How to Create an Association-Backed Certification Program

Best Practices : Article

Association Backed Certification ProgramsEver get handed someone’s business card that has an “alphabet soup” of letters after their name? CISSP? (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) CFP? (Certified Financial Planner) CAE? (Certified Association Executive).

Aside from wondering what the heck each of these acronyms stands for, have you ever wondered where they come from? If you haven’t, you’ve already read too far.

But if you have, here’s the answer: association-backed certification programs. As independent entities, associations are uniquely positioned to drive professional certification programs. These programs serve two main purposes: they help individuals validate their knowledge and help consumers identify individuals who truly have the knowledge they claim to possess. Ok, there’s also a third benefit—certification programs are tremendously powerful assets and profit centers for associations.

Building a professional certification program isn’t as difficult as you may think—especially if you start by investigating association management companies that can help. With the right support, there are three main steps:

  • Market assessment: Before starting down the path of a certification program, be certain that there are no other programs covering the same space, and that there’s truly a market need.
  • Program development: This involves identifying the core set of knowledge that the certification program needs to test, from which an exam can be developed. Typically a certification program produces a large bank of questions. This allows groups to rotate specific items on and off the certification exam.
  • Dissemination: Determine the best way to conduct exams—typical options are online, through independent test houses, or at association meetings.

I’ll grant you, there are many logistical components to tackle within each of these steps—it’s a bit like saying the steps to getting to the Moon are simply, “decide to build the rocket, design the rocket, launch the rocket.” But just as NASA knows a little something about rockets, there are association management companies—like Virtual—that can help your organization develop a successful certification program.

Because after all, the world needs more acronyms!

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