Types of certifications

There are three general types of certification. Listed in order of development level and portability, they are: corporate (internal), product-specific, and profession-wide. Corporate, or internal certifications, are made by a corporation or low-stakes organization for internal purposes. For example, a corporation might require a one-day training course for all sales personnel, after which they receive a certificate. While this certificate has limited portability - to other corporations, for example - it also is the simplest to develop. Product-specific certifications are more involved, and are intended to be referenced to a product across all applications. This approach is very prevalent in the information technology (IT) industry, where personnel are certified on a version of software or hardware. This type of certification is portable across locations (for example, different corporations that use that software), but not across other products.

The most general type of certification is profession-wide (except in medical certification, where physicians are usually certified by their sub-specialties). In order to apply professional standards, increase the level of practice, and possibly protect the public (though this is also the domain of licensure), a professional organization might establish a certification. This is intended to be portable to all places a certificant might work. Of course, this generalization increases the cost of such a program; the process to establish a legally defensible assessment of an entire profession is very extensive. An example of this is a certified public accountant, which would not be certified for just one corporation or one piece of accountancy software but for general work in the profession.


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