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Certification Management System vs Candidate Management System: What Is the Difference?

by | Certification

As members of the certification, licensing, and professional qualifications industry, you have probably heard the terms candidate management system, certification management system, and test registration/scheduling system.

Understanding the similarities between a certification management system vs a candidate management system will help you determine which kind of system meets your needs.

Candidate Management System

The candidate management system focuses on the applicants’ experience from when they apply to when they become eligible to take the exam.

Programs with simple applications that don’t require much eligibility information in the registration process are well suited for the candidate management platform.

Candidate management systems are typically developed by testing agencies or administrators with a focus on registering the person for the test. Often they lack tools to support additional credentialing processes like renewals or recertification.

Certification Management System

A certification management system is a candidate management system. The primary difference is that a certification management system focuses on the entire certification lifecycle. In addition to supporting the initial application process, a certification management system will also support recertification. Robust platforms may also support continuing education management, reinstatement, and eligibility requirements.

Comparison: Certification Management System vs Candidate Management System

Area Candidate Management Certification Management

The purpose of the system is to qualify persons interested in taking the exam for the credential.

Strength is the initial application process.

They are often sponsored or developed by testing companies for IT certifications that do not have renewal requirements.

The purpose of the system is to manage the life cycle of the individual in the credential, initial application through renewal.

It may be a stand-alone system or a module within a customer relationship, association, or learning management system.

A certification management system is a candidate management system.


Easy exam registration process.

Ideal for programs that do not require much information beyond personal contact information.

Seamless flow from initial application to recertification (or renewal) for a unified certificant experience.

Ideal for organizations with more complex programs.

Applicant demographic information

May be submitted as a part of the registration process.

Gathering information beyond the system’s standard fields may require customization.

In some limited systems, the applicant may not be able to update their own information.

May be submitted as a part of the registration process.

Typically supports the inclusion of gathering additional information for reporting.

Usually will offer account registration and self-service.

Eligibility Paths Programs with multiple eligibility paths may have multiple application options (each path has a separate application). Can lead to one applicant with multiple applications. Applicants should be able to switch from one path to another in the application itself without starting a new application.
Test vendor integration:

Test vendor integration is usually pretty tight if it is with the sponsoring testing company.

Variability in regards to integration to other testing administrators.

Most certification systems support integration with more than one testing delivery provider. These integrations will include authorization to test, scheduling confirmation, and score reporting.
Data ownership

Varies by contract.

If the testing provider manages the application management process, the program may not have access to the data until after the candidate passes the exam.

Program demographic metrics may be limited.

Data is owned by the client organization throughout the certification lifecycle.

This means you will have access to those who apply and do not complete the process or who do not pass the exam.

Choosing What Will Work Long Term

A certification management system is a candidate management system, but a candidate management system is not a certification management system. Unfortunately, this nuance often gets lost in the “what kind of system” discussion.

New programs just starting out might do well in the first couple of years with a candidate management system. When it is time to recertify, they will need to think through how they will handle those rules and how to track recertification requirements. This often leads to needing a new system just for recertification, if applicable.

Or, new programs can look for an end-to-end solution that manages the entire certification process. While a certification management system may be a larger initial investment, the flexibility to add additional certification processes without needing to acquire new technology will support program growth over time.

Getting Started with Heuristic Solutions

Heuristics Solutions provides software solutions for certification and licensure boards that can improve your process efficiency and drive down costs. For more information on if a certification management system vs a candidate management system will be better for your program, connect with us on our contact page or schedule a meeting with one of our expert team members.

Heuristic Solutions is a leader in software and technology for certification, licensure, and accreditation. Partner with us today, and we’ll modernize your system to better serve your organization.


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