NHA vs NCHSE vs NOCTI: What’s the Difference? Blog Feature
Chris Zook

By: Chris Zook on April 9th, 2019

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NHA vs NCHSE vs NOCTI: What’s the Difference?

NCHSE | National Healthcareer Association (NHA) | NOCTI

Health science certifications are some of the most important and varied credentials for students to earn in preparation for their careers.

But with so many different third-party certifying agencies in the United States, how can you keep track of all the certifications that are available from all the different agencies?

To help you sort it out, these are three of the best-known health science organizations in the country:

  • NHA

Depending on where you teach, you may have to prep students for one of these organizations’ certifications.

If you’ve ever taught in another state, you may have had to prep for a different certification.

So what are these organizations, anyway? If they all do the same thing, why do there have to be three health science organizations dedicated to certifications? 

As we’re about to discuss, these three institutions are all very different from one another — and for good reason!

National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

01-nha-logoFounded: 1989

Headquarters: Leawood, Kansas

Expertise: Health science advocacy

Purpose: Developing, advancing, and advocating for frontline healthcare workers to improve patient care.

The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) is a prolific certification agency that has the support of multiple states and thousands of teachers nationwide.

While the organization states that its purpose revolves around advocacy for frontline healthcare workers, it’s important to note that NHA offers eight different certifications for health science students.

These certifications are:

  1. Clinical medical assistant (CCMA)
  2. Phlebotomy technician (CPT)
  3. Medical administrative assistant (CMAA)
  4. EKG technician (CET)
  5. Electronic health record specialist (CEHRS)
  6. Pharmacy technician (CPhT)
  7. Billing and coding specialist (CBCS)
  8. Patient care technician/assistant (CPCT/A)

All of these certifications are officially recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) to vouch for the NHA’s legitimacy as an expert in health careers.

The certifications themselves also act as proof competency and capability for career and technical education (CTE) students who pursue health science.

In many ways, that makes the NHA crucial to the future success of today’s students.

Passing a relevant exam and earning a certification is the #1 step to actually starting a career after leaving school.

In fact, it may be against the law in your state for someone to get hired for a particular career without a certification to back up their skills.

But NHA doesn’t just want to be a certifying agency. They’re also interested in becoming a central focus of American healthcare careers in general.

That’s why they also offer a job board and a whole slew of employer resources. They’re not just helping students get started on their careers — they’re helping employers and job prospects find one another!

So is NHA a certification agency? Yes.

But they do so much more than that.

As NHA certifications gain more credibility and recognition throughout the country, you can expect NHA to expand the breadth of its services as well.

After all, their focus is in their organization’s name — the National Healthcareer Association.

National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE)

02-nchse-logoFounded: 1991

Headquarters: Lansing, Michigan

Expertise: Standards

Purpose: Connecting individuals and organizations with a vested interest in health science.

The National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) is a health science agency that’s focused on education and educators, as opposed to students.

Still, they offer a single certificate — which they call an “assessment” — that evaluates a student’s understanding of the national health science standards and objectives.

The assessment itself is not actually offered through NCHSE. Instead, it works through Precision Exams.

Even so, the information in the Precision Exams assessment is based on NCHSE’s own standards.

These standards and objectives were created because NCHSE representatives often heard health science teachers talk about the lack of accountability criteria in modern health science education.

To fix the problem, NCHSE developed a list of standards with the purpose of helping health science educators know what they had to teach and helping health science students with understanding what they had to learn.

NCHSE updates these standards every so often, and the most recent version dates back to May 2015.

While that may seem dated when it comes to the rapid advancements in healthcare, it’s important to note that NCHSE isn’t certifying people to be doctors or surgeons or anything along those lines.

They’re preparing students who need to know the basics of medicine and how their particular career relates to those basics.

Because basic information — like the parts of the human skeleton or mathematics — rarely changes, NCHSE can afford to go a few years before updating their standards again.

All in all, NCHSE is an educator-focused producer of standards and corresponding certification materials to ensure all health science students have a baseline understanding of what’s expected of them in their careers.

While they may not administer the exam themselves, they’re still an important organization when it comes to prepping students for their futures.

National Occupational Competency & Testing Institute (NOCTI)

03-nocti-logoFounded: 1966

Headquarters: Big Rapids, Michigan

Expertise: Certification

Purpose: Building a competent workforce through creative learning solutions.  

The National Occupational Competency & Testing Institute (NOCTI) is a pure certifying agency that works in all branches of CTE and even corporate careers.

As a result, NOCTI offers the most comprehensive view of a certification, covering everything from pre-testing to scoring and even college credit recommendations.

NOCTI’s biggest goal is to offer the most relevant and practical certification opportunities to students who know what career they want to pursue.

If that sounds like a lot of coverage for a single certification agency, that’s because NOCTI has been around since 1966.

As the oldest agency on this list, NOCTI has had the most time and experience in designing premium certifications to indicate someone’s skills are on track for starting their career.

NOCTI is also the only certifying agency on this list to provide an in-depth look at the resources available to individual states — including how well NOCTI tests correlate to state standards!

They have specific information on 12 of the US states:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Georgia
  3. Indiana
  4. Kentucky
  5. Michigan
  6. Missouri
  7. New York
  8. Oregon
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. Virginia
  11. West Virginia
  12. Wyoming

This grouping of states may seem random, but it’s where NOCTI knows that their tests work best.

Incidentally, this also makes NOCTI the best agency on this list when it comes to determining what you need to prepare to pursue a certain certification in one of those states.

The end result of pursuing NOCTI’s resources is getting a Workforce Competency Credential Flyer, which is the physical copy of the NOCTI certification in your students’ subject areas.

Altogether, NOCTI is a straight-up certifying agency that’s 100% focused on providing top-notch, up-to-date, and relevant certifications for American CTE students.

NHA vs NCHSE vs NOCTI: Which Certifying Agency Do You Use? 

Which organization’s exam do you include in your classroom?

Do you have thoughts on the purposes of these agencies? Does one stick out to you more than the others?

We want to hear from you!

Let us know what you think about NHA, NCHSE, NOCTI, and their certifications in the comment section below!


About Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a contributing author to the AES blog. He enjoys everything about online marketing, data science, user experience, and corgis.