What’s The Difference Between A Certificate & Certification?

If you’re just entering the job market, or you’re re-entering after some time away, you might notice the terms “certificate” and “certification” being tossed around. Even though the terms seem like they should be related since they sound so much alike, they actually refer to two different processes. 


When someone says that they earned a certificate, that means that they have gone through a set of courses to earn that certificate. Certificates are faster and less expensive way to add new training to your resumé, and many people today are purposely avoiding the financial and time cost of a four year degree in order to pursue training through certificate programs instead. Certificate programs are usually more intensive and leave out the classes that don’t directly impact the training you need for your chosen career path.

Each certificate has specific requirements in order for the student to earn it. On top of that, each certificate’s requirements are different depending on the school you’re attending. For example, a student at one school might have to take all of their classes on campus and follow along with the class as they work through the syllabus, or schedule of reading and assignments, while a student at another school might have the chance to work at their own pace and complete all their courses online from any location where they have internet access. 

Another thing that differs from certificate to certificate is the number of classes that students have to take. Some certificates require less instruction and work, so they might include only a few classes and only take a few months to complete. However, some certificates might require many different courses that take the student a couple of years to complete. The number of classes that are included in a certificate are completely dependent on how deep into the topic of study the student is going to get.

One more difference between certificate programs is whether or not they require any hands-on learning. Some certificate programs require that students work in the field that they’re studying about so that they can prove under a supervisor’s guidance that they can demonstrate the skills that their courses talk about. Other certificate programs simply require that students are able to complete the work related to each course in order to graduate with their completed certificate.


A certification is different than a certificate because it’s not issued by an academic institution. Instead, there is a governing body run by an industry group or career-related organization who creates a special test that they’ve determined will assess professional’s skills. Think of certification as the big, important test that says you understand the areas the group deems the most important and you’re in a skilled group of individuals that can say they are “certified” along with their professional title. You can think of a certification as knowing the secret password to privileged club.

For a lot of certifications, you have to prove to the industry group or career-related organization that you’ve taken a set number of courses or course credits before they even let you take the test. Some also require proof that you’ve logged a set number of hours on the job. A lot of times, earning a certificate is a good starting point for eventually being certified. 

Both a certificate and certification can lead you to new job opportunities, and the algorithm on job-hunting sites even ping terms related to both to help match you to the right position. In other words, both are worth the time to pursue if you’re looking to move up in your current position or if you’re looking for a chance to change the career path you’re on. 

Washington Technical Institute

If you’re looking for a career pathway that is less costly and can be achieved quickly, then check out the certificate programs offered by Washington Technical institute. Washington Technical Institute’s fully online certificates can be completed in a matter of months, with daily or bi-weekly start dates. Such flexible start dates make these programs unique and much more accessible for our students. Most of our certificates can be earned as a self-paced program, meaning that you can work at your own pace to complete your work, even finishing early if you have the time and motivation to do so. An additional benefit of WTI’s programs is that we offer affordable pricing and monthly payments to help our students leave school without debt. 

Although our goal is to help our students graduate their programs with little to no debt, we also recognize that some students might need to utilize a loan for their educational investment. We are excited to announce our partnerships with Climb Credit or Ascent, student lending companies focused on financing career-building programs. 

If you’re ready to enroll and start working on a plan for the personal and professional benefit of professional development, you can register for your program online through our website. Still have questions about our programs? Feel free to call us at 800-371-5581 or text us at 952-465-3702 to speak with an admissions specialist.

Get Started Today!

Advance your education with an accredited certificate program from Washington Technical Institute (WTI). WTI is Regionally accredited by the Middle States Association CESS, and licensed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education as an institution of higher learning.

Get More Information



Washington Technical Institute is Regionally accredited by the Middle States Association CESS, and licensed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education as an institution of higher learning