These two terms are similar, and often confused. However, each refers to a specific type of professional development.

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence provides these definitions:

The primary focus of a professional/personnel certification program is on providing an independent assessment of the knowledge, skills, and/or competencies required for competent performance of an occupational or professional role or specific work-related tasks and responsibilities. Certification also is intended to measure or enhance continued competence through recertification or renewal requirements.

The primary focus of an assessment-based certificate program is on facilitating the accomplishment of intended learning outcomes. Although assessment is an integral part of the certificate program, the primary purpose of the program is to provide education and training which supports the accomplishment of the intended learning outcomes.

The certificate awarded designates that participants have completed the required education/training and demonstrated accomplishment of the intended learning outcomes.

The CVA credential is a certification.


The Vocabulary, Rationale and Critiques of Professional Credentialing provides more information about various credentialing models in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia.

Institute for Credentialing Excellence