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Certification vs. Certificate of Completion

The GPC credential, or Grant Professional Certified, is an NCCA accredited program that 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.” NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (formerly the National Organization for Competency Assurance). Since 1977, the NCCA has been accrediting certifying programs based on the highest quality standards in professional certification to ensure the programs adhere to modern standards of practice in the certification industry. As described in it's published Background Information ANSI/ICE 11000-2019 Standard for Assessment-based Certificate Programs, ICE 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.
  • The certificate issued at the completion of the program or event signifies that the participant was present, and in some cases, that the participant actively participated in the program or event.

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

  • Voluntary process by which individuals are evaluated against predetermined standards for knowledge, skills, or competencies.
  • Participants who demonstrate that they meet the standards by successfully completing the assessment process are granted a time-limited credential.
  • To retain the credential, certificants must maintain continued competence.
  • Primary focus is on the assessment of participants (as opposed to education/ training).
  • Certification process requires the assessment to be independent of both a specific class, course, or other education/training program and any provider of classes, courses, or programs.

Furthermore, 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. The GPC is the first professional credential for individuals working in the grants field to be recognized by NCCA. The GPC credential, which has been in use since 2007, is the only experienced-based exam of its kind.

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.

Watch a short video explaining the value of accreditation.

The Grant Professionals Certification Institute is proud to be a member of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) in show of our support of the credentialing community and our commitment to strive for excellence.