PotatoSince the National Inventory Certification Association implemented the revised and improved certification process, we have been asked for some clarification of the terminology. The most common question has been, “What’s the difference between earning a certificate and achieving certification?”

Though po-ta-to and po-tah-to, or to-ma-to and to-mah-to, are the same, certificate and certification are quite different. Briefly, once you pass a course developed by NICA, you receive a certificate naming the course, indicating your accomplishment. Certification is a process that consists of proving knowledge and expertise through years in business, taking courses, attending seminars, receiving credit for college courses, and other options.

Following are the key points for NICA certification that list the differences in accordance with association certification standards.


  • Demonstrates knowledge of the course content.
  • Indicates completion of a course. (You receive a certificate from NICA for each course you complete.)
  • For both experienced and new professionals alike take offered courses.
  • Awarded by educational programs or associations.


  • Based on standards set through an industry-wide process which requires knowledge and skills.
  • Typically requires some professional experience.
  • Indicates mastery and competence of the industry, usually through an application and/or exam.
  • Results in designation initials to use after one’s name (CIS).
  • Has an ongoing requirement to maintain certification via CEUs.

You receive a certificate indicating each course you successfully complete; you receive certification by going through a process, a piece of which is taking certificate courses that award CEUs.