1. Fordham, Pamela RN, DSN, CRNP
  2. Martinez, Jeanne RN, MPH, CHPN, HPNA Board of Directors

Article Content

"What is the difference between a certificate and certification?"1 is a frequent question among nurses. Certificates are awarded after participation in a specific focused educational offering (ie, continuing education course or workshop) to indicate completion of the offering and demonstration of knowledge of the content. The content of the course or workshop is determined by the specific provider or institution. Certificates are awarded by educational programs or institutions. Certificate programs are a good way to build your skills and usually do not require examination or follow-up training.


Certification differs from a certificate program. Certification results from an assessment process that recognizes an individual's knowledge, skills, and competency in a particular specialty. Certification usually requires some amount of professional experience and indicates mastery or competency as measured against a defensible set of standards, usually by examination or application. The standards for certification are established through a defensible industry wide process (role delineation/job analysis) that results in an outline of required knowledge and skills. Certification typically results in a designation to use after one's name and may result in a document to hang on a wall or keep in a wallet. Individuals must demonstrate continued competency by meeting ongoing requirements to maintain certification.


In nursing, by setting and enforcing standards for certification, the American Board of Nursing Specialties seeks to protect the public and consumers through their mission to provide assurance to the public that the nurse holding the credential from an accredited certification program possesses the knowledge, skills, and competency for quality practice in the specialty.


Pamela Fordham, RN, DSN, CRNP


Jeanne Martinez, RN, MPH, CHPN


HPNA Board of Directors




1. American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) Frequently Asked Questions; 2005. Retrieved August 11, 2005. [Context Link]