Blog: Certification Value Part 2 – The Organization

In my last blog I wrote about the value that review course providers provide for a certification. In this blog I will look at the value that is brought to a certification by the organization that administers the exam and awards the certification.

Obviously the organization that offers the certification provides value to it. But, it is critical that the certification continues to hold its value and even increases in value. Remember that because most certifications gain their value only because the business community desires them, it is imperative that the organizations work to provide ongoing value. Aside from giving the certificate itself, some of the things that the organization must do are:

  • Keep the syllabus current – every few years the organization should evaluate the content of their exams to make certain that it continues to be relevant.
  • Provide sufficient information about the content of the exam – the syllabus that they provide should be detailed enough to allow candidates (and material providers) to know what is on the exam without being so detailed that it is essentially a list of the questions. (I would add that the ICMA does a spectacular job with the syllabus for the CMA Exams.)
  • Ensure that the exam is challenging – if the pass rate is too high, the certification loses value because it is assumed that anyone can pass. If the pass rate is too low, nobody attempts it because the return on investment is too low. A few years ago the pass rate on the DipIFR (Russian) exam was 15% and the exam almost collapsed because of the low pass rate.
  • Maintain its own ethics surrounding the qualification – the exam creation and grading process must be above reproach. There should be controls and systems in place to ensure that if a person passes the exam that the world knows that this person actually passed the exam honestly and fairly.
  • Provide a fair and level field for all providers – when an examining body is involved in materials preparation and sells their own materials, this weakens the certificate because it draws into question the grading process. Even if there are controls in place and independence between the materials creation group, the exam creation group, and the grading process, there is still the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest.
  • Require some form of Continuing Education (it has different names in different organizations) so that their certificate holders maintain relevant knowledge.
  • Provide value to its members through things other than the certifications, such as conferences, magazines, webinars, making resources available to its members, or many other things. If the only value that it provides is in the exam itself, the organization will have difficulty maintaining its membership and attracting new members.

While there are a lot of things that professional organizations need to do in order to maintain and build the value that their certificate has in the market, it is essential that they do these things because without the certification having value, fewer people will join the organization.

I am certain that this list is not complete. What are some of the other ways that your certifications (that you have or are in the process of earning) and their supporting organization could add even more value to your career?

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

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