Certification Pricing
Retiring a Certification

Certifying Generalists vs Specialists

Seth Godin's recent blog post has interesting implications for certification.

Says Seth: "If the world is really bigger, if you can find the best in the world to do what you want, no matter what it is you want, does that change things?

If I need an animator, I can find the world's best animator. If I need a bond to insure my movie, I can find the best broker at selling completion bonds. If I need SEO help, get me the world's best SEO person. If I need braces, I can find the best orthodontist in my area. Not the second-best or someone who will try really hard or someone who is pretty good at that and also good at other things. Sure, there are occasional tasks where a diagnostician with wide-ranging experience is important (but I'd argue that that's a specialty in and of itself).

When choice is limited, I want a generalist. When selection is difficult, a jack of all trades is just fine.  But whenever possible, please bring me a brilliant specialist.

If you're shaking your head in agreement with this obvious point, then the question is: tell me again why you're a generalist?"

And, why is it that almost all certification programs certify and recertify generalists?  That is, if recertification is by examination, that exam is a generalist exam (usually the same exam given to initial applicants).  If recertification is by continuing education, diversity of content is acceptable...and sometimes mandated. 

I don't mean to oversimplify the issue, which is a complex one.  There's the expense factor, of course, of having multiple assessments.  Then, there's the issue that if you're issuing one credential, shouldn't it have the same requirements and mean the same for everyone (which it wouldn't if you have specialist examinations or other pathways).   But I think it's something to think about.

Look at the PE (professional engineer) - here's an example of a credential that is diverse from the beginning. PEs, regardless of their specialty in civil, electrical, etc., all take specialty exams, but they all use the same credential (for licensure, btw).  I think it's an intriguing model for certifying agencies to consider.



We were discussing this very issue at the CAE Celebration last week, although it came up in the context of 'once you have the CAE, then what?' Right now, that's it (within the ASAE world), which is one thing if you're getting the cert as a crowning achievement in a long association career, but quite another if you're 28 and sat for the exam as soon as you got your required 5 association years under your belt. One idea that was mentioned was for ASAE to launch a CAE+domain specialty. I'm not sure if the idea has any legs, but your post on this very topic certainly represents interesting timing.

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