Choose Your Own Adventure: Certificate or Certification?

I’m looking forward to the National Grants Management Association Annual Training that gets started this Tuesday. It’s always great getting to meet so many of you in person.

One line of questioning at the conference that I’m sure to get will be “certificate or certification.” So I thought I’d share my thoughts more broadly as next week focuses on the Certified Grants Management Specialist (CGMS) and we just finished 31 Days of Certified Grant Professionals (GPC).

Step back and look at where you are and where you want to go

Whether you’re looking at a certificate (which I think of as yours to keep) or a certification (re-cert requirements needed), you need to consider where you want to be. Either option is an investment in your skills, knowledge, qualifications, and marketability.

When I pursued my GMCPTM from Management Concepts, I was at a point in my consulting career at Booz Allen where I needed to commit deeply to a subject matter area (like grants) or get my PMP. That was the reality for me then and there. I had more opportunities on grant projects and wasn’t ready to commit to the recertification requirements. So, the certificate worked for me. And hey, I even ended up in a pretty cool role that blends grants and business acumen.

Would I pursue a CGMS or GPC now? No. I love grants. But I’m also a product manager. I have some other skills on my performance plan. Besides, I feel like I should be neutral.

You’re not me – you’re committed!

Now if you’ve committed yourself to a career in grants, save the money and invest in the certification. Hiring managers are adding the CGMS and/or GPC as a required or preferred credential for mid to senior level grant positions. Or maybe you’re reading this post and you’re committed to another field with a certification and seeing a similar trend. Regardless, these are the questions I’d ask myself:

  • Do the certification’s competencies support my short and long-term career goals?
  • Which areas would I need to study to pass the exam?
  • What are the certification’s recertification requirements?
  • Do I need to be certified by a certain deadline? And if it’s soon, do I have enough time to study?
  • Will my employer support my credential – in terms of time and costs?

Now if you find barriers in your pursuit of a certification, reach out to the organization’s in charge. You’ll often be able to find a study resources, test cost assistance, or others who can help draft a justification for your employer’s tuition reimbursement form.

But wait – you can do both

One thing to keep in mind is that pursuit of a certification does not mean that you can’t pursue a certificate concurrently. For instance, I frequently suggest to students looking at the CGMS to take the core courses for Management Concepts GMCPTM. These help students prepare for the CGMS exam. After earning their CGMS credential, they can apply CPEs from Management Concepts courses, finishing up their GMCPTM along the way. In a few years after the students have advanced in their careers, I often recommend looking at complimentary certificate programs, to help drive their careers forward.

So, no matter which career adventure you pursue, you need to remain committed to your professional development. You might as well pick up some badges along the way.

For more information on Management Concepts GMCPTM click here. Information on the CGMS can be found at and the GPC at

Written by:
Erica Preston
Grants & Assistance
Media Type:

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