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Credential Evaluation and Credential Recognition: What is the Difference?

Wednesday | June 28, 2017 | by Shaunna-Marie Kerr

Your education is the foundation of your career, and although there may be challenges to using your foreign credentials in Canada or the United States, you should not have to start over. For an internationally trained professional, exploring career pathways begins with an understanding of the value of the education you received outside of your new country of residence. Obtaining a credential evaluation is often the first step a skilled immigrant can take to gain access to employment opportunities outside of their country of education. A credential evaluation can help you gain recognition for your academic history, but it is not the same thing as credential recognition. Although credential evaluation and credential recognition are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two distinct (though related) concepts.

Credential Evaluation

Foreign credential evaluation is an expert analysis of a foreign degree or diploma. A credential evaluation analyzes the education you received in any country in the world and provides a Canadian or American equivalency. Neither Canada nor the United States has a national education ministry to evaluate foreign degrees, so employers, regulatory bodies, and academic institutions often rely on independent credential examiners. In some cases, they perform their own evaluations or will accept evaluations completed only by a preferred examiner. A proper credential evaluation can be completed only by experts who have the necessary insight into, and knowledge of, international education systems. World Education Services (WES) is one example of a credential evaluation provider and has delivered evaluations to more than one million people since 1974.

The process for credential evaluation services differs according to their internal processes and requirement. At WES, after an applicant has mailed all required documents to WES for evaluation, a credential evaluator is assigned to verify the authenticity of each document. Credentials are then assessed according to various criteria, including:

  • Your country’s educational system
  • The status of the institution you attended
  • The content of your program of study
  • Any entry or graduation requirements you had to meet

This information is then measured against Canadian or American standards, and all grades and courses converted to the correct Canadian or American equivalency depending upon which country you have requested. Once this initial evaluation has been completed, it is reviewed for accuracy and approval by a senior credential evaluator.

Getting a credential evaluation is an essential step in gaining access to the opportunities that you have earned by completing your educational qualifications. As explained by Beka Tavartkiladze, Assistant Director and Head of Evaluation Services at World Education Services, “Credential evaluation is a vehicle for gaining the recognition of foreign credentials, and is one of the most important aspects of global mobility.”

Credential Recognition

Although getting a credential evaluation is an important part of engaging with the Canadian or American labour market, credential recognition is another important piece of the employment puzzle for skilled immigrants. Credential recognition is provided by the “end users” of a credential evaluation. An end user is anyone you need to provide proof of your academic accomplishments. As an example, for employment purposes, an end user would be the company or organization you want to work for. For educational purposes, an end user would be a university or college you are interested in attending. For gaining entry into a regulated profession, an end user would be the regulatory body in the location you want to work.
As a skilled immigrant, you can be proud of what you have accomplished in obtaining your degree or diploma, and confident that you have earned the right to work in your field of education. Agencies like WES can evaluate your education and encourage a wider recognition of foreign credentials, but only end users have the power to recognize these evaluations. Timothy Owen, Deputy Executive Director of WES, explains the relationship this way: “It is important to understand that a credential evaluation report is an advisory opinion and that it is up to these end users to recognize the value of the education described in the report.”

The key phrase in that statement is advisory opinion; credential evaluation services, including WES, do not have the authority to insist that employers or other end users have to accept the report that they provide. For example, although WES is capable of evaluating engineering degrees and diplomas, many professional licensing bodies in the field of engineering prefer to do their own evaluations of applicants’ academic records. Similarly, some employers may want specific information to be determined through their evaluations and insist on finding that information themselves.

“Organizations like WES are responsible for providing a written report with an advisory opinion on how a foreign credential compares to one earned in Canada,” Tim states. “Academic institutions, professional licensing bodies, and employers have the responsibility to recognize the value of the foreign credential.”

Because recognition of these reports varies from employer to employer, and across academic institutions and regulatory bodies, it is important to determine whether there is a specific evaluator or evaluation that will be recognized by the end user of your choice. Once you have identified who you need to send your credential evaluation to, you can contact them to find out their specific credential evaluation requirements.


Individuals educated abroad rely on employers, regulatory bodies, and academic institutions to recognize their academic credentials. When these credentials are not recognized, individuals can end up underemployed, underpaid, and unable to achieve their aspirations and contribute fully in their new country of residence. In these cases, employers also end up losing out on top talent and highly skilled employees. By empowering skilled immigrants and educating end users on the value and validity of credential evaluation reports, WES believes that there will be higher success rates for labour market inclusion and higher outcomes for employers in terms of productivity and performance. As a skilled immigrant, if you are clear about what is required and deliberate about your intentions when obtaining a credential evaluation, your chances of receiving recognition will be greatly increased.

Are you interested in learning more about the differences between credential evaluation and credential recognition? Watch our on-demand webinar on this topic.

Shaunna-Marie Kerr

Shaunna-Marie Kerr is the Program Manager at WES Global Talent Bridge Canada.