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Did You Know?: Certificates and Certification Are Not the Same – ACRP

So you say you took one or a few courses on a topic of special interest in clinical research, studied diligently, aced the test, and earned a certificate? Congratulations! But did you know that achievement doesn’t mean you can say you are a certified individual? 

As with many other professional associations, earning a one-time certificate of achievement in a focused topic from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) can be a valuable, as-needed pursuit to bring one up to speed in a new job function in one’s daily work. As well, it can be part of preparing oneself to eventually take a detailed certification test (to become a Certified Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC®) or Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRA®), for example), and an option for accumulating the contact hours needed to maintain an existing certification with ACRP. 

The important thing to understand, according to Glenda Guest, RQAP-GCP, CCRA, ACRP-MDP, FACRP, a member of The Academy Board of Trustees overseeing ACRP Certification exam processes and policies, is that true certification means adhering to specific requirements, such as completing a certain amount of education or training, passing an exam, and meeting ongoing continuing education expectations for proving mastery and keeping abreast of developments in one’s field. 

“While a certificate can be great for demonstrating knowledge in one applied area, certification denotes in-depth knowledge across a range of clinical research competencies and many different role-based duties,” Guest says. “Further, providers of certification can demonstrate the rigor of their programs by gaining independent accreditation—such as how the ACRP Certified Professional (ACRP-CP®), CCRC®, CCRA®, and Certified Principal Investigator (CPI®) programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Accredited Certification is much more robust than simply saying that your programs lead to certification—it follows a validated process that requires periodic reaccreditation, so that the programs themselves must stay on top of advancements in the profession.” 

Here’s a summary of what Guest calls the key differences between certificates and certification: 

“Certifications are usually recognized within their respective industries and can indicate a higher level of expertise and competence than a simple certificate,” Guest adds. “Compared to certificates, certifications tend to carry more weight and recognition in professional settings. This is because they are standardized and generally issued by nationally recognized organizations.” 

Learn more about the benefits of ACRP Certification and how ACRP Organization Membership can help entire achieve and maintain certification that will set your services apart from your competitors. 

Edited by Gary Cramer