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Embedding and Aligning Certifications with Academic Programs

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Embedding and Aligning Certifications with Academic Programs


As a measure of quality, professional certification bodies can opt to participate in a voluntary accreditation process, which follows a process-based framework. Most certification bodies choose to be accredited to one of two standards:

And in the field of nursing, there is a specialized accreditor, the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC) Standards. Each organization maintains a publicly available list of accredited certification bodies and their certifications.

Since only a small percentage of certification bodies partake in the accreditation process, there needs to be other ways to gather information to make a judgment about certification quality. The questions outlined below can be used to help uncover answers about the processes and outcomes associated with a certification to assess quality.

Questions to Ask Certification Bodies to Assess Quality of a Certification 

  1. What is the purpose (scope) of the certification?
  2. What, if any, competing certifications address the same purpose (scope)?
  3. What are the eligibility requirements and/or prerequisites for the certification? What rationale and data are used to establish the eligibility requirements/prerequisites to sit for the exam?
  4. What employers/types of employers seek out candidates with this certification?
  5. Is the certification required in any professions or industry sectors?
  6. Is the certification preferred in any professions or industry sectors?
  7. Is there evidence of improved employability outcomes for certified individuals (e.g., higher average salary, more likely to be hired, job descriptions listing certifications as required or preferred, etc.)?
  8. Who are the stakeholders that interact and build the certification?
  9. Is the certification body a stand-alone, independent organization, or is it part of or affiliated with another organization? If the certification body is part of another organization, how does it maintain independence from the functions of the other organization (e.g., the membership function)?
  10. Was a job task analysis done to support the validity of the certification? If so, was a validation survey conducted? When was it last conducted? Was a representative sample of industry included in the analysis?
  11. Are there procedures for revoking an individual’s certification for incompetence or unethical behavior?
  12. Do parts or all of the certification test blueprint match an existing academic course, certificate, or degree program?
  13. Was there a nationally recognized process for determining pass/fail of the examination? (Note: Certification bodies do not generally report specific scores since a certification is a pass/fail examination.)
  14. What is the pass rate for individuals taking the certification exam?
  15. Is there a recertification process for the certification? If so, is it based on a job task analysis?
  16. Does the certification body have a policy that indicates how often the certification exam is updated? If so, what is the process to continually improve the certification program? If not, how is the certification exam updated, or is it?
  17. Are the certification exam items reviewed for bias related to gender, race, ethnicity, geographic location, etc.?
  18. Are certification exam items written to specific task statements to ensure the questions are measuring what they are supposed to be measuring?
  19. What security measures are taken while creating, delivering, and storing the examination?
  20. How is the certification exam proctored? What security measures are taken if it is in person or remotely?

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