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Certifications and qualifications – what’s the difference?

Certifications and qualifications – what’s the difference?


09 Nov, 2021

Certifications and qualifications attract a certain level of kudos, yet what do they mean and what sets them apart? CNet Training has the answers …

Certifications prove that an individual has completed a learning process and achieved the stated objectives, meaning that the strength of a professional certification is based on a fundamental trust that the individual who receives a credential (the certification) has proven that he or she possesses the required experience, knowledge or skills of a profession or practice. This credibility is paramount for the credential to maintain value for individual stakeholders, the profession and the public.

Developing a reputable certification programme requires expertise in several areas. Whether the programme sponsor is a private or public entity, in-depth knowledge of the industry and job tasks, educational requirements and eligibility requirements, assessments and maintenance are a few aspects that must be included in the programme development plan. 

Certifications can provide a post-nominal title (letters after your name), and the use of official certification material such as a brand logo or digital badge to help prove your certification. 

Certifications are unique. They show a commitment to life-long learning as re-certification is usually required approximately three years after each new certification.

Five characteristics of valued certifications

  1. Built on demonstrated market need: there must be perceived value in distinguishing those who have proven competency and those who have not. 
  2. Objectivity: certified and independent subject matter experts, third-party endorsement and autonomy in governing the certification programme are essential in developing and maintaining a valid and legally defensible credential.
  3. Rigour: a certification that requires little effort or knowledge, or one that everyone can earn, is typically of lower value than one that demands great effort, determination, experience, knowledge and skill. A rigorous regimen of training and assessment is essential to a successful certification programme, which by its nature is often perceived as a competitive advantage.
  4. Emphasis on ethics: ethical conduct covers a broad range of topics, from protecting the certification assessment from cheaters to ensuring the ethical practice of the profession.
  5. Re-certification: as all industries and organisations grow and change, the professionals that serve them must do the same. One way to determine the value of a certification is to check if the education provider has a re-certification process in place. This shows that it also has a commitment to ensuring skills remain current and reflect the very latest changes in your chosen sector. Plus, the re-certification process should be accessible, quick and cost effective.

Certification benefits for the employer:

  • Employees’ skills are enhanced every three years with new learning to bring staff knowledge up-to-date with the very latest changes and technical developments within the industry.
  • Ensures employees are also aware of the latest working standards and codes of practice.
  • Provides certification for a further three years after each re-certification.
  • Allows training budgets to be forecast accurately on an ongoing basis.

Certification benefits for the employee:

  • Provides certification for further three years.
  • Keeps knowledge and skills in line with industry requirements.
  • Provides a post-nominal title (e.g. Martin Smith CDCDP®).
  • Provides access to the latest programme material.



Qualifications are valid for life and do not need to be renewed. They differ from certifications in that they are controlled by international educational bodies and only approved centres can offer qualifications. The process to become an approved centre is a rigorous one and reassessment is required to maintain approved centre status every 12 months. CNet Training is an approved centre and has been for more than 22 years. 

Individuals who have been awarded qualifications can therefore have the added confidence that they have received high-quality education from a respected and trusted organisation – one that has strict processes in place for quality of delivery and which is itself assessed to ensure it continues to deliver the right high-quality educational content that continues to meet the learning objectives set for each programme. This means only the best educational companies can gain this approved centre status.

There are different qualification levels and each can be referenced across the world.

Five elements to which approved centres must adhere in order to remain approved to offer qualifications

  1. Centre management systems: demonstrate robust systems are in place to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of all qualification delivery and assessment staff.
  2. Policies and procedures: ensuring clear policies and procedures are in place to internally verify all aspects of the learning and assessment of it. 
  3. Programme delivery: the centre must employ, update and continue to educate and qualify instructors to ensure appropriate management, delivery assessment and internal verification.
  4. Assessment: use a range of appropriate assessment methods that remove opportunities for plagiarism, ensure assessment tools have appropriate vocational context, are written at the right level, and the assessment is tracked and graded appropriately and evidenced.
  5. Internal verification: verification of assignment documentation is thorough, planned, recorded and used to enhance future practice. Verification records are accurate and available for audit as needed.

Benefits for the employer:

  • Ensures your employees are trained to a specified level at that time, however does not have the ability to keep knowledge and skills up to date and in line with the industry on an ongoing basis.
  • Usually incurs just a one-off fee.
  • You can be sure the training/education provider is a professional company as the process to become an approved centre is rigorous.

Benefits for the employee:

  • Provides official recognition of your knowledge and skills at the time of taking the exam or completing the programme.
  • Qualifications are recognised globally by comparing educational levels.

Many training organisations provide self-certificated training (i.e. award attendance certificates with no awarding organisation or academic processes or assessment). While they are entitled to do so, this should not be confused with higher and vocational education programmes provided by professional training and education providers such as CNet Training, which lead to the award of a bona fide qualification by a true, authorised awarding organisation (source: Pearson, the world’s largest education company).


To discuss the best technical education programmes for your new career across the data centre and network infrastructure sectors, please contact CNet Training by emailing or click here to find out more