Certifications are earned from a professional society, university, a certification body, or from a private certifier, for some specific certifications (e.g., Microsoft, Cisco, etc.). Some certifications must be renewed periodically, or may be valid for a specific period of time (e.g., the lifetime of the product upon which the individual is certified). As a part of a complete renewal of an individual's certification, it is common for the individual to show evidence of continued learning—often falsely[dubious – discuss] termed continuing education—or earning continuing education units (CEU).
Many certification exams for professionals are created, sponsored, or affiliated with professional associations, trade organizations, or private vendors interested in raising standards. Many of those programs completely independent from membership organizations enjoy association support and endorsement.
The growth of certification programs is also a reaction to the changing employment market. Certifications are portable, since they do not depend on one company's definition of a certain job. Certification stands out on the resume and the professional reference by being an impartial, third-party endorsement of an individual's professional knowledge and experience.
Certifications are usually earned from a professional society or educational institute, not the government. However, a government agency can decree a certification is required by law for a person to be allowed to perform a task or job. Certification is different from professional licensure. In the United States, professional licenses are usually issued by state agencies, having as a requirement the university title for that profession. In other countries, licensing is granted by the professional society or college, but you need to certificate after some years (usually three to five) and so on thereafter. The certification assessment process, for some organizations, is very similar or even the same as licensure and may differ only in terms of legal status, while in other organizations, can be quite different and more comprehensive than that of licensure.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Standard 1100, defines the requirements of meeting the ANSI standard for being a certifying organization. According to ANSI Standard 1100, a professional certifying organization must meet two requirements:
Deliver an assessment based on industry knowledge, independent from training courses or course providers. Grant a time-limited credential to anyone who meets the assessment standards. Certifications are very common in aviation, construction, technology, environment, and other industrial sectors, as well as health care, business, Real estate broker and finance. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration regulates aviator certifications.
The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) is a U.S.-based organization that sets rigorous standards for accreditation of certification programs based on the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (APA, AERA, NCME). Many members of the Association of Test Publishers (ATP) are also certification organizations.
Types of certifications There are three general types of certification. Listed in order of development level and portability, they are: corporate (internal), product-specific, and profession-wide.
Corporate, or "internal" certifications, are made by a corporation or low-stakes organization for internal purposes. For example, a corporation might require a one-day training course for all sales personnel, after which they receive a certificate. While this certificate has limited portability – to other corporations, for example – it is the most simple to develop.
Product-specific certifications are more involved, and are intended to be referenced to a product across all applications. This approach is very prevalent in the information technology (IT) industry, where personnel are certified on a version of software or hardware. This type of certification is portable across locations (for example, different corporations that use that software), but not across other products. Another example could be the certifications issued for shipping personnel, which are under international standards even for the recognition of the certification body, under the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The most general type of certification is profession-wide. Certification in the medical profession is often offered by particular specialties. In order to apply professional standards, increase the level of practice, and protect the public, a professional organization might establish a certification. This is intended to be portable to all places a certified professional might work. Of course, this generalization increases the cost of such a program; the process to establish a legally defensible assessment of an entire profession is very extensive. An example of this is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which would not be certified for just one corporation or one piece of accountancy software but for general work in the profession.
Professional certificates awarded by universities Many universities grant professional certificates as an award for the completion of an educational program. The curriculum of a professional certificate is most often in a focused subject matter. Many professional certificates have the same curriculum as master's degrees in the same subject. Many other professional certificates offer the same courses as master's degrees in the same subject, but require the student to take fewer total courses to complete the program. Some professional certificates have a curriculum that more closely resembles a baccalaureate major in the same field. The typical professional certificate program is between 200-300 class-hours in size. It is uncommon for a program to be larger or smaller than that. Most professional certificate programs are open enrollment, but some have admissions processes. A few universities put some of their professional certificates into a subclass they refer to as advanced professional certificates.
Some of the more commonly offered professional certificates include: Professional Certificate in Accounting (PCA) Professional Certificate in Customer Relationship Management (PCCRM) Professional Certificate in Financial Planning (PCFP) Professional Certificate in Graphic Design (PCGD) Professional Certificate in Human Resources (PCHR) Professional Certificate in Marketing (PCM) Professional Certificate in Paralegal Studies (PCPS) Professional Certificate in Project Management (PCPM) Professional Certificate in Supply Chain Management (PCSCM) Professional Certificate in Store Management (PCSM) Professional Certificate in Materials Management (PCMM) Professional Certificate in Technical Communication (PCTC)