Professional certification

Professional certification, trade certification, or professional designation, often called simply certification or qualification, is a designation earned by a person to assure qualification to perform a job or task. Not all certifications that use post-nominal letters are an acknowledgement of educational achievement, or an agency appointed to safeguard the public interest.


Certifications are earned from a professional society, university, a certification body, or from a private certifier, for some specific certifications (e.g., Microsoft, Cisco, etc.). Some tifications must be renewed periodically, or may be valid for a specific period of time (e.g., the lifetime of the product upon which the individual is certified). As a part of a complete renewal of an individual's certification, it is common for the individual to show evidence of continued learningoften falsely termed continuing educationor earning continuing education units (CEU).

Many certification programs are created, sponsored, or affiliated with professional associations, trade organizations, or private vendors interested in raising standards. Many of those programs completely independent from membership organizations enjoy association support and endorsement.

The growth of certification programs is also a reaction to the changing employment market. Certifications are portable, since they do not depend on one company's definition of a certain job. Certification stands out on the resume and the professional reference by being an impartial, third-party endorsement of an individual's professional knowledge and experience.[1]

Certifications are usually earned from a professional society or educational institute, not the government. However, a government agency can decree a certification is required by law for a person to be allowed to perform a task or job. Certification is different from professional licensure. In the United States, professional licenses are usually issued by state agencies, having as a requirement the university title for that profession. In other countries, licensing is granted by the professional society or college, but you need to certificate after some years (usually three to five) and so on thereafter. The certification assessment process, for some organizations, is very similar or even the same as licensure and may differ only in terms of legal status, while in other organizations, can be quite different and more comprehensive than that of licensure.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Standard 1100, defines the requirements of meeting the ANSI standard for being a certifying organization. According to ANSI Standard 1100, a professional certifying organization must meet two requirements:

  1. Deliver an assessment based on industry knowledge, independent from training courses or course providers.
  2. Grant a time-limited credential to anyone who meets the assessment standards.

Certifications are very common in aviation, construction, technology, environment, and other industrial sectors, as well as health care, business, Real estate broker and finance. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration regulates aviator certifications.

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) is a U.S.-based organization that sets rigorous standards for accreditation of certification programs based on the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (APA, AERA, NCME). Many members of the Association of Test Publishers (ATP) are also certification organizations.

Types of certifications

There are three general types of certification. Listed in order of development level and portability, they are: corporate (internal), product-specific, and profession-wide.

Corporate, or "internal" certifications, are made by a corporation or low-stakes organization for internal purposes. For example, a corporation might require a one-day training course for all sales personnel, after which they receive a certificate. While this certificate has limited portability – to other corporations, for example – it is the most simple to develop.

Product-specific certifications are more involved, and are intended to be referenced to a product across all applications. This approach is very prevalent in the information technology (IT) industry, where personnel are certified on a version of software or hardware. This type of certification is portable across locations (for example, different corporations that use that software), but not across other products. Another example could be the certifications issued for shipping personnel, which are under international standards even for the recognition of the certification body, under the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The most general type of certification is profession-wide. Certification in the medical profession is often offered by particular specialties. In order to apply professional standards, increase the level of practice, and protect the public, a professional organization might establish a certification. This is intended to be portable to all places a certified professional might work. Of course, this generalization increases the cost of such a program; the process to establish a legally defensible assessment of an entire profession is very extensive. An example of this is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which would not be certified for just one corporation or one piece of accountancy software but for general work in the profession.

Professional certificates awarded by universities

Many universities grant professional certificates as an award for the completion of an educational program. The curriculum of a professional certificate is most often in a focused subject matter. Many professional certificates have the same curriculum as master's degrees in the same subject. Many other professional certificates offer the same courses as master's degrees in the same subject, but require the student to take fewer total courses to complete the program. Some professional certificates have a curriculum that more closely resembles a baccalaureate major in the same field. The typical professional certificate program is between 200-300 class-hours in size. It is uncommon for a program to be larger or smaller than that. Most professional certificate programs are open enrollment, but some have admissions processes. A few universities put some of their professional certificates into a subclass they refer to as advanced professional certificates.

Some of the more commonly offered professional certificates include:

Advanced Professional Certificate

Advanced professional certificates are professional credentials designed to help professionals enhance their job performance and marketability in their respective fields. In many other countries, certificates are qualifications in higher education. In the United States, a certificate may be offered by an institute of higher education. These certificates usually signify that a student has reached a standard of knowledge of a certain vocational subject. Certificate programs can be completed more quickly than associate degrees and often do not have general education requirements.

An advanced professional certificate is a result of an educational process designed for individuals. Certificates are designed for both newcomers to the industry as well as seasoned professionals. Certificates are awarded by an educational program or academic institution. Completion of a certificate program indicates completion of a course or series of courses with a specific concentration that is different from an educational degree program. Course content for an advanced certificate is set forth through a variety of sources i.e. faculty, committee, instructors, and other subject matter experts in a related field. The end goal of an advanced professional certificate is so that professionals may demonstrate knowledge of course content at the end of a set period in time.

Institutions that offer advance professional certificates in various fields and industries include:

Areas of certification

Accountancy, auditing and finance

There are many professional bodies for accountants and auditors throughout the world; some of them are legally recognized in their jurisdictions. Public accountants are the accountancy and control experts that are legally certified in different jurisdictions to work in public practices, certifying accounts as statutory auditors, eventually selling advice and services to other individuals and businesses. Today, however, many work within private corporations, financial industry, and government bodies.

Accounting and external auditing

Cf. Accountancy qualifications and regulation

Internal auditing and fraud combat


In 1951, the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) administered the first Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) exam, which has evolved through the years into a four-part certification test called the Certified Administrative Professional - Organizational Management (CAP-OM). IAAP also offers the Certified Administrative Professional - Technology Applications (CAP-TA) exam, focusing on the Microsoft Office suite of products. Depending upon an individual's level of higher education, an applicant needs between two and four years of verifiable working experience as an administrative professional to sit for the exams.


Personal finance
Public finance



Aviators are certified through theoretical and in-flight examinations. Requirements for certifications are quite equal in most countries and are regulated by each National Aviation Authority. The existing certificates or pilot licenses are:

Licensing in these categories require not only examinations but also a minimum number of flight hours. All categories are available for Fixed-Wing Aircraft (airplanes) and Rotatory-Wing Aircraft (helicopters). Within each category, aviators may also obtain certifications in:

Usually, aviators must be certified also in their log books for the type and model of aircraft they are allowed to fly. Currency checks as well as regular medical check-ups with a frequency of 6 months, 12 months, or 36 months, depending on the type of flying permitted, are obligatory. An aviator can fly only if holding:

In Europe, the ANSP, ATCO & ANSP technicians are certified according to ESARRs (according to EU regulation 2096/2005 "Common Requirements").





In the United States, several communications certifications are conferred by the Electronics Technicians Association.

Computer technology

Certification is often used in the professions of software engineering and information technology.

Elections and voter registration

In the U.S., CERA (Certified Elections/Registration Administrator) is the highest level of certification available for election administrators. It is conferred by the National Association of Election Officials.


In the United States, several electronics certifications are provided by the Electronics Technicians Association.

Emergency management

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's EMI offers credentials and training opportunities for United States Citizens. Note that students do not have to be employed by FEMA or be a federal employee for some of the programs.[20]


Professional Engineering is any act of planning, designing, composing, measuring, evaluating, inspecting, advising, reporting, directing or supervising, or managing any of the foregoing, that requires the application of engineering principles and that concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public interest or the environment.

Facility management

Facility management can be defined as an aspect of engineering management science that deals with the planning, designing, coordination of space and maintenance of a built environment to enhance quality service management system. Service Quality System includes activities like security, maintenance, catering, and external as well as internal cleaning. In general, it is also the coordination and harmonization of various specialist disciplines to create the best possible working environment for staff.

Facility management is an interdisciplinary field devoted to the coordination of space, infrastructure, people and organization, often associated with the administration of office blocks, arenas, schools, convention centers, shopping complexes, hospitals, hotels, etc. However, FM facilitates on a wider range of activities than just business services and these are referred to as non-core functions.

Warehousing management

A warehouse management system (WMS) is a key part of the supply chain and primarily aims to control the movement and storage of materials within a warehouse and process the associated transactions, including shipping, receiving, putaway and picking. The systems also direct and optimize stock putaway based on real-time information about the status of bin utilization. A WMS monitors the progress of products through the warehouse. It involves the physical warehouse infrastructure, tracking systems, and communication between product stations.

More precisely, warehouse management involves the receipt, storage and movement of goods, (normally finished goods), to intermediate storage locations or to a final customer. In the multi-echelon model for distribution, there may be multiple levels of warehouses. This includes a central warehouse, a regional warehouses (serviced by the central warehouse) and potentially retail warehouses (serviced by the regional warehouses).

Enterprise risk management

Entrepreneurial profession


Environmental health

Explosive atmospheres

IECEx IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres covers the highly specialized field of explosion protection associated with the use of equipment in areas where flammable gases, liquids and combustible dusts may be present. This System provides the assurance that equipment is manufactured to meet safety standards, and that services such as installation, repair and overhaul also comply with IEC International Standards on safety. The United Nations, via UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), recommends the IEC and IECEx as the world’s best practice model for the verification of conformity to International Standards. It published a “Common Regulatory Framework” encompassing the use of IEC International Standards developed by IEC TC (Technical Committee) 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres, with proof of compliance demonstrated by IECEx.

Fiber Optics and Data Cabling


AG (Accredited Genealogist) conferred by the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen). CG (Certified Genealogist) conferred by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). CGL (Certified Genealogical Lecturer) conferred by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).

Health leadership

Healthcare quality

Hospitality and tourism

Industrial hygiene

Information quality

Information security

Insurance and risk management

In the United States, insurance professionals are licensed separately by each state. Many individuals seek one or more certifications to distinguish themselves from their peers. The most recognizable certifications are issued by five organizations:

American Institute For Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (AICPCU)

American College of Financial Services

International Center for Captive Insurance Education (ICCIE)

National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research

National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors in partnership with the College of Financial Planning

National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies

National Registry of Workers' Compensation Specialists

Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS)

Language education

TESOL is a large field of employment with widely varying degrees of regulation. Most provision worldwide is through the state school system of each individual country, and as such, the instructors tend to be trained primary- or secondary school teachers who are native speakers of the language of their pupils, and not of English. Though native speakers of English have been working in non-English speaking countries in this capacity for years, it was not until the last twenty-five years or so that there was any widespread focus on training particularly for this field. Previously, workers in this sort of job were anyone from backpackers hoping to earn some extra travel money to well-educated professionals in other fields doing volunteer work, or retired people. These sort of people are certainly still to be found, but there are many who consider TESOL their main profession.

One of the problems facing these full-time teachers is the absence of an international governing body for the certification or licensure of English language teachers. However, Cambridge University and its subsidiary body UCLES are pioneers in trying to get some degree of accountability and quality control to consumers of English courses, through their CELTA and DELTA programs. Trinity College London has equivalent programs, the CertTESOL and the LTCL DipTESOL. They offer initial certificates in teaching, in which candidates are trained in language awareness and classroom techniques, and given a chance to practice teaching, after which feedback is reported. Both institutions have as a follow-up a professional diploma, usually taken after a year or two in the field. Although the initial certificate is available to anyone with a high school education, the diploma is meant to be a post-graduate qualification and in fact can be incorporated into a master's degree program.

An increasing number of attorneys are choosing to be recognized as having special expertise in certain fields of law. According to the American Bar Association, a lawyer who is a certified specialist has been recognized by an independent professional certifying organization as having an enhanced level of skill and expertise, as well as substantial involvement in an established legal specialty. These organizations require a lawyer to demonstrate special training, experience and knowledge to ensure that the lawyer's recognition is meaningful and reliable. Lawyer conduct with regard to specialty certification is regulated by the states.

NBLSC is an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited organization providing Board Certification for US Lawyers. Board Certification is a rigorous testing and approval process that officially recognizes the extensive education and courtroom experience of attorneys. NBLSC provides Board Certification for Trial Lawyers & Trial Attorneys, Civil Lawyers, Criminal Lawyers, Family Lawyers and Social Security Disability Lawyers.

Logistics and transport

Logistician is the Profession in the logistics & transport sectors, including sea, air, land and rail modes. Professional qualification for logisticians usually carries post-nominal letters. Common examples include:

[36] (CSCB),




Churches have their own process of who may use various religious titles. Protestant churches typically require a Masters of Divinity, accreditation by the denomination and ordination by the local church in order for a minister to become a "Reverend". Those qualifications may or may not also give government authorization to solemnize marriages


Main article: Medical credentials

Board certification is the process by which a physician in the United States documents by written, practical or computer based testing, illustrating a mastery of knowledge and skills that define a particular area of medical specialization. The American Board of Medical Specialties, a not-for-profit organization, assists 24 approved medical specialty boards in the development and use of standards in the ongoing evaluation and certification of physicians.

Medical specialty certification in the United States is a voluntary process. While medical licensure sets the minimum competency requirements to diagnose and treat patients, it is not specialty specific.[37] Board certification demonstrates a physician’s exceptional expertise in a particular specialty or sub-specialty of medical practice.

Patients, physicians, health care providers, insurers and quality organizations regard certification as an important measure of a physician’s knowledge, experience and skills to provide quality health care within a given specialty.

Other professional certifications include certifications such as medical licenses, Membership of the Royal College of Physicians, Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, nursing board certification, diplomas in social work. The Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy certifies pharmacists that are knowledgeable about principles of geriatric pharmacotherapy and the provision of pharmaceutical care to the elderly. Additional certifying bodies relating to the medical field include:

Medical coding and billing

Peer support

NCPRP stands for “National Certified Peer Recovery Professional”, and the NCPRP credential and exam were developed in collaboration with the International Certification Board of Recovery Professionals (ICBRP) and is currently being administered by PARfessionals.

PARfessionals is a professional organization and all of the available courses are professional development and pre-certification courses.

The NCPRP credential and exam focus primarily on the concept of peer recovery through mental health and addiction recovery. It has the main purpose of training student-candidates on how to become peer recovery professionals who can provide guidance, knowledge or assistance for individuals who have had similar experiences.[41]

Through the support of the SJM Family Foundation, PARfessionals has developed the first globally recognized online training program for peer recovery professionals.[42]

Each student-candidate must complete several key steps which include initial registration; the pre-certification review course; and all applicable sections of the official application in order to become eligible to complete the final step, which is the NCPRP certification exam.[43]

The NCPRP credential is obtained once a participant successfully passes the NCPRP certification exam by the second attempt and is valid for five years.[44]

Physical asset management


Project management

Certification is of significant importance in the project management (PM) industry. Certification refers to the evaluation and recognition of the skills, knowledge and competence of a practitioner in the field.

Project management certifications come in a variety of flavors:

Combination of Competence-based, Knowledge-based, and Experience-based


Public relations

There are 15 professional associations from around the world offering the ' Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation and one offering the 'Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) designation. In 2008, the, after examining the more prevalent APR and ABC examination processes, determined that a core set of competencies should be part of a world standard to establish competency in the public relations profession.

Real estate

Renewable Energy



Customer relationship management

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It often involves using technology to organize, automate and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.



Conferred by the National Speakers Association, the Certified Speaking Professional® (CSP) is the speaking profession's international measure of professional platform competence. This certification is awarded by the National Speakers Association Only about 10% of the speakers who belong to the Global Speakers Federation (GSF) hold this designation. Those who have earned their certification have done so by demonstrating a track record of experience and expertise.

Supply chain management

Supply chain management (SCM) is the management of the flow of goods. It includes the movement and storage of raw materials, work-in-process inventory, and finished goods from point of origin to point of consumption. Interconnected or interlinked networks, channels and node businesses are involved in the provision of products and services required by end customers in a supply chain.[2] Supply chain management has been defined as the "design, planning, execution, control, and monitoring of supply chain activities with the objective of creating net value, building a competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand and measuring performance globally.

SCM draws heavily from the areas of operations management, logistics, procurement, and information technology, and strives for an integrated approach.


Australian Institute of Certified Practising Trainers administers the Certified Practising Trainer (CPT). Conferred by the Australian Institute of Certified Practising Trainers, this certification is the hallmark for professional trainers.

Other applications


Many political commentators, often criticize professional or occupational licensing, especially medical and legal licensing, for restricting the supply of services and therefore making them more expensive, often putting them out of reach of the poor.[53][54]

Computer technologies

The current proliferation of IT certifications (both offered and attained), like the FSI's IT baseline protection certification, has led some technologists to question their value. Proprietary content that has been distributed on the Internet allows some to gain credentials without the implied depth or breadth of expertise. Certifying agencies have responded in various ways: Some now incorporate hands-on elements, anti-cheating methodologies or have expanded their content. Others have expired and restructured their certificate programs or raised their fees to deter abuse.

Certification programs that take into account length of service and demonstrated experience via industry peer and employer recommendation avoid some of the issues associated with purely passing an examination; however, certification remains a contentious issue.

Also, some professional certifications require a criminal record check before the certification can be approved. The presence of a criminal history when applying for certification may be grounds for denial of certification.

See also


  1. Phillip Barnhart, The Guide to National Professional Certification Programs (1997), HRD Press. ISBN 0-8493-9960-2 Retrieved electronically 7 July 2009.
  2. Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate. "Advanced Professional Certificate in Real Estate | Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies". Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  3. "Certificate Programs".
  4. "NYU Law - Advanced Professional Certificate Programs: Advanced Certificate in Law and Business". Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  5. "Advanced Professional Certificate". 2011-10-14. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  6. "Stanford Advanced Project Management Certificate (SAPM)". Stanford University.
  7. "Advanced Professional Certificate". University of San Francisco.
  8. AAFM, Investopedia Dictionary.
  9. Intellectual Property Office, Intellectual Property Office, Concept House, Cardiff Road, Newport, NP10 8QQ. "Intellectual Property Office". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  10. Intellectual Property Office, Intellectual Property Office, Concept House, Cardiff Road, Newport, NP10 8QQ. "Intellectual Property Office". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  11. "American Academy of Financial Management".
  12. "Mortgage Underwriter Certification - Underwriting Training Classes". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  13. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. "The GAFM Global Academy of Finance and Management - Certified Management Consulting Certified Finanical AFA Accredited Financial Analyst Certification - AMA Accredited Management Accountant - MMC Master Management Consultant Chartered Economist - The GAFM Global Academy of Finance and Management ® Certified Financial Analyst Planner USA Dubai Training Accredited Certification". Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  16. Chartered Wealth Manager, Forbes and Investopedia Dictionary.
  17. Chartered Asset Manager, Forbes and Investopedia Dictionary.
  18. Chartered Trust and Estate Planner, Forbes and Investopedia Dictionary.
  19. Chartered Portfolio Manager, Forbes and Investopedia Dictionary.
  20. EMI Program Info
  22. IEA |
  23. International Entrepreneurs Association|
  24. "Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM)". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  25. "International Association for Information and Data Quality". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  27. "Farm Mutual Director Certification Program". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  28. "NAMIC Professional Farm Mutual Manager Designation". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  29. "GAFM".
  30. "APICS Certification Programs - CPIM". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  31. "APICS Certification Programs - CSCP". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  32. "APICS Certification Programs - CLTD". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  33. "APICS Endorsement Programs - SCOR-P". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  34. How to Become a Chartered Member, CILT
  35. Canadian Society of Customs Brokers American.
  36. What Board Certification Means. Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  40. "PARfessionals, LLC". Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  41. Hendry, P., Hill, T., & Rosenthal, H. "Peer Services Toolkit: A Guide to Advancing" (PDF). ACMHA: The College for Behavioral Health Leadership and Optum. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  42. "Student-Candidate Registration". PARfessionals, LLC. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  43. NCPRP Candidate Handbook. PARfessionals, LLC. 2014. p. 51.
  44. Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada website.
  45. Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals website.
  46. American Society of Sanitary Engineering (ASSE) website.
  48. "Certified Project Manager Accredited Institute Project Management Certifications AAPM ® American Academy of Project Management Association Institute International Training Certifications Credentials Project Managers Human Resources Project Risk CIPM". Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  49. Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM) | FAI Home Page. (2007-04-25). Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  50. "APICS Certification Programs - CSCP". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  51. "APICS Endorsement Programs - SCOR-P". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  52. Segal, David (17 December 2011). "For Law Schools, a Price to Play the A.B.A.'s Way". The New York Times.
  53. Professional Licensing Watch, Liberal Division - Hit & Run. (2010-09-17). Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
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