What does it mean when people have most if not all of the letters of the alphabet following their names, separated here and there by commas, to indicate a series of credentials? The answer to this question is the same as several others: It depends.


Certifications provide clear proof that individuals have completed a particular course and achieved the stated objectives. In other words, they took a class and passed it.

The strength of professional certifications is based on the fundamental trust that individuals who earn credentials have proven they possess the required experience, knowledge, and skills for the given profession or practice. Credibility is paramount in order for certifications to maintain value for individual stakeholders, the industry, and the general public.

Developing reputable certification programs requires expertise in several areas. Whether the program sponsors are private or public entities, in-depth knowledge of the industry and job tasks, educational requirements and eligibility requirements, assessments, and maintenance are a few aspects that must be included in program development plans.

Certifications show a commitment to lifelong learning, as recertification is usually required every three years to ensure industry professionals stay up to date with evolving practices and technologies.

With so many options available, how can the workforce decide what to get certified in and where?

Five Characteristics of Valuable Certifications

  1. Necessary — Certifications must be built on a demonstrated market need to distinguish between those who have proven competency and those who have not.
  2. Objective — Certified, independent subject matter experts; third-party endorsements; and autonomy in governing certification programs are essential in developing and maintaining valid, legally defensible credentials.
  3. Rigorous — Certifications that require little effort or knowledge — that most anyone can earn — are typically of lower value than those that demand great effort, determination, experience, knowledge, and skill. Rigorous training regimens and assessments are essential to successful certification programs and create a competitive advantage.
  4. Ethical — Ethical conduct covers a broad range of topics from protecting against cheaters to ensuring the ethical practice of the profession.
  5. Temporary — As all industries and organizations grow and change, professionals that serve them must do the same. One way to determine the value of certifications is to check if the providers have a recertification process in place. This shows a commitment to ensuring skills remain current and reflect the latest changes in the chosen sectors. Furthermore, the recertification process should be quick, easy, and cost-effective.

Benefits for the Employer

  • Enhances the skill sets of staff on a continuous basis and provides three more years of certification
  • Ensures employees are aware of the latest working standards and codes of practice
  • Certification programs are usually shorter in duration and cost less
  • Allows for accurate forecasting in regard to training budgets

Certification Benefits for the Employee

  • Provides certification for three more years
  • Keeps knowledge and skills in line with industry requirements
  • Provides a post nominal title i.e., Joe Smith, CDCDP
  • Provides access to the latest program material


Qualifications are valid for life; they do not need renewing.

Qualifications differ from certifications in that they are controlled by international educational bodies, and only approved centers can offer qualifications. The process to become an approved center is a rigorous one, and reassessment is required to maintain approved center status every 12 months.

Individuals who have been awarded qualifications can therefore have the added confidence that they have received high-quality education from a respected and trusted organization — an organization that has strict processes in place for quality of delivery and who, themselves, are assessed to ensure they continue to deliver the right high-quality educational content that continues to meet the set learning objectives set for each program. This highlights the fact that only the best education companies can gain this approved center status.

There are different qualification levels, and each level can be referenced across the world.  

Five Elements to Offer Qualifications

  1. Center Management Systems — Demonstrate robust systems are in place to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of all qualification delivery and assessment staff.
  2. Policies and Procedures  — Ensuring clear policies and procedures are in place to internally verify all aspects of the learning and assessment of it.
  3. Program Delivery — The center must employ, update, and continue to educate and qualify instructors to ensure appropriate management, delivery assessment, and internal verification.
  4. Assessment — Use a range of appropriate assessment methods that remove the opportunities for plagiarism. Ensure assessment tools have appropriate vocational context, are written at the right level, and are tracked and graded appropriately.
  5. Internal Verification — Verification of assignment documentation is thorough, planned, recorded and used to enhance future practice. Verification records are accurate and available for audit as needed.

Qualification Benefits for Employers

  • Ensures employees are trained to a specified level at that time.
  • Usually incurs just a one-off fee.
  • Confidence the training/education provider is a professional company, as the criteria to become an approved center is quite a rigorous process.

Qualification Benefits for Employees

  • Provides official recognition for knowledge and skills at the time of taking the examination or passing the program.
  • Qualifications are recognized globally by comparing the educational levels.

Many training organizations provide self-certificated training, i.e., award attendance certificates with no awarding organization or academic processes, rigor, or assessment. Whilst they are entitled to do that, it should not be confused with the higher and vocational education programs provided by professional training and education providers, which lead to the award of a bona-fide qualification by a true, authorized awarding organization.