There are several types of professional certification programs in the world today, be it in engineering, construction, auto repair, medicine, etc. Basically, certification is saying the holder is proficient in a specific subject and should be recognized as a legitimate professional. To the holder, certification looks good on a resume and, thereby, is useful for generating more income. To the customer, certification instills confidence that the holder theoretically knows what he or she is doing. Such programs are supposed to define the level of competency needed to perform certain tasks and means the holder is intimate with specific methods, tools and techniques needed to perform the work. It is also not unusual for certifications to be renewed periodically to assure the holder is staying abreast of industrial developments.

However, not all certification programs are created equally and many are not worth the paper they are printed on. Two things bother me about certification: when it becomes too easy to obtain one, and if the certification is based on sheer humbug.

I’ve seen some programs where a person is awarded certification simply for signing the attendance roster for a class or seminar (and then quietly slips away for a round of golf). It shouldn’t be a matter of merely attending a class, but if you truly learned something which, of course, should mean passing a test of some kind. The validity of certification is dubious if it only requires signing your name and answering an open book test. All it means is that the holder knows how to read and write.

I have seen some certification programs based on plain quackery, particularly in the I.T. industry. It is one thing to demonstrate proficiency in a particular programming language or technology, quite another when it comes to theories of management, systems or any area lacking standardization. In other words, certification should be based on science, not art. The difference between an art and a science is subtle but significant. An art form is based on the intuitiveness of the person performing the work, something that is difficult, if not impossible, to pass on to another human being. For example, apprentices serving under an artist may try for years to emulate the master, but may never attain his level of skill and creativity. In contrast, a science is based on tried and proven concepts and facts and, as such, can be easily taught to others. Certification, therefore, should be based on science, not art. Any certification program Without a set of standard and proven principles is meaningless.

It should be no small wonder why I am skeptical of someone claiming to be certified in a particular field of endeavor. It might sound nice, but I still want to determine if the person is truly competent before they perform a service for me. I consider such things as: what they know, what experience they have, how rigorous was the testing for their certification, and the integrity of the institution issuing the certificate.

Just remember, certification programs are big business. True, there are legitimate certification programs out there, but there are also some that are nothing more than marketing ploys. Does all this mean I frown upon certification programs? Absolutely not. I’m just saying, “caveat emptor” and challenging the institutions to be less frivolous in how they are issued.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

For Tim’s columns, see: http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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