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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. Many certifications are used as post-nominal letters indicating an earned privilege from an oversight professional body acting to safeguard the public interest.


Certifications are earned from a Professional society and, in general, must be renewed periodically, or may be valid for a specific period of time (e.g., the life-time 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).

Powerful forces—-the professionals themselves—-work to keep certification substantial and worthwhile.

Most certification programs are created, sponsored, or affiliated with professional associations and trade organizations interested in raising standards.

Even 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.

Certification allows individuals to participate in their own professional destiny.

It is important to note that certifications are usually earned from a professional society or educational institute, not the government. If a demonstration of ability or knowledge is required by law before being allowed to perform a task or job, this is referred to as licensure. In the United States, professional licenses are usually issued by state agencies. The assessment process is often similar, even the same; certification and licensure differ only in terms of legal status.

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

The National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) is a US-based organization that helps certification bodies, primarily in healthcare and related fields, by providing them with information on the latest trends and issues of concern to practitioners and organizations focused on certification, obtaining licenses, and human resource development. 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 also is the simplest 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.

The most general type of certification is profession-wide. In order to apply professional standards, increase the level of practice, and possibly protect the public (though this is also the domain of licensure), a professional organization might establish a certification. This is intended to be portable to all places a certificant might work. Of course, this generalizability 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, who would not be certified for just one corporation or one piece of accountancy software but for general work in the profession.

Areas of certification

In accountancy

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


British qualified accountants: American qualified accountants

There are non-statutory accountancy qualifications that are established by the industries, such as:


Personal Finance

Information Technology

Public Finance

In aviation

Aviators (Aviation Pilots) are certified through theoretical and in-flight examinations. Requirements for certifications are quite equal in most countries and 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:
  • A valid pilot license
  • A valid medical certificate
  • Valid certifications for the type of aircraft and type of flight.

In Europe, the ANSP, ATCO & ANSP technicians are certified according to ESARR[626] (according to EU regulation 2096/2004 "Common Requirements").

In business

see main article at Professional certification

In chiropractic

see main article at List of Chiropractic Credentials

In computer technology

see main article at Professional certification
Certification is often used in the professions of software engineering and information technology.

In economic development

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.In order to become a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) one must sit through the exam and fulfill a number of requirements []

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.

See also

In language teaching

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 that are native speakers of the language of their pupils, not 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 Universitymarker 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 roughly 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.

In legal affairs

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.

In logistics & transport

Logistician is the Profession in the logistics & transport sectors, including sea, air, land and rail modes. Professional qualification for logisticians usually carry post-nominal letters. Common examples include:
  • MILT (Member Institute of Logistics and Transport) conferred by The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT),
  • CMILT (Chartered Member, Institute of Logistics and Transport) conferred by The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT)
  • FCILT (Chartered Fellow, Institute of Logistics and Transport) conferred by The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT)
  • CPL/CTP conferred by Transport & Logistics Certification Council (TLCC) of Australia,
  • EJLog/ESLog/EMLog conferred by the European Logistics Association (ELA),
  • CML/CPL conferred by the International Society of Logistics (SOLE),
  • JrLog/Log/SrLog conferred by the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing (CFLP),
  • FHKLA/MHKLA conferred by the Hong Kong Logistics Association (HKLA),
  • PLS/CTL/DLP conferred by the American Society of Transportation & Logistics (AST&L)
  • CPIM/CSCP conferred by the Association for Operations Management (APICS),

In 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/or competence of a practitioner in the field.

Project management certifications come in a variety of flavors:
  • Competence-based programs wherein an individual must provide evidence of actual, on-the-job performance
  • Knowledge-based programs wherein an individual must pass an exam
  • Experience-based programs wherein an individual must provide evidence of training or education in the field.

PM organizations which run certification programmes include:

In security

Other applications

  • The American Academy of Environmental Engineers board certifies licensed environmental engineers (Board Certified Environmental Engineer--BCEE) and unlicensed environmental engineering practitioners (Board Certified Environmental Engineering Member--BCEEM) for those with a degree in engineering and at least 8 years of practice and responsible charge in environmental engineering.
  • Help Desk Institute certifies for the Help desk service industry
  • The Council-certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIEC) certification covers a wide range of indoor environmental quality disciplines focusing on managing indoor environmental quality in relation to building design, maintenance and operations to ensure an optimal environment for building occupants.


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, 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 examinations; however, certification remains a contentious issue.

Also, most 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


  1. Phillip Barnhart, The Guide to National Professional Certification Programs (1997), HRD Press. ISBN 0849399602 Retrieved electronically 07-07-2009
  2. International Economic Development Council
  3. International Economic Development Council
  4. How to Become a Chartered Member, CILT

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