Professional certification

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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, or from a private certifier, for some specific certifications (e.g., Microsoft, Cisco, etc.). Some certifications 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 learning—often termed continuing education—or 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 about 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[edit]

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 an 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[edit]

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 universities that offer extensive ranges of professional certificates include Duke,[2] Georgetown,[3] Harvard,[4] UC Berkeley,[5] and UC San Diego.[6] Some of the more commonly offered professional certificates include:

Areas of certification[edit]

Accountancy, auditing and finance[edit]

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[edit]

Cf. Accountancy qualifications and regulation

Internal auditing and fraud combat[edit]


(CPS) Certified Professional Secretary (CAP-OM) Certified Administrative Professional - Organizational Management (CAP-TA) Certified Administrative Professional - Technology Applications

In 1951, 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 fours years of verifiable working experience as an administrative professional to sit for the exams. {Added by Andrea Sanderson-Miller/2014-01-22, IAAP Member# 93906144, Ottawa Chapter}


Personal finance[edit]
Public finance[edit]


Aerospace Technicians assemble, service, test, operate, and repair systems associated with both expendable and reusable space launch vehicles, payloads, related laboratories, and ground support equipment. Because space-related activities are evolving, professional certifications vary by country and sometimes by company within a country. Credentials are not yet closely regulated but have evolved over time. Most are performance-based due to the hands-on nature of the work and the importance of assuring the quality and safety of activities and operations in this demanding field.

Currently performance based certifications for aerospace technicians in the United States of America are patterned after the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Airframe and Powerplant certificates for aircraft mechanics. The regulatory arm of the FAA for space is the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST).[14]

Presently the only national credentials meeting the ISO-17024 standards for certification and holding an FAA Safety Approval for the credentialing process are those conferred by the SpaceTEC® - a National Science Foundation National Resource Center.[15] These certifications employ a proctored computer-based written examination followed by an oral examination (if required) and a practical performance-based skills examination administered by a trained and certified SpaceTEC® Examiner (STE).

The existing certifications for aerospace technicians include a Core certification for entry level employees and Concentrations in specialized disciplines for journeymen technicians:

Usually candidates for aerospace certification must qualify through a combination of experience and education, meeting at least one of the following criteria:

Specialized Concentration exams for journeyman credentials require a Core Certification.


Art & creative / cultural management[edit]


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 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 [6] (according to EU regulation 2096/2005 "Common Requirements").



Contract management[edit]

Contract management or contract administration is the management of contracts made with customers, vendors, partners, or employees.The personnel involved in Contract Administration required to negotiate, support and manage effective contracts are expensive to train and retain. Contract management includes negotiating the terms and conditions in contracts and ensuring compliance with the terms and conditions, as well as documenting and agreeing on any changes or amendments that may arise during its implementation or execution. It can be summarized as the process of systematically and efficiently managing contract creation, execution, and analysis for the purpose of maximizing financial and operational performance and minimizing risk.

Computer technology[edit]

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

Customer relationship management[edit]

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.

Economic development[edit]

The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) Training Institute has been the nation’s most comprehensive education initiative dedicated to the economic development finance industry. Through the Institute’s vast course offerings and professional interactions, economic developers and finance professionals from both the public and private sectors have gained valuable knowledge and access to the entire development finance industry. Training Institute courses cover a wide range of topics. CDFA’s Development Finance Certified Professional (DFCP) Program is an intense training course learning experience and is the industry's only comprehensive development finance professional certification program. The DFCP Program is designed to produce graduates with a comprehensive knowledge of development finance concepts, tools and applicability as well as a deep understanding of the entire development finance spectrum. To be considered for graduation from the DFCP Program, individuals must attend a total of six CDFA Training Institute courses and complete a single comprehensive exam.[17]

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC), based in Washington, D.C., recognizes economic developers around the world who have achieved a level of excellence in their understanding of the tools and programs of economic development.[18] In order to become a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), one must sit through the exam and fulfill a number of requirements.[19]

The Business District Executive Management Certificate Program (BDM), based at Rutgers University (Newark, NJ, USA), School of Public Affairs & Administration, provides professionals and students with six (6) CEU credits in a user-friendly, four module, online learning platform that offers an exploration and training into the theories and practices that identify the multisectoral profession of business district management as a form of public-private partnership. [7]

Elections and voter registration[edit]

Facility management[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Entrepreneurial profession[edit]

Main article: Professional certification and qualification (Entrepreneurship)


Explosive atmospheres[edit]

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.


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[edit]

Healthcare quality[edit]

Hospitality and tourism[edit]

Industrial hygiene[edit]

Information quality[edit]

Information security[edit]

Insurance and risk management[edit]

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 four organizations:

American Institute For Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (AICPCU)

American College of Financial Services

National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research

National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies

National Registry of Workers' Compensation Specialists

Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS)

Language education[edit]

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 international governing body for the certification or licenture 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.

Legal affairs[edit]

An increasing number of lawyers are choosing to be recognized as having special knowledge and experience by becoming certified specialists in certain fields of law. According to the American Bar Association, a lawyer that 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 as a certified specialist 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[edit]

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:

[28] (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 and/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.[29] Board certification demonstrates a physician’s exceptional expertise in a particular specialty and/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, 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. The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies administers a voluntary accreditation program for law enforcement agencies. Additional certifying bodies relating to the medical field include:

Physical asset management[edit]


Project management[edit]

Certification is of significant importance in the project management (PM) industry. Certification refers to the evaluation and recognition of the skills, knowledge, and/or 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[edit]

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[edit]



Customer relationship management[edit]

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[edit]

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, [9] this certification is the hallmark for professional trainers.

Other applications[edit]


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 poor people.[34][35]

Computer technologies

The current proliferation of IT certifications (both offered and attained)[citation needed], 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, and/or raised their fees to deter abuse.

Certification programs that take into account length of service, and demonstrated experience, via industry peer and/or 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 for the certification to be approved. The presence of a criminal history when applying for certification may be grounds for denial of certification.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Phillip Barnhart, The Guide to National Professional Certification Programs (1997), HRD Press. ISBN 0-8493-9960-2 Retrieved electronically 7 July 2009.
  2. ^ Professional Certificates - Duke Continuing Studies. Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  3. ^ Continuing Education Courses at the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies | Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  4. ^ Online Certificates & On-Campus Professional Certificates at Harvard. Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  5. ^ Certificates and Programs | UC Berkeley Extension. Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  6. ^ UC San Diego Extension. Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  7. ^ AAFM, Investopedia Dictionary.
  8. ^ "American Academy of Financial Management". 
  9. ^ "Mortgage Underwriter Certification - Underwriting Training Classes". Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Chartered Wealth Manager, Forbes and Investopedia Dictionary.
  11. ^ Chartered Asset Manager, Forbes and Investopedia Dictionary.
  12. ^ Chartered Trust and Estate Planner, Forbes and Investopedia Dictionary.
  13. ^ Chartered Portfolio Manager, Forbes and Investopedia Dictionary.
  14. ^ [1] FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
  15. ^ [2] SpaceTEC National Resource Center for Aerospace Technical Education.
  16. ^ "Six Sigma Black Belt Certification - Sig Sigma Black Belt Professional (SSBBP) Trademark". Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  17. ^ CDFA's Development Finance Certified Professional Program
  18. ^ "International Economic Development Council". Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  19. ^ "International Economic Development Council". Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  20. ^ IEA |
  21. ^ International Entrepreneurs Association|
  22. ^ "Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM)". Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ "International Association for Information and Data Quality". Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  25. ^ "Farm Mutual Director Certification Program". Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  26. ^ "NAMIC Professional Farm Mutual Manager Designation". Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  27. ^ How to Become a Chartered Member, CILT
  28. ^ Canadian Society of Customs Brokers American.
  29. ^ What Board Certification Means. Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  30. ^ [4] Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada website.
  31. ^ [5] Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals website.
  32. ^ American Society of Sanitary Engineering (ASSE) website.
  33. ^ Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM) | FAI Home Page. (2007-04-25). Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
  34. ^ Segal, David (17 December 2011). "For Law Schools, a Price to Play the A.B.A.'s Way". The New York Times. 
  35. ^ Professional Licensing Watch, Liberal Division - Hit & Run. (2010-09-17). Retrieved on 2013-10-05.
 35. "Chartered Institute of Project Management". 36. "Chartered Institute of Supply Chain Management". 37. "Certified Institute of Warehousing and Materials Management". 38. "Institute of Customer Relationship Management". 

External links[edit]