Certificates and Certifications

There seem to be regular misunderstandings between words and their meanings. The words ‘certified’, ‘certificate’, and ‘certification’ are words I see regularly misused, especially in requests for proposals, LinkedIn profiles, and resumes.  Unfortunately, as with so much in the English language, there are no easy boxes to put these in, but the differences are really important.

One of the things I regularly see is in reference to something like the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). Far too often, RFPs request personnel who are ‘HSEEP certified’. There is no certification for HSEEP. To be certified, according to Oxford, means that someone is ‘officially recognized as possessing certain qualifications or meeting certain standards’. People who complete HSEEP training are provided with a certificate of completion. A certificate of completion is simply documentation given by a training provider indicating that someone has completed the requirements of a course (attendance, participation, maybe an exam), but is not intended to speak to their qualifications, therefore it is not a certification.

Certifications are credentials that should be provided by independent bodies indicating that someone has met a certain slate of standards. To be certified in something digs deeper. I am a Certified Emergency Disaster Professional (CEDP), which is a credential provided by the International Board for Certification Services and Management (IBFCSM). To become certified I had to demonstrate experience, education, and competence; and I must affirm continued competence through continuing education.

Colleges also have certificate programs, such as the one I’ve helped develop and have recently started teaching for Herkimer College. A certificate program is a specific type of academic program with a more concise set of requirements compared to a degree program.

If you are writing RFPs, developing your LinkedIn profile, or updating your resume, please be sure to properly represent credentials and qualifications.

© 2022 Tim Riecker, CEDP

3 thoughts on “Certificates and Certifications

  1. Hello, I am curious as to why you chose your certification vs. CEMP or another organization?

    I am seeking certification to enhance my credentials of 15 years experience in Emergency Management.

    I enjoy your articles. Thank you, Kathleen


    1. Hi Kathleen. The CEDP is administered by a professional, third-party, credential issuing organization. Each of the professions for which they provide credentials have boards which ensure the validity of the assessments. They are not a membership organization, therefore credentialing is their primary mission and there is no potential influence from members on their process. There are other organizations which are similarly arranged and offer a variety of credentials for specific areas of practice, such as DRI or NFPA.

      Thanks for reading!

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