There is a reason why certification is spelled differently from certificate: they do not always mean the same thing.
The word certificate often refers to a document:
- recording a person’s birth, marriage or death. Example: The birth certificate he presented had been tampered with. [Oxford Advanced American Dictionary]
- attesting a level of achievement in a course of study or training. Examples: He has a graduate certificate in information technology. She has a certificate in midwifery. [Learner’s Dictionary]
- attesting ownership of a certain item. Example: The stock certificates are stored in the vault. [Random House Dictionary]
[Note: Certificate is a count noun, which means it can be counted and can have a plural form.]
The word certification means:
- The act of making something official; the act of certifying something. Examples: We await the certification of the vote. She had to wait until her certification as a nurse before she could start her new job. [Note: Certification in this sense is a noncount noun, which means it is always singular, cannot be counted, and does not have a plural form.]
- The official approval to do something professionally or legally. Examples: The certifications of nine nurses were revoked. The school offers scuba diving certification. She received her teaching certification last month. SolidWorks certifications can be used as a benchmark to measure your knowledge and competency with SolidWorks software. [Learner’s Dictionary, Oxford Advanced American Dictionary] [Note: Certification in this sense is a count noun, which means it can be counted and can have a plural form.]
When can certification refer to a document?
- In law: certification refers to the document attesting to the truth of a fact or statement, such as an affidavit or verification [Collins Dictionary, Random House Dictionary]
- Practice of a profession: Oxford Dictionary, which is descriptivist, mentions the use of certification to refer to a document allowing a person to practice a profession.
Photo credit: Bernard Goldberg