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Designations for Certificate Programs

If you are a NOCA member you just received an e-mail asking you to comment on the ASTM draft standard for certificate programs.  I believe there are a lot of misconceptions out there about the issue raised so I'd like to provide some background here that will hopefully bring some clarity to the issue. 

The ASTM draft does allow certificate issuers to grant a designation and/or associated acronym to certificate holders.  (It does not encourage it, by the way.)  I do understand why some certifying bodies do not want certificate issuers to issue a designation; it's the ideal in theory.  Unfortunately, what the ASTM Task Group has consistently heard through the stakeholder community is that if a standard forbids designations completely, then many in the community will just ignore the standard and the accreditation program (which will both be voluntary).  This means programs can continue to use any designation they like, including calling certificate holders "Certified." This gets us nowhere. 

The ASTM standard allows designations to be used, BUT NOT designations that use "Certified" or similar, confusing words.  For example, for the Institute for Organization Management, graduates use the IOM designation which really isn't confusing with certification, and that would conform with the ASTM standard.  On the other hand, if a certificate issuer issues a "Certified XYZ", that is confusing, and it would also be a non-conformity (not allowed under the standard).

Here's the actual portion of the ASTM draft standard related to this issue:

7.1.2 A certificate issuer may grant a designation or designation acronym or both to certificate holders only under the condition that the designation and/or designation acronym granted shall not include the words "certified," "certificated," "licensed," "registered," or "accredited" or in any other way imply such statuses.

NOTE 6-If a designation and/or designation acronym is granted, the following standardized format is encouraged:
Designation: Certificate Holder in (subject matter)
Designation Acronym: CH-(acronym representing the certificate designation)
Example Designation: Certificate Holder in Adult Weight Management Designation Acronym: CH-AWM

The current NOCA draft standard for certificate programs (which NOCA refers to as assessment-based certificates) prevents the use of any designations for certificate programs.  The ASTM Task Group feels strongly that preventing ALL designation use will just further splinter the industry and those with certification-implying designations will simply ignore the standard.  Allowing designations with the appropriate safeguards increases the likelihood of broad adoption of the standard while at the same time prevents the use of confusing designations.

We are very interested in your feedback on this issue.  Please post to the blog as a comment or e-mail me ([email protected]).  As always, thanks!


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