Is there a difference between training, certification, qualification, and education?
It is without a doubt that there is a difference. I know you immediately think there is an overlap in each of these. You are not wrong. However, identifying how you define them shapes the differences and their importance. Many debates, arguments, and discussions surround this topic at firehouses nationwide. The following will define or describe each of them briefly.
Training is defined as the act of teaching a particular skill or behavior. The authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) tends to implement training in accordance with (IAW) national consensus standards, laws, regulations, or other requirements. Training is integral to preparing a student with hands-on experience for certification and qualification.
Certification is defined as an action or process of providing an official document attesting to a status or level of achievement. NFPA 1000 defines it as an authoritative attestation; demonstrated knowledge and skills are necessary. Many of us have experience attaining certifications such as FF I, FF II, Fire Officer I, and many others. Certification affirms that you have received training and attained the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to perform varying functions on and off the fire ground.
Qualifications are a quality or accomplishment that makes someone suitable for a particular job or activity. The training you have received to attain the certification prepares you for the AHJ requirements set forth to be suitable for jobs and activities. A prime example is a firefighter who arrives at your department and presents existing certifications. The AHJ conducts additional training and performance-based testing IAW with standards, policy, and procedure to ensure the firefighter is suitable based on their KSAs.
Education can be defined as the process of receiving systematic instruction, typically referred to as college-level coursework. It is not lost that applying a process of systemic instruction is part of training, certification, and qualifications. However, the intent here of defining education is meant to align with the National Professional Development Model.
Why is defining these of great importance to a department?
It shapes the tenets of a progressive training and professional development program for ALL department members. Adopting these tenets into your training and professional development programs will better prepare the organization for success. They will ensure your programs and service delivery align with applicable national consensus standards.
Written by Charles J. Dickinson,
Member - NEPA Consulting LLC,
President - IAFF Local F169
Captain - Picatinny Arsenal Fire Department