Blog: Certification Value

A professional certification gets value from one of two sources: either it is required by law or regulation, or the business community prefers its employees have the certification, even if it is not required by law. An example of the first type is the CPA certification in the United States, which is required by law in order for an individual to sign an audit report or prepare income taxes for another party. An example of the second type is the CPA certification in countries outside the United States. In other countries, a CPA license is not required by law for any specific activity, but the business community values it and therefore being a CPA is valuable.

Most international certifications fall into the second category. One of the reasons for this is that most internationally recognized exams are in English and therefore they can be required by law only in countries that speak English. In non-English-speaking countries, the exam gets value because it is desired by the businesses there.

While it may not seem obvious, there are a number of groups that contribute to the value that a certification has in markets where the certification is not required by law. In this blog I will write about one of them, and I will write about others in the future.

The group that I want to write about now is what I will call Review Course Providers (RCPs). They may be called different names in different countries, but these are the companies that deliver live-taught courses for candidates to prepare to pass the exam. RCPs are different than Material Providers (MPs), who only provide materials for self-study. For example, HOCK international is an MP, whereas HOCK Training is an RCP in Russia, where live courses are offered.

RCPs play a critical role in the development of value for a professional certification in a few different ways:

  1. When there is an RCP for a certification, it shows to perspective candidates that the certification has value. If there is no value to the certification, there would not be a company providing training locally.
  2. RCPs play an important role in marketing the certification because they are marketing the certification as well as their own courses. For the organizations that offer certifications, RCPs are a critical element of the expansion of the certification to new areas.
  3. RCPs help keep pass rates higher. If the pass rate for a certification becomes too low, fewer people will attempt it because there is not a high enough chance to get a return on their investment. Or, if the pass rate is too high, there is also a decrease in candidates because both individuals and businesses perceive that it is too easy and does not have any value.
  4. RCPs also give credibility to the certification by demonstrating that the exam is independent. When the organization that gives the exam also provides training material, there is a perception that the exam is not serious or rigorous because the same organization is in charge of all of the steps of the process. It is a bit like the segregation of duties – ideally one organization creates the exam and grades it, and other organizations provide the training. When the examiner is also a training provider there is a conflict of interest that decreases the value of the certification.

Whether or not you are using or used an RCP in your preparations for the exam, you should say a word of “Thanks” to the RCPs in your area; they have helped create and sustain the value of the certificate that you have earned or are in the process of earning. If you don’t know if there are any in your area, we have a list of RCPs using HOCK materials on our web site here:

You can send a short “Thanks” to your RCP as a comment below – let them know that they are appreciated!

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

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