates of completion." They are often used synonymously, when, in fact, they mean very different things.

Professional certifications identify folks who have demonstrated the minimum knowledge, skills, and other competencies (e.g., academic degree, experience) to perform a job. These jobs can be found on the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and often require professional certifications or licensure to practice; for example, exercise physiologist. In addition, certifications require that folks to demonstrate continued competence by meeting continuing education requirements or by retaking and passing the certification exam. Certificants are awarded acronyms for use after their name. The letters may be used only by those who successfully passed the certification exam AND currently meet the recertification requirements.

Educational certificates identify those who have met the learning objective of an education and training class. Content of the course is developed and delivered by subject matter experts or qualified individuals. Educational certificates do not have an expiration date, nor are continuing education credits (CECs) required to maintain them. Educational certificate holders are not awarded acronyms or letters after their name.

Certificate of completion is a document that is provided at the end of an educational event that includes the course title, related dates, and the name of the educational provider. The document is used to demonstrate continued competence to a certification organization. CECs are necessary to meet recertification requirements that keep a professional certification active.

In summary, professional certifications indicate that you can perform a job, educational certificates demonstrate that you successfully met the learning objectives of a course, and certificates of completion identify when you attended a course.