Certificate vs. Certification: Is There a Difference?

by | Jan 26, 2023 | EduSocial Blog, Uncategorized | 4 comments

The words “Certificate” and “Certification” are used often in the world of education and professional development. Many times they are used interchangeably, but is there a difference? The short answer is “Yes”, but let’s take a closer look at a certificate vs. certification.


Comparing a Certificate and a Certification

Certification Certificate
How is it developed? Content is developed under a standardized process of job analysis by a variety of subject matter experts Content often developed and awarded by an educational institution or training organization
Who administers the program? Usually a third-party, standard-setting organization Colleges, universities, or other educational institutions
Who qualifies? The exam specifications determine the audience for the certification Program prerequisites determine the audience
How do you prepare? Industry experience, the study of content, or a combination Industry experience, the study of content, or a combination
What does it indicate? This signifies that an individual has obtained a pre-defined set of skills. Can be shown through the passing of an exam or meeting the defined industry standards of evaluation This signifies that an individual has completed some education. A workshop, course, or a course series, similar to a diploma
What designation do you receive? Typically results in a designation to use after one’s title (ex. SMS) Typically listed in an individual’s educational experience on a resume
Additional Requirements? Continuing education requirements in order to maintain certified status Once the program is complete there are generally no additional educational requirements


Which is better?

Deciding what to pursue, certificate vs. certification, all comes down to your professional goals. What are you trying to achieve and which path will help you get there? You can even dive deeper into this conversation and discuss the value or differences between an industry-standardized certification and a platform-based certification.  It comes back to you and your individual goals.

For example, if you are already a certified Social Media Strategist (SMS), but are looking to sharpen specific skills within Meta, you might choose to complete one of the Meta Blueprint Certifications.

Items to keep in mind

  1. Certificates and certifications are NOT the same. One is not necessarily better than another, it often depends on your career goals.
  2. Earning a certificate does not make you “certified”.  It means you completed the educational portion of said training.
  3. Certifications typically require an assessment and continuing education.



If you are currently in a job transition, you may want to consider opportunities like certificates and certifications that can add to your resume.  In this case, choosing industry-standardized certifications may help you out with a wider variety of job openings, vs. a tool or platform specific certification or certificate.


For more information about the process of certification please visit the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. The National Institute for Social Media is a certification organization that offers the Social Media Strategist (SMS) certification exam.

This post was updated on 1/12/2023


Author: Jennifer Radke

Jennifer Radke, CEO of NISM, is a dedicated, passionate and strategic business leader with 15+ years in sales and recruitment management, leadership, coaching, development and training. Most recently, she was the owner and chief strategist at Socially Inspired, a social media training and consulting company. In addition, she is an NISM-certified Social Media Strategist (SMS), serves on the board for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota and can be found speaking and presenting to job seekers and businesses alike, on how to better utilize social media in the workplace. Jennifer believes that lifelong learning is the key to continued growth and your networks are the best way to expose yourself to new opportunities.


    • nismnews

      No problem! There’s a lot of miscommunication out there.

  1. kenedyy

    The words “Certificate” and “Certification” are used often in the world of education.

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