The Value of Certification Is More Relevant Than Ever
By Denise Roosendaal, FASAE, CAE
Over the past several years, I have participated in a variety of external meetings on behalf of I.C.E. Members. These meetings are often with other professional or trade organizations discussing the eco-system of credentialing, the benefits of credentialing and any variety of labor force topics. In each of these meetings, the topic of articulating the value of a certification or certificate almost always arises and is critically important to the discussion. Along with value, stakeholders are looking to understand what the certification or certificate program actually represents. How transparent is your organization in communicating this value and components of the program?
Of course, how your organization defines that all-important value question is “It depends.”
It depends on the audience for whom the certification was intended to have meaning: the applicant pool, the employer, regulators, academic institutions seeking a private certification partner, etc.
For the certificant/applicant population, the I.C.E. Value of Certification study confirms that both intrinsic (feeling of pride in oneself or one’s profession, etc.) and extrinsic (salary increases, employability, etc.) motivators are at play when seeking out a certification in a particular field or profession.
*Based on I.C.E.’s Value of Certification Study (2019)
However, the employer and higher education audiences also seek to understand what the credential represents in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities that can be translated into workforce skills. What competencies does the credential cover? What level of experience is required? What knowledge, skills and abilities does the certificant represent? These questions require a level of transparency to the public to ensure your certifications can communicate what it represents in an open and clear manner.
Part of the challenge with understanding value is understanding the ecosystem in which your credentialing program operates. Credential Engine has created a video that speaks to the transparency movement within the credentialing community. In addition, Credential Engine has researched the credentialing ecosystem to quantify the number of credentials that exist (over 1 million and counting), from occupational licenses to certifications and diplomas from higher education institutes. Their Counting Credentials Report is a foundational research product that warrants your attention and can help you see how your programs fit in the larger picture. Check out their work and resources to for a full appreciation of the complexity of the credentialing environment.
I.C.E. has created many resources to assist you with this important task of articulating the value of certification as well. Here are a few:
- Value Statements for Certification, Certificate and Accreditation: These statements were developed by the I.C.E. Accreditation Services Council and are complimentary for I.C.E. members. Please replicate the information wherever you communicate your value to stakeholders (i.e. websites, brochures, social media, etc.).
- White papers and research: I.C.E. conducted a Value of Certification Study, gaining insights from certification holders of six selected certification programs on what their perception of value was. A 2015 white paper discusses how to structure a value of certification study yourself (WP15 Value of Certification: An Exploration of Concept and Research Process).
- Case Studies on Connecting with Employers: In 2021, the External Stakeholders Task Force, chaired by Stephanie Dille and Jim Stobinski, led an effort to document individual organizational outreach programs to employer audiences. Those case studies can be found here and are free to download for member organizations.Credentialing Insights: I.C.E.’s online journal, updated regularly, highlights a variety of articles and podcasts on this topic throughout the year. Check out these articles for further reading:
We would love to hear from you on what challenges you’re facing in terms of creating research that speaks to the value of your certification or certificate program. If you feel you have a particularly enlightening story to share, we’d reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We have open slots for Credentialing Insights articles or podcasts on this topic, and our online member community is engaging in this topic if you’re looking to engage on a peer-to-peer level. Share your story to help others in our community learn the best practices for engaging in this important activity.
Many of your organizations have conducted Value of Certification studies, which I.C.E. would love to see and share with the community. If you’re willing to share your research, please email the research with written permission for I.C.E. to post on its website to email@example.com.