A Certificate Program is a training program on a topic for which participants receive a certificate after attendance and/or completion of the coursework. Some programs also require successful demonstration of attainment of the course objectives. One who completes a professional certificate program is known as a certificate holder. A credential is usually NOT granted at the completion of a certificate program.

There are three types of certificate programs: knowledge-based certificate, curriculum-based certificate, and certificate of attendance or participation.

  • A knowledge-based certificate recognizes a relatively narrow scope of specialized knowledge used in performing duties or tasks required by a certain profession or occupation. This certificate is issued after the individual passes an assessment instrument.
  • A curriculum-based certificate is issued after an individual completes a course or series of courses and passes an assessment instrument. The content of the assessment is limited to the course content and therefore may not be completely representative of professional practice
  • A certificate of attendance or participation is not a credential, because the recipients are not required to demonstrate competence according to professional or trade standards.


Certification of an individual, in any field, is the process by which an agency or association validates an individual’s qualifications and knowledge in a defined functional area. Candidates for certification typically must meet specific requirements to be eligible for certification, and those declared eligible must pass an examination. The successful candidate that passes the certification then receives a credential.


Certification is a vehicle for community and economic development professionals to validate their skills and receive industry recognition by proving that they meet a benchmark level of training, experience, and continuing education. 

The certification process emphasizes the importance of assessing practical competency rather than specific educational pathways. This is particularly important in the community and economic development sector due to the multi-disciplinary nature of the work. The absence of an accurate National Occupation Classification for the profession supports this perspective.

Professional Certification:

  • Demonstrates an individual’s commitment to the profession and to life-long learning.
  • Reflects an individual’s attainment of knowledge and skills.
  • Provides the individual certificant with a sense of pride and professional accomplishment.
  • Meets the needs of employers and the public by identifying individuals with certain knowledge and skills.
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