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Professional Cert in a World of Hurt?

Credentialing Terminology Clarified

Original Post 6-30-04 on Blogger, Reposted 7-18 to TypePad

I've been working this week on a licensure white paper for a client and it reminded me just how CONFUSING is the terminology in the world of credentialing. I've got an e-Answers article on devoted to terminology, but it doesn't get into the the different types of governmental credentialing and I thought that might be beneficial so here goes...

Just to refresh your memory, the three major types of credentials associations grant are certification, curriculum-based certificates, and accreditation. In short, their primary similarities and distinctions are:

*Accreditation is granted to organizations while certification and curriculum-based certificates are granted to people.
*All are voluntary, meaning individuals do not have to earn a certification or certificate to engage in a given profession/role, nor does an organization have to be accredited to operate (see the article mentioned for how high-stakes programs can seem to be mandatory).
*All are granted by non-governmental entities (associations, certifying agencies, corporations, etc.).
*Certifications focus on assessing current knowledge and skill (usually of a broad scope) while curriculum-based certificates focus on training individuals on a focused set of knowledge and skills and then assessing attainment of the training learning objectives

I should clarify that occupational regulation occurs at the state rather than federal level of government - the downside of which, as many of you are probably aware, is that regulations can vary from state to state.

Often, we think of licensure as THE method of governmental regulation and sometimes licensure is used as the umbrella term, but it is not the only term you should be familiar with - there's also registration and statutory certification. Because the terms are SO confusing...
a Registered Nurse is really licensed, a Registered Dietitian is really certified by a non-governmental entity, and the list goes on...
it is best to understand the intent behind occupational regulation legislative acts and the terms usually associated. There are three main types: practice acts, title protection acts, and registration acts.

Practice Acts (usually called licensure)
Practice acts grant to individuals the authority to engage in defined tasks (to practice) and prevent persons not so licensed from engaging in those tasks.

Title Acts (usually called certification)
Title acts grant to individuals the authority to use an occupational title (such as Certified Public Accountant), but do not prevent others (other accountants and tax-preparers) from practicing.

Registration Acts (usually called registration)
Registration is a listing of persons who have identified themselves as performing certain tasks. Registering with a state entity could be either mandatory or voluntary.

Be aware that this was an simplified description of a pretty sophisticated and somewhat confusing topic. If you'd like to hear more in future blogs, click "Comments" on our blog page and let us know what you want to hear.

That's enough heavy stuff for today. Have a great holiday weekend.


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