Reinforce Your Association’s Value with Certifications and Certificates

How can your association members stand out in a competitive job market? By demonstrating the unique value they offer an organization. One way to show commitment to a profession and improve skills is by earning industry-specific credentials through certificates and certifications.

What’s the difference between certificates and certifications?

Sometimes categorized as continuing education or professional development, certificates are available in various disciplines. A certificate is granted after completing an academic program of study. Certificates can be beneficial for individuals who are both early on in their careers and at more advanced stages, as the goal of a certificate is to acquire new and more specialized knowledge. Certificate programs are tied to a specific educational program, career, or series of programs or classes, and the learning period is relatively short. 

A certification differs from a certificate because an academic institution does not issue it. Instead, a governing body run by an industry group or career-related organization creates a standardized test to assess professional skills. Industry-recognized certifications may be required to enter or continue to work in a specific position. 

For example, certifications in association leadership may require:

  • A specific number of years of work experience  
  • A continuing education requirement, such as 100 hours of professional development  
  • An educational requirement    
  • A passing score on an exam  
  • An expiration date and renewal requirements that must be met every few years  

Say you want to earn your Certified Association Executive (CAE) certification. There are three areas one must satisfy for completion:

  • Education: Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or higher or, instead of a degree, eight additional years of professional work experience. 
  • Experience: Candidates must have five years of experience as an employee at the staff level or one year as a chief staff executive or C-suite-level executive at a qualifying organization. 
  • Professional Development: Candidates must have completed 100 hours of broad-based, association management-related professional development within the last five years preceding their application. 

A person earns the right to use post-nominal initials, e.g., “CAE” for a Certified Association Executive, behind their name after meeting all requirements and passing an exam. 

Why offer certifications or certificate programs?

For associations, offering a certification or certificate program can be beneficial, for they are a great way to generate non-dues revenue and attract new and retain current members.

Although all may not apply, here’s how certifications and certificates can be beneficial to an association from a financial standpoint:

  • Registration fees for educational programs 
  • Application fees 
  • Renewal fees 
  • Exam fees 
  • Required education materials 

In Conclusion

A certificate or certification can be a win-win for both the individual and the association. 

For the individual, they can make an impact by jump-starting or advancing a career. For the association, they create demand for your educational programming – in-person and online courses, conferences, and webinars – in addition to an increase in member loyalty, association visibility, and reinforcement of the association’s value.  

One of the primary purposes of associations is to support their members in achieving success. Offering a certificate or certification designation program is an excellent means to facilitate their success.

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