Difference Between Credentials and Certifications

What is the Difference?


A credential is issued by a third party with authoritative power, and is proof of an individual’s qualification or competence in a given subject. Possessing a credential not only helps one to prove competency and capability in a given field, but also demonstrates to one’s community and employers that the individual is competent, properly trained and equipped to carry out his or her duties. To sit for a credential exam, an individual must possess certain requirements — a set level of education, experience or a combination of both. Credentials serve as verification that a professional has achieved a baseline level of competency in his or her subject matter. With credentialed staff members, employers are assured of having a workforce of employees that are capable of handling whatever challenges their job responsibilities present.

Through NEHA, credentialing is a process in which a non-governmental agency validates, based upon predetermined standards, an individual’s knowledge and qualifications for practice in environmental health and protection. A NEHA credential serves to verify that an individual has achieved a baseline level of professional competence in environmental health.

NEHA’s credentials are nationally recognized and validate an individual’s specialized knowledge and experience in environmental health and protection. Studying for and maintaining a NEHA credential keeps one up to date on the latest developments in the environmental health field and demonstrates one’s commitment to life-long learning. 

Credentials earned from NEHA must be renewed every two years.  The credential holder must also submit continuing education in order to renew.


Certification is a formal process that recognizes and validates an individual’s qualifications in a certain subject. Certification is earned by an individual to assure he or she is qualified to perform a job or task through the acknowledgement of educational achievement. Certificates verify that a professional has achieved a baseline level of competence in a complicated subject area and assures employers that an individual is capable of handling the challenges his or her job responsibilities present. Certifications are earned from a professional society and must be renewed periodically, generally through completed continuing education units.


Certificate Program

A certificate program is a program of education that results in a certificate of completion rather than an educational degree. Certificate programs educate individuals about one particular aspect of their field and supplement an individual’s prior education — preparing him or her to work in another arena within the same professional field. Certificate program definitions are changing and often misused. NEHA offers several courses that provide a certificate of completion after passing an assessment or exam to ensure required knowledge was learned.  The certificate of completion is issued at the end and no additional renewals are required. The coursework is designed and must be followed without deviation to ensure equality of training regardless of instructor or location. The assessment score is based on a defensible cut-score study, and pass/fail results are kept by NEHA.