ASTM E2659 - 09e1

    Standard Practice for Certificate Programs

    Active Standard ASTM E2659 | Developed by Subcommittee: E36.30

    Book of Standards Volume: 14.02


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    Significance and Use

    Certificate programs are typically offered by community colleges and universities, government agencies, employers, independent for-profit training organizations, and professional and trade associations. While quality guidelines do exist for continuing education and training providers in general (for example, ANSI/IACET 1-2007) and for entities offering personnel certification programs (for example, ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024:2003), currently, no quality guidelines exist specifically to aid entities offering certificate programs. This practice aims to change that and has been developed to:

    Provide certificate program developers and certificate issuers guidelines for quality program development and administration;

    Form the foundation for a recognition or accreditation system or both that enable consumers, employers, government agencies, and others who rely upon a skilled workforce to distinguish between qualified workers and those with fraudulent or less-than-quality credentials;

    Assist stakeholders in differentiating between certificate programs from personnel certification; and

    Assist stakeholders in differentiating certificate programs from other programs that confer certificates, including but not limited to certificates of attendance or certificates of participation.

    Currently, it is challenging to distinguish a certificate earned through the focused learning and assessment offered through a certificate program from one granted through other means. That a certificate is issued is not a distinguishing factor. The word certificate is used broadly as a document awarded to designate the attainment or completion of something. An individual might receive a certificate from an education or training provider as verification of attendance at a learning event (often called a certificate of attendance) or receive a certificate as verification of active participation in a learning events learning experiences (often called a certificate of participation). The distribution of a certificate, however, does not indicate that the education or training program completed was a certificate program. In a certificate program, an individual participates in a learning event or series of events designed to assist him or her in achieving specified learning outcomes within a defined scope; the individual receives a certificate only after verification of successful completion of all program requisites including but not limited to an assessment of learner attainment of intended learning outcomes.

    It is also important to distinguish certificate programs from the certification of individuals. Certification is a process through which a nongovernmental entity grants a time-limited recognition to an individual after verifying that he or she has met established criteria for proficiency or competency, usually through an eligibility application and assessment. While certification eligibility criteria may specify a certain type or amount of education or training, the learning event(s) are not typically provided by the certifying body. Instead, the certifying body verifies education or training and experience obtained elsewhere through an application process and administers a standardized assessment of current proficiency or competency.

    In contrast, in a certificate program the learning event(s) and the assessment(s) are both developed and administered by the certificate issuer, and there is an essential link between them. That is, the learning event(s) are designed to help participants achieve learning outcomes and the assessment is designed to evaluate the learners attainment of those intended learning outcomes.

    Also, certifications have ongoing requirements for maintaining proficiency/competency and can be revoked for not meeting these ongoing requirements. In contrast, certificates do not have ongoing maintenance or renewal requirements and therefore, cannot be revoked.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This practice provides guidance to certificate issuers for developing and administering quality certificate programs and to stakeholders for determining the quality of certificate programs.

    1.2 This practice includes requirements for both the entity issuing the certificate and requirements for the specific certificate programs for which it issues certificates.

    1.3 This practice provides the foundation for the recognition or accreditation or both of a specific entity to issue a specific certificate or certificates to individuals after successful completion of a certificate program.

    1.4 This practice does not address guidance pertaining to certification of individuals nor does it address guidance pertaining to education or training programs in general, including those that issue certificates of participation or certificates of attendance.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ANSI/IACET Standard

    ANSI/IACET1-2007 Standard for Continuing Education and Training Available from the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), 1760 Old Meadow Rd., Suite 500, McLean, VA 22102, http://www.iacet.org., ANSI/IACET 1-2007 is a valuable document with detailed guidance for all providers of continuing education and training. It provides a descriptive framework to assist organizations in adhering to quality practices for all types of continuing education and training programs. In contrast, this practice outlines a framework of quality for one specific type of program, the certificate program.


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 03.120.20 (Product and company certification. Conformity assessment)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code


    Referencing This Standard

    DOI: 10.1520/E2659-09E01

    ASTM International is a member of CrossRef.

    Citation Format

    ASTM E2659-09e1, Standard Practice for Certificate Programs, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2009, www.astm.org

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