Certifications, Licensures, and Designations

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The changing global and U.S. economy, along with expectations of the workforce, has, in many instances, brought about a need for higher credentialing standards for employees in many areas of the workplace. Also, higher performance expectations have prompted some types of businesses to initiate increased standards in the area of advanced certification, licensure, and designation, so as to facilitate recognition of their work environments as professions and the employees functioning within those environments as professionals. The term professional denotes the individual as an expert in that field. In addition to being employed in a particular field, R. S. Poore stated that one of the factors designating a person as a professional is an earned credential. Such an earned certification, licensure, or designation places individuals at a higher knowledge and expertise level compared to their counterparts who do not possess such a credential.

The meaning of the word profession can examined from both sociological and philosophical perspectives. The sociological view of the definition of profession has its origins in the social sciences. Generally, this view is based on the perception that an occupation is a profession when a job has high social status, high income, and/or important social functions. Consequently, carpentry could not be considered a profession because the education and social status of carpenters are low. Law, however, would be considered a profession because of the perception of high income and high social status. Therefore, according to this perspective, a job is considered to be a profession when the perception by the public is that it is not a menial, repetitive task.

The philosophical view attempts to define profession in two waysthe Cartesian and the Socratic. The Cartesian view is developed by asking oneself the question of what it means in certain terms, testing the definition by the use of counterexamples, revising the belief based on the counterexamples, and continuing the process until one has one's own belief in good order. Thus, the Cartesian "approach attempts to define professions by making sense of a person's mind." Furthermore, electricians could consider their occupation a profession because individuals practice their own beliefs of professional conduct and workmanship. Conversely, the Socratic approach views a profession as a group undertaking; thus, a profession cannot consist of only one individual. Additionally, this view attempts to find a common ground between the practitioner and the philosopher whereby the process of revising the definition of the specific profession continues until everyone within the organization believes that it is the appropriate definition. Hence, individuals within the group must share a common job or occupation, such as physicians, lawyers, and dentists.

Regardless of the acceptance of the sociological view or the philosophical view, the common theme appears to be the existence of standards for individuals who are working toward a common moral endeavor. Thus, for an occupation to be considered a profession, many people are needed who earn a living performing tasks closely aligned with beliefs that enhance the completion of those tasks. Furthermore, a code of guiding ethical principles may also be used to assist with completing job-related tasks, thereby allowing individuals employed in this area to be perceived as professionals. In turn, the area can then be considered a profession.

Professions and organizations continue to seek avenues to increase the level of competence of their workforce and enhance their profession. Therefore, in order to accomplish this objective many professions have procedures in placeor are in the process of implementing such proceduresfor individuals to obtain a higher credentialing certification, licensure, and designation. The certification, licensure, or designation may denote to the public more competent employees with a higher level of skills to accomplish more effectively the tasks that they are employed to perform.

Candidates seeking certification, licensure, or designation in a particular field must complete a prescribed course of study at an accredited college or university, as well as a successful score on an appropriate licensing examination. This certification, licensure, or designation ensures that individuals practicing in a particular profession have met the appropriate educational training and that they abide by the expected standards of professional conduct. Thus, many professions issue certifications, licensures, and designations based upon the successful completion of a degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum score on a national exam. Furthermore, additional certifications, licensures, and designations may be added after supplementary training.

The increased demand for excellence and recognition throughout organizations, nationally and internationally, has prompted a wave of instituting processes that require employees to become more highly skilled and more knowledgeable in their field of endeavor. B. L. Hawkins implied that one could earn a certificate, licensure, or designation from some organizations by attending a specific number of courses, where a degree is not earned. Yet, certification, licensure, or designation programs ending with degree completion have required evaluation through standardized examinations. The Chauncey Group International noted that certification

is based on the voluntary action on the part of an occupational or professional group to institute a system by which it can grant recognition to those practitioners who have met some stated level of training and experience. Such individuals are granted a certificate or diploma attesting to the fact that they have met the standards of the credentialing organization and are entitled to make the public aware of their credentialed status (Schoon and Smith, 2000, p. 146).

Thus, the impact of higher certification standards may be to increase the quality of services provided and to continue to ensure the vitality of the world's economy. A sampling of certifications, designations, and licensures available to business and finance professionals appear in Table 1.


Davis, Michael (2003, April 25). What can we learn by looking for the first code of professional ethics? retrieved from http://www.iit.edu/~schmaus/colloquium/davis.html

Hawkins, B. L. (2000). Credentials pay off. Facilities Design and Management, 19 (6), 4851.

Kleiner, Morris M. (2005). Licensing occupations: ensuring quality or restricting competition? Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

Poore, R. S. (1997). Professional certification. Information Systems Security, 6 (1), 2930.

Rouse, W. A., Jr. (2004). Student achievement in a North Carolina local education agency: National board certified teachers vs. non-national board certified teachers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.

Schoon, Craig G., and Smith, I. Leon (2000). The licensure and certification mission: Legal, social, and political foundations. New York: Forbes Custom.

Randy L. Joyner