The pandemic highlighted what many in the cleaning industry already knew – the need is high for quality education and training that enables staff to get their job done effectively. There are several options available to help meet this need for cleaning managers, supervisors, building owners, or frontline cleaners, but how do you decide which one is worth your time and money?

This is a great question, and the topic of this new three blog series on education and training. To start, I’ll define important and often misused terms related to education and training outcomes, also called credentialing. As you will see below, the terms relate to different types of programs with different requirements and learning outcomes.

What Is A Credential?  

Derived from the Latin word “credere,” which means to “believe, trust in, and rely on,” a credential is something that warrants credit or confidence in someone’s knowledge and skill.1-3 There are different ways to obtain credentials and these include certificates and certifications. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably; however, they have different meanings.4-6

Certificate reflects completion of an education and/or training course and the achievement of specific learning objectives. A certificate may be valid for a certain length of time and typically does not require ongoing maintenance or renewal. This means certificate owners do not need to submit continuing education credits to the issuing organization to keep their certificate valid.  

An example of a certificate program is the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Food Handler Program.

Certification is different from a certificate. Certifications are based upon assessing an individual’s current knowledge and skills and are issued by a third party (a person or group beside the organization issuing the program) that has been deemed a certification body or is a professional organization. A certification program has ongoing requirements for maintaining proficiency or competency in the field. Certification is granted when an individual shows that they have meet the minimum criteria through an assessment or exam, and certifications are valid for a specific time period. Individuals who successfully pass a certification exam are considered “certified.”

An example of a certification is the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology’s (CBIC) Certified in Infection Control (CIC).

So what makes a certificate and certification worth time and money? The best place to start is to see if the program is accredited.

According to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accreditation is the process by which a credentialing or educational program is evaluated against defined standards by a third party.7 When in compliance with these standards, it is awarded recognition. This means that high quality certificates and certification programs will be evaluated by third parties and against a set of specific requirements or standards. While out of scope for this article, it should be noted there are also accreditations related to facilities and/or organizations.

ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) is an example of a third party accrediting organization that accredits certificates (against ASTM E2659 Standard Practice for Certificate Programs) and certifications (against IEC 17024 – General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons).

Another term to know is designations. Designations are titles or labels that certificate holders or certified personnel are granted to use after they have completed a certificate course or obtain a certification.8 Designation acronyms are abbreviated titles, usually the acronym form of the designation, which the certificate holder is granted by the certificate issuer or certification issuer to use.

An example of a designation and designation acronym of an accredited certification is IFMA’s Certified Facility Manager (CFM).

In addition to understanding the terms associated with high quality education and training, it’s also important to understand if the credential will meet the needs of the learner. The highest quality educational programs are developed using industry best practices in instructional design and verified by external stakeholders. I’ll cover what instructional design is and how to judge the quality of a certificate program in my next blog. I hope you’ll check it out!


1. Online Etymology Dictionary [internet] [cited 2021 Nov 2] Available from:
2. Dictionary [internet] [cited 2021 Nov 2] Available from:
3. ANSI National Accreditation Board. Certification vs Certificate. [internet] [cited 2021 Nov 2] Available from:
4. Institute for Credentialing Excellence. Certificate vs Certification. [internet] [cited 2021 Nov 22] Available from:
5. Georgetown University. What is the difference Between a Certificate and a Certification [internet] 2017 [cited 2021 Nov 2] Available from:
6. Merriam-Webster[internet] [cited 2021 Nov 3] Available from:
7. Institute for Credentialing Excellence. Certificate vs Certification. [internet] [cited 2021 Nov 2] Available from:
8. [internet] [cited 2021 Nov 3] Available from: