FAQ: Are certification and accreditation the same?

ANSWER: NO – The terms “accreditation” and “certification” are sometimes used interchangeably, however, they are not synonymous.1


Accreditation is used to verify that laboratories have an appropriate quality management system and can properly perform certain tests, calibrations, or inspections according to their scopes of accreditation.1


Certification is used for verifying that personnel have adequate credentials (i.e., skill) to practice certain disciplines, as well as for verifying that processes, systems, products, or events meet certain requirements.1


The difference between the two seemingly similar definitions lies in the fact that in the first case, the formal recognition of competence is based on proven technical knowledges and therefore requires the consultation of a technical expert for the scope to be accredited, while the second case primarily involves ensuring conformity with a given norm, e.g. a management system or a product.2


Accreditation therefore relates to specific technical tasks such as those of a testing or calibration laboratory, or of a certification or inspection body, for which specific norms set out the required degree of competence.2


Many ISO standards include guidance on how to demonstrate a product, person, service or system meets the requirements contained within a standard. How the assessment of conformity is performed-and by whom-can have a significant impact on the level of confidence buyers and regulators place on the assessment results.3


In some cases, the supplier may offer a first-party statement of compliance. In others, the buyer conducts his or her own second-party assessment of conformity. Yet another option is to engage a third party that is recognized as being independent of both the provider and intended user.3


Please visit the following links for additional resources and information about these conformity assessment terms:


  1. (2017, January). Accreditation vs. Certification. Retrieved from https://www.nist.gov/nvlap/accreditation-vs-certification
  2. Directorate of Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from http://dpa.gov.al/en/faq/what-is-difference-between-accreditation-and-certification
  3. Roger Muse. (2008, June). What’s in a Name: Accreditation vs. Certification?. Retrieved from https://www.qualitymag.com/articles/85483-what-s-in-a-name-accreditation-vs-certification


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