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What is a Professional Certification?

By G. Wiesen
Updated: Feb 07, 2024

A professional certification is a document or title, typically issued by a professional association, which indicates to others that someone who has earned the certification is particularly knowledgeable or possesses certain skills. This sort of certification is utilized in a number of professional fields and is often used as a way to indicate professional training as well as various other accomplishments. There are several forms of certification, though some of the most common are internal certification, product-specific certification, and profession-wide certification. A professional certification is somewhat similar to professional licensure, though a license is usually granted by a government body and may be legally mandated for certain professionals.

Also called trade certification or qualification, professional certification usually serves as an indicator to others that a person has attained a certain level of training or education. This certification is not necessary for a profession or at least not legally required, but is often used as a way to eliminate competing prospective employees during job interviews. A professional certification can often serve as a simple way for someone to indicate to others that he or she is qualified to perform certain duties. The nature of this sort of certification, however, can vary quite a bit.

One of the most common types of professional certification is internal certification, which is typically issued by a corporation or company to an employee of that company. This usually indicates that the certified employee has undergone some type of special training or has completed a particular internal seminar. Product-specific certification is often used in technological industries, especially computer software programming and development, where it serves to indicate that a person has training and understanding of a particular program or aspect of technology. Profession-wide certification is often used in professions such as accountancy, and indicates that someone has received training and experience that qualifies him or her to work within a given profession.

A professional certification usually differs from professional licensure in that a certification is issued by a private professional organization or agency, while a license is usually government issued. Licensure is typically required in certain professions in which the government controls who is qualified to work in that profession, such as the medical field or aviation. While a professional certification serves to indicate someone’s skills and knowledge in a given field, such certification is not often legally mandatory. Licensure, on the other hand, is usually required for a person to practice a particular profession in a state or country.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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