In a competitive job market, how does one get ahead of the competition and stand out? They set themselves apart from others by showing the value they can bring to an organization.
One way to do this is by earning a certification or certificate. These items show a commitment to the profession one is working, and the time (and money) invested to improve and acquire skills and knowledge.
Let’s discuss the differences between a certification and a certificate.
Certifications are defined as “the action or process of providing someone or something with an official document attesting to a status or level of achievement.” The certification recognizes a person’s existing experience, skills, and knowledge in a particular industry or profession. It is not tied to a specific educational program but instead to industry standards.
Certifications in the association community may require:
- A specific number of years of work experience
- A continuing education requirement, such as 100 hours of professional development
- An educational requirement
- A passing score on an exam
- An expiration date and renewal requirements that must be met every few years
For example, there are three areas one must satisfy in order to earn a Certified Association Executive certification:
- Education: Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or higher or, in lieu of a degree, eight additional years of professional work experience.
- Experience: Candidates must have five years of experience as an employee at the staff level or one year employed as a chief staff executive or C-suite-level executive at a qualifying organization.
- Professional Development: Candidates must have completed 100 hours of broad-based, association management-related professional development within the last five years preceding their application.
A person earns the right to use post-nominal initials, e.g., “CAE” for a Certified Association Executive, behind their name after meeting all requirements and passing an exam.
Certificate programs are tied to a specific educational program or career, or series of programs or classes, and the learning period is relatively short term. A certificate is awarded when the learner, experienced or a newcomer shows their understanding of the skills and knowledge taught in the program.
Why offer certifications or certificate programs?
For associations, offering a certification or certificate program can be beneficial for they are a great way to generate non-dues revenue and attract new and retain current members. Although all may not apply, here’s how certifications and certificates can be beneficial to an association from a financial point of view:
- Registration fees for educational programs
- Application fees
- Renewal fees
- Exam fees
- Required education materials
A certificate or certification can be a win-win for both the individual and the association. For the individual, they can make an impact by jump-starting or advancing a career. For the association, they create demand for your educational programming – in-person and online courses, conferences, and webinars – in addition to an increase in member loyalty, association visibility, and reinforcement of the association’s value.
One of the reasons why associations exist is to help their members to succeed. What better way to help them do this than by offering a certificate or certification designation program?