Once again today I received one of the most frequently asked questions from execs considering developing certification: "Can taking our courses or training programs be a requirement for certification?"
The simplistic answer is yes, but only because there are no MANDATES that certifying agencies must follow in program design. That is, you really are free to develop a credentialing program with whatever requirements you want and you can call it whatever you want (certification, registration, certificate, etc.) However, just because you can doesn't mean you should. You should know the implications.
First, mandating specific courses or training programs as a requirement for certification is in violation of the existing voluntary certification industry standards (ANSI and NCCA). You're likely aware of organizations that require their courses as part of their certification programs. In some instances, these programs – while called certification – may, in fact, be curriculum-based certificate programs (more on this later)...or they could be a blend between the two types of program. In other cases, organizations may either not be aware of the industry quality standards or they have chosen not to comply with them.
Second, from the legal perspective, certification-related activities that are anticompetitive, discriminatory, based on subjective standards, or implemented without fair procedures are cause for antitrust concern. In this case, a legal concern is a tying arrangement – that you are tying the certification product to an educational product (and requiring purchase of both). Also, there is a fairness concern in requiring everyone to participate in (and pay for) coursework – regardless of whether they may need it.
Looking at the definitions from a purist perspective, if you are developing a program that includes both training and an assessment, that's called a certificate program. The primary distinction between certification and curriculum-based certificates is in their focus. In certification, the focus is on assessing current experience, knowledge and skills. In a certificate, the focus is on training individuals to achieve a certain knowledge and skill base and then assessing attainment of it. The programs meet entirely different goals so you need to identify your organization's goals before you determine which program type, if any, you should create.
For more information, check out the articles at this link.