Certifications vs Certificate Programs

There are a gazillion certification and certificate programs available to fitness professionals. Which is better… a certification or certificate program? This was a question that I had as I was preparing my upcoming “assessment-based certificate” (ABC) program. I wanted it to be a “certification” because I believed the public perceived it as being of greater value. However, the fact is they are just different. They do different things.

Let’s start with the purpose. A certification is an assessment meant to recognize competency in a particular area of information. While it may recommend certain resources, the information can be learned from any factual source. An ABC program, on the other hand, teaches the information and then assesses the participant’s competency on that material.

The assessment for a certification is conducted by a separate certifying body while the ABC assessment is conducted by the educational body.

As for ongoing requirements, certifications typically require ongoing education in order to maintain the certification, whereas ABCs only require passing the initial assessment to keep the designation.

Both the certification and the ABC program can earn accreditation if they meet the guidelines of the accrediting organization.

Note that an ABC program requires a demonstration of mastery and is not the same as receiving a certificate of completion or attendance.

Now that you understand the difference between these two you may notice, as I did, many certification programs out there that are actually ABC programs. Does it really matter? Maybe not, but I like to make sure that I’m not perpetuating a misunderstanding.

Resources: https://www.credentialingexcellence.org/programdifferences, https://www.asha.org/CE/CEUs/Professional-Certification-vs-Certificate-Program/

Published by Mark Nutting

Mark Nutting, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D, RCPT*E, PFP 2016 Trainer of the Year Legacy Award, NSCA 2009 Personal Trainer of the Year, Owner/Master Trainer at Jiva Fitness, holds 12 certifications in the field and has been in personal training and health club management since 1980. Mark is the author of The Business of Personal Training book (Human Kinetics 2018) and founder of the Fitness Business Specialist program.

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