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Certificates or Certification: Which should you choose?

Navigating the world of data certificates and certification programs can be overwhelming, from understanding the requirements to recognizing the value that each may provide. We’ll help you understand the basics so you can make the right decisions for your needs.
Jun 2022  · 5 min read

A quick internet search for ‘data certification’ turns up quite a variety of results - from bootcamps to self-paced courses, certificate programs to certifications. How do these differ, and which should you consider for your personal goals?

Learning-Based Certificate Programs

Let’s begin by explaining the difference between certificate programs and certifications. A certificate program is also known as a learning-based certificate. This is an educational offering, where the curriculum is generally set by the organization offering the program. You will receive a certificate upon the completion of learning, which may be linked to attendance or online course participation, and sometimes includes a low-stakes assessment that measures the course learning objectives. 

The receipt of this type of certificate indicates that you’ve taken the time to participate in all required courses. It shows motivation, interest, and your ability to follow through with a program. Certificates of completion are most commonly intrinsic motivators, that is to say, they allow you to feel a sense of accomplishment in your learning journey.

The Value of Certification

Certification, on the other hand, is quite a bit different. The two terms, certificate and certification, are often incorrectly used interchangeably, but certification is the only one of these that is actual evidence of proficiency. One reason for this confusion may be that organizations offering certification usually offer training or education aimed to support the certification. So on the surface, it could look similar to a learning-based certificate. However, another clear distinction between the two is that certification is built around industry standards, usually set through job/task analyses, focus groups, and expert interviews. Additionally, the assessment methods used for certification are much more rigorous, often requiring the completion of proctored exams. A true certification’s assessment is valid and reliable, and reflect the core competencies determined by the industry.

Certifications, unlike certificates, will expire. You must renew your certification after a certain period of time to keep it active. This is because a certification, awarded by an objective third party, validates that you’ve met the stated knowledge and skill level. This knowledge and skill level must be maintained in order for you to continue claiming the active certification status.

Certification Certificates
Results from an assessment process that recognizes an individual's knowledge, skills, and competency in a particular specialty Results from an educational process
Indicates mastery/competency as measured against a defensible set of standards, usually by application or exam Indicates completion of a course or series of courses within a specific focus
Standards are set through a defensible, industry-wide process that results in an outline of required knowledge and skills Course content is determined by the specific education provider or institution and is not standardized
May result in credentials that can be listed after the individual's name Can be shared with peers as evidence of education
Has ongoing requirements in order to maintain active status Is earned once and does not expire

Credit: aalnc.org

What does DataCamp offer?

DataCamp offers both certificates and certification. Certificates, which we call Statements of Accomplishment, are awarded upon completion of courses and tracks. There is no assessment tied to these. They can be shared with your network as evidence of course completion. 

What is DataCamp Certification?

DataCamp Certification takes things to the next level. We offer both Data Analyst and Data Scientist Certification, which measure your proficiency across the core competencies necessary for each role. These certifications were developed with a panel of data experts across a variety of industries. They are not directly related to any one course or track at DataCamp, but they do allow you to formalize your learning by demonstrating your abilities through a rigorous exam and case study process.  

The achievement of a DataCamp Certification means you’ve met or exceeded the minimum proficiency level in each of the assessed competencies. These certifications are not easily attainable; they do require preparation time and study. But a credible certification adds a lot of value to your resume. It not only indicates motivation and interest, but is evidence of ability as well. 

Want to see our certifications for yourself? Visit DataCamp Certifications to get started!

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