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Blog Feature

By: Daniel D. Lane, BS, RPSGT, CCSH Immediate Past President Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists, and Rita Brooks, MEd., RPSGT, R. EEG/EP T. President AAST, on March 22nd, 2018

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Certificates, Credentials & Degrees – Do You Know the Difference?

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There continues to be a misconception between credentialing and certificate programs, and the proper way to display professional credentials, even within the sleep profession. Do you know the difference? .

Although there is a similarity between the two terms, there is significant difference between the meaning of the two achievements and in the appropriate use of credentials and acronyms, particularly those acronyms suggesting a credential has been attained upon completion of an educational certificate program.

A credential is awarded following an advanced level examination which follows rigorous exam development protocols, is psychometrically validated, and is delivered through a third-party testing service. A certificate is awarded for completion of an educational program to gain knowledge in a specific area. Examples of credentials in our profession include the Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) and the Certificate of Clinical Sleep Health (CCSH). The Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT) is also a credential, however this is a time limited (three-year) stepping stone to the RPSGT credential for entry level technicians.  The CPSGT must earn the RPSGT credential within 3 years or cease using the credential.Examples of educational certificates are polysomnography education programs (PSGT) and the clinical sleep educator (CSE) certificate. A certificate is not a credential.

Recertification is a demonstration of ongoing education and learning in the profession and a demonstration of continued competence. Those holding RPSGT or CCSH credentials must recertify every five years, which requires earning 50 continuing education credits during the five-year window, retaking and passing the credentialing examination, or cease using the credential. 

Most organizations require practitioners to have a credential before using a professional title. Once a person successfully passes an advanced level exam, and earns that credential, they have shown they are competent and possess the knowledge, skills and abilities inherent in attaining a professional title. The education attained in a certificate program or an educational degree program in a healthcare profession entitles one to sit for a credentialing examination – not to display an acronym signifying completion of the educational program, unless that program is an accepted degree program.

When a person completes a certificate program, no professional title has been earned. An educational degree is awarded when one completes an educational program with a recognized degree, such as an Associate Degree, Bachelor degree, Masters or a Doctorate degree. Those who achieve these degrees are entitled to and proudly display these educational credentials, generally at the highest level achieved.  Certificate programs do not confer a degree or a credential. 

As an example, most organizations require those who work in the healthcare field to complete Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification. CPR is an educational program that provides knowledge in a specific area. Alike, CPR, the acronyms PSGT, and CSE are nonprofessional titles and should not be used in the form of a credential. Whereas, a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Master of Education (MEd.) degree is validly displayed, generally preceding a credential such as RPSGT or CCSH.  There is an order to listing multiple sleep credentials; the highest non-sleep degree is listed first followed by the highest sleep related degree. An example of that is BS, RPSGT, CCSH.

The BRPT and the AAST have joined forces to educate the healthcare arena, including practitioners in the sleep field, and to eliminate the misconception between credentialing and certificate programs as well as the incorrect use of acronyms that accompany a certificate of learning displayed as an actual credential. It is important for employers, clients, and the patients that we serve to know that professional qualifications have been attained by those who advise and treat them.

For our credential holders and members, a professional title is very important and there is a well-deserved distinction between an advanced level credential and a certificate program. Display those RPSGT and CCSH credentials proudly and correctly!

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We hope you will join us for The AAST 2018 Annual Meeting – Sleep Education for the Sleep Community - in Indianapolis September 28-30th, where you will find a unique event that will provide forward-thinking education to expand your professional skills. This is an opportunity to network with our growing community of sleep professionals and representatives from the AAST and the BRPT, who will be in attendance to provide more information about this topic and more, and to jointly celebrate the 40th Anniversary of these premier organizations!