Certification vs. Certificate of Completion

The GPC credential, or Grant Professional Certified, validates knowledge of and competency in the grants profession through education, experience, professional development, community involvement, and a psychometrically sound examination. These factors are based on widely accepted sociological theories of the professionalization of careers, an extensive literature review, the expertise of highly experienced authorities in the grants field, and examination development processes of the American Psychological Association. Unlike a certificate of completion, the GPC is not based upon completion of an activity or a course of study.

Oftentimes, people mistake a “certificate of completion,” or “assessment-based certificates” as a “professional certification” or “credential.” The National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) provides a clear distinction between these three terms. Established in 1977, NOCA is the leader in setting quality standards for credentialing organizations and through its division, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), has provided more than 30 years of accrediting services to the credentialing industry. NOCA is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a developer of American National Standards. As described in it's published Background Information ANSI/NOCA 11000 Standard for Assessment-based Certificate Programs (Knapp, Kendzel) 2009, NOCA defines the three terms in the following way.

Certificate of Attendance or Participation

  • Provided to individuals (participants) who have attended or participated in classes, courses, or other education/training programs or events.
  • Demonstrating accomplishment of the intended learning outcomes by participants is NOT a requirement for receiving the certificate.

Assessment-Based Certificate Programs

  • Provides instruction and training to aid participants in acquiring specific knowledge, skills, and/or competencies associated with intended learning outcomes.
  • Evaluates participants’ accomplishment of the intended learning outcomes.
  • Awards a certificate only to those participants who meet the performance, proficiency, or passing standard for the assessment(s) (hence the term, “assessment-based certificate program”).

Professional Certification

  • Time-limited recognition and use of a credential to individuals who have demonstrated that they have met predetermined and standardized criteria for required knowledge, skills, or competencies.
  • Primary focus on assessment (as opposed to providing education/ training); independence of the assessment process from any education/training program or provider.
  • Linkage of the assessment to predetermined standards for knowledge, skills, or competencies, rather than to the learning outcomes of a particular education/training program.
  • The ability of certificants to use a credential or letters following their names to indicate they have satisfactorily met the requirements for certification.

Furthermore, in accordance with NOCA and ANSI standards pertaining to testing and credentialing, a professional credential must be developed following rigorous psychometric protocols. These protocols dictate, among others, that an educational program cannot also issue a professional credential upon completion of coursework; that the psychometric protocols used to design and implement the certification tool, including validity and reliability outcomes, must be published; and that the test’s content must be validated, in part, through a statistically designed task analysis that canvassed the profession. There appears to be no other organization today that has completed these or any other established protocols for grant professionals’ certification.

When you see the terms “certificate” or “certification” bantered about in marketing materials and promotions, take a moment to determine if the noted “certificate” is a certificate of completion, an assessment-based certificate tied to a particular training or a profession certificate designed within the strict guidelines described above. And remember: a certificate of attendance or completion states that an individual has completed a class or course and achieved a certain level of success in understanding the principles taught in the course. A professional certification or credential is an objective measure of a person’s level of experience and expertise in the profession — as defined independently by the profession as a whole.

For more information about grant credentialing, please email exam@grantcredential.org.