Certification vs. Training – What’s the Difference?

When it comes to education in the towing industry, there are numerous options available. From the content being covered, to the delivery method, to the program type. While choice is wonderful, this means it can sometimes be hard to determine which educational offering is right for you and your employees. Fundamental to evaluating your options is a basic understanding of the differences between training and certification. 

Luckily, the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) set standards and guidelines for both certification and certificate programs. Their intention is to uphold integrity among providers, and to protect and educate stakeholders (participants, regulatory bodies, etc.). According to ICE and NCCA, there are essentially three types of non-degree granting programs: assessment-based certificate programs, certificate of participation/attendance programs, and professional certification.
  • Assessment-Based Certificate Programs are what most towing professionals think of when they hear the term “training”. The goal of an assessment-based certificate program is to generate knowledge and meet learning outcomes through classroom, online, or hands-on methods. Meaning that these training programs are great for building and expanding a participant’s experience and skill. At the end of the course, the certificate program administers a proctored exam to determine if the participant has mastered the learning outcomes. Remember, it’s not a true assessment-based certificate program if everyone passes. If nobody fails the assessment, it’s a certificate of participation program (see below). 
  • Certificate of Participation/Attendance Courses: the distinguishing feature is the lack of a formal assessment at the end of a training or class. Many of these non-assessment programs are available at no or low cost, which makes them ideal if you’re just looking for an introduction to a new topic. However, without the assessment there aren’t any assurances as to whether or not the participant has acquired the content knowledge or is competent in the learning objectives. Therefore, these certificate of completion/participant classes are a great enhancement to someone’s education but generally not accepted by municipalities, insurance companies, and outside agencies. 
  • Professional Certification such as the Towing & Recovery Operator Certification Program™ (TROCP™) and the Towing & Recovery Support Certification Program® (TRSCP®) offered at Towcert.com. The goal of professional certification is the independent assessment of the participant’s knowledge, skills, and competencies that are deemed essential for the performance of an occupational or professional role. A great example is that of the legal profession. Even after finishing law school an individual must pass the “bar exam” before becoming a full-fledged attorney. The neutral 3rd party evaluation of a participant’s education is the advantage to professional certification and the reason it’s considered to be the benchmark for many municipalities and outside agencies. Additionally, participants who pass the certification exam can legally use the term “certified” which is unique to this type of educational program. 

As you can see, there are clear differences between each program type. While there’s no such thing as too much education, all three have their own advantages depending on your goals. Hopefully this will help you in deciding which is best suited for you and your employees.

Remember, our traffic incident management partners in police, fire, and EMS are required to take both hands-on assessment-based training and professional certification. Towing operators should hold themselves to the same standards for the betterment of themselves and the industry. 

TRAA is a proud member of the ICE's Professional Certification Coalition (PCC)
To get started with professional certification, visit Towcert.com today!

- Defining Features of Quality Certification and Assessment-Based Certificate Programs. Institute for Credentialing Excellence, 2010.
- Standard for Assessment-Based Certificate Programs ICE 1100 2010 (E). Lenora Knapp, Ph.D., James Kendzel MPH, January 2010.
- Testing Integrity Symposium’s Issues and Recommendations for Best Practice. U.S. Department of Education, 2013 http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013454.pdf.