Certification vs. Licensure: What’s the Difference?

The terms certification and licensure are often used interchangeably. While they share similarities, it’s important to understand how they differ.

Read on to learn about these two terms, find out how they’re similar and different, and discover ways to use online proctoring to build the best exam process for certification and licensure programs.

What Does Certification Mean?

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence, or I.C.E., defines certification as follows: “A certification program is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a particular job, and, upon successfully passing a certification exam, to represent a declaration of a particular individual’s professional competence.”

A certification is usually a voluntary process established by a private organization to help individuals demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Most professions certify their members in some way, from trade association certifications and global linguistics certifications to continuing education for professional auctioneers and real estate agents.

Technology companies also increasingly offer certifications for people to showcase their ability in specific areas. Examples include Google Career Certificates in areas like data analytics and IT support, as well as HubSpot certifications for marketing and sales. Such certifications are designed to help people advance in their careers.

What Does Licensure Mean?

I.C.E. defines licensure as follows: “Licensure tests an individual’s competence but is a mandatory process by which the government grants time-limited permission for that licensed individual to practice his or her profession.”

Governing entities (often states) issue a licensure and can prohibit anyone without it from practicing the profession. This protects the health and safety of the public by ensuring only qualified people practice the occupation.

Many professions require licensure in certain jurisdictions, including certified public accountants, electricians, lawyers, and teachers. In fact, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, almost 1-in-4 jobs now require an occupational license or government approval.

Similarities and Differences Between Certification and Licensure

Achieving both certification and licensure typically involves passing a test to prove one’s knowledge and skills. The test development and delivery may be similar. Upon passing the test, the individual is certified or licensed. In both cases, the certification or licensure is often granted for a specific period of time and must be periodically renewed.

The key differences are found outside of the testing environment. Certification programs are voluntary. While they’re usually advantageous for advancing one’s career, they’re not required to practice a profession. On the other hand, licensure programs legally authorize an individual to practice a profession.

Online Proctoring for Certification and Licensure

Both certification and licensure programs are a great fit for online proctoring, for many reasons. For high-stakes exams and other assessments of knowledge, an online proctoring solution is critical.

Online proctoring also provides an additional layer of security and rigor to the exam process, which benefits certification and licensure programs in these key ways:

Expands your program’s reach

Providing online exams allows organizations to expand beyond their traditional geographic reach. Time and travel investments prevent many busy professionals from seeking certifications. Online proctoring provides much-needed flexibility and enables your organization to certify more people.

Ensures identity validation and integrity

Online proctoring captures the test-taker’s photo at the start of the exam to verify their identity. It then records video during the test and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze suspicious behavior, like conferring with others or clicking outside of the exam page. Fully automated proctoring is ideal for low-stakes exams. For higher-stakes exams, a human auditor should make the final judgment on any integrity issues.

Bolsters reputation and validity of certification

A falsified exam hurts the credibility of your organization. The exam must gauge how well test-takers understand pertinent information to their profession. It’s critical that people trust your certification or licensure program. When they do, employers are more inclined to hire candidates who hold it, and students are more likely to choose your program over the competition.

How to Evaluate and Select the Best Online Proctoring Solution for Your Certification or Licensure Program

The acceleration of online learning and working is fueling interest in online proctoring. Online proctoring solutions for your certification or licensure program are available in many shapes and sizes, which can make choosing the right one challenging.

Look for a solution with these features you need to certify or license the best candidates while upholding your reputation in your industry:

Robust security that protects test-taker information

Sensitive test-taker information should never be shared with third parties. Any proctoring vendor should quickly handle requests to have raw data purged every 30 days. Be sure you fully understand the proctoring solution’s data collection policies. This helps you keep participants focused on taking the test and not worrying about the security of their data.

Integration with your existing technology

You need dependable, user-friendly technology to administer your exams. If your organization already has a learning management system (LMS), choose a proctoring program that integrates with it to avoid requiring a separate login. If your organization doesn’t currently use an LMS, select a proctoring program that works as a standalone solution.

Strong tech support and guidance

Ask about your proctoring vendor’s onboarding process. They should teach the key stakeholders in your organization and be invested in your success. Since participants can take online exams at the time most convenient for them, find a proctoring vendor with extended support hours by phone, chat, and email. Also, get a guarantee that wait times for support won’t exceed two minutes.

Protect Your Program’s Reputation With Online Proctoring

Whether you have a certification program or a licensure program, the rigor and quality of your exams is vital. Using online proctored tests is a great way to build a strong exam process that upholds your program’s high standards.

To protect your reputation and increase enrollment numbers, make sure your online proctoring solution delivers a seamless experience, mitigates technology issues, and has robust security features that protect your organization and your candidates.

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