In the first column of this monthly series, Those Extra Letters–Just Alphabet Soup, or Chicken Soup for Your Career? in February 2010, George Yarusavage addressed the value of supply chain certifications. As he mentioned, competence, capability, and professionalism are the traits that C-level management looks for when it’s time to fill managerial vacancies. Have you found a way to “advertise” all of your desirable qualities to your superiors? If not, certificate programs or becoming certified could provide you with the perfect opportunity to enhance your promotion potential. In this column, I would like to expand on supply chain credentials, specifically the difference between a Certificate and a Certification, to assist you in communicating your value to your colleagues, higher management, HR, and training personnel and to help avoid confusion in the marketplace. Let’s begin with the basic definitions:

Certificate: Matriculation through a series of courses during a specified period of time that results in a certificate issued by a university, college, or institute.

Certification: After meeting specific educational and/or professional experience requirements, testing validates competency and results in credentials conferred by a professional society or organization.

Credentials: Attest to knowledge or authority obtained through a certification process which results in a designation.

Designation: Refers to the letters representing credentials earned which can be used after your name, such as C.P.M., CTL, CPSM, CPP, CIPM, CPPM, CSCP, CLP, CISCM, etc.

Licensing: After meeting specific requirements, testing which validates competency results in credentials and a designation offered by a national or governmental organization.

There are numerous reasons for seeking certification such as: education, promotion, networking, staying on top of your game, prestige, and benchmarking yourself against others in the supply chain and logistics field. Do you want to: stay up-to-date in your specialty, or keep in touch with what’s going on in the supply chain and logistics profession, or measure your expertise against a recognized standard? The obvious answer to each of these is “yes”. But saying “yes” leads to the next question: ”How” – do you take a path to Certification or to one or more Certificates?

Certificates are earned after you attend a designed series of continuing education courses, each with a specific focus, and recognize your successful completion of the courses. A Certificate can be earned by both newcomers and experienced professionals alike and is awarded by educational programs or academic institutions. Certificate programs usually result in Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or Continuing Education Hours (CEHs). Thus, a Certificate program is a proven and recognized way to build your skills set. The end result is a demonstration of a functional knowledge base which should be listed in a resume’s Education section.

Certifications are earned after you complete a series of specified examinations and your knowledge is assessed and/or tested against a set of standards. Usually, Certification requires some amount of professional experience, as well as education and testing. Certifications often include initial and ongoing requirements such as CEUs, CEHs or CPDs (Continuing Professional Development) that must be met for initial certification, recertification, or to keep the certification valid. Courses in Certificate programs often can help meet a Certification’s CEU, CEH or CPD requirement. This allows you to build your credentials through an objective confirmation of your mastery of such skills, earning a Certification that usually has a letter designation which should follow your name on business cards and in resumes.

In conclusion, with the new year upon us, it’s time to ask yourself what you’re doing to stay professionally proficient and remain a viable candidate for future promotion and employment.

This article part of the monthly series authored by ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group Board Members, who are current practitioners, consultants, and educators. In future columns, they will be sharing their views on a number of Supply Chain topics.

Thomas L. Tanel, CTL, C.P.M., CISCM, is the President and CEO of CATTAN Services Group, Inc., specializing in Logistics and Supply Chain issues. He is also the Chair of ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group and can be reached at or (979) 260-7200. Membership in the Group is open to all ISM members who are responsible for or have an interest in the Logistics & Transportation fields.