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What Is Professional Certification?

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By Deb Peterson. Continuing Education Expert

A learning and development consultant since 1991, Deb has designed, written, and delivered corporate training programs for adults at companies of all sizes, from family-owned shops to major corporations.

She has taught creative writing workshops for adults as an adjunct in the Continuing Education department at Arkansas State University Mountain Home (ASUMH).

She is currently the owner/creator/publisher of Marvelous! Magazine, a bi-monthly mag for women who create the life they want and live it passionately. It is the consummate exercise in lifelong learning—pulling together skills from all parts of your life and jumping in to learn whatever you need to know.

Professional certification is a process in which a person proves that he or she has the knowledge, experience, and skills to perform a specific job. The proof comes in the form of a certificate earned by passing an exam that is accredited by an organization or association that monitors and upholds prescribed standards for the particular industry involved. The National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) is a leader in setting quality standards for credentialing organizations.

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A wide variety of industries and careers offer professional certification, from highly technical jobs and human services of all kinds to jobs in the arts, including ballroom dancing. In each case, the certificate assures employers, customers, students, and the public that the certificate holder is competent and professional.

In some professions, certification is a requirement for employment or practice. Doctors, teachers, Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and pilots are examples.

What’s in it for You?

Professional certification shows employers and clients that you are committed to your profession and are well-trained.

It gives them confidence in your abilities. Certification makes you more valuable to employers and so you can expect to:

  • Enjoy better employment and advancement opportunities
  • Have a competitive advantage over candidates without certificates
  • Earn higher wages
  • Receive tuition reimbursement for continuing education

Sampling of Careers Requiring Certification

Many of the careers that require certification are represented here at Below is a list of articles on various types of certifications. At the end there is also a link to the list of NOCA member organizations that

require certificates.

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It offers an interesting glance at the various types of industries from which to choose if you’re uncertain about which certificate you want.

State Certification Requirements

Many of the professions that require or offer certification are governed by the state in which the certificate holder practices. Your school or association will help you understand these requirements, but you can also find them at each state’s government website. Search for: http://www.state.your two-letter state code here .us/.


On the home page for your state, search for certifications.

Choosing the Best School

There are almost as many requirements for earning a certificate as there are fields requiring them, so how you go about becoming certified has everything to do with what kind of certificate you want and what you want to do with it. First, know the differences between all the different types of schools so you can choose the right school for you .

Begin your search by visiting the websites of the associations and organizations that govern or accredit the schools in the field you have chosen. On the Internet, search for the name of your field and associations, organizations, and schools:

Online Schools

If you think an online school would work best for you because of the flexibility it provides, read up on online certificates before you choose a school.

Financial Aid

Paying for school is a concern for many students. Loans, grants, and scholarships are available. Do your homework before going to school:

Continuing Education

Most professional certifications require that certificate holders complete a certain number of hours of continuing education annually or biannually in order to remain current. The number of hours varies by state and field. Notices are generally sent out by the governing state and/or association, as is literature advertising continuing education opportunities, conferences, and conventions.

Make the Most of Continuing Education Conferences

Many professional associations gather their members yearly in the form of conferences, conventions, and/or trade shows to provide continuing education seminars, to discuss the state of the profession and new best practices, and to showcase the latest products and services. Networking at these gatherings can be extremely valuable to professionals.

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