Credentialing Programs Have Recertification Policy?

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In the field of professional education today, there has been a transformation in the way learning is viewed in terms of time: Instead of regarding training as an event, it is being seen more as a process. This new trend has been born of necessity. The speed of innovation in business and technology demands a virtually constant progression of learning. This has affected several credentialing programs—nowadays, the actual conferral of a certification frequently isn’t considered to be the terminus of professional development, but rather a step in one’s educational journey. Thus, recertification, which can take many forms but always boils down to staying current in the field, has become a large part of the learning regimen for many programs.


A case in point is the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), which offers the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credentials. The CPS, which was established in 1951, requires completion of a three-part exam, while the newer, more advanced CAP certification involves a four-part test. Both tracks are aimed at verifying administrative skills and knowledge, but the latter is more management-focused.


Both of these credentials involve an extensive recertification procedure that involves continuing education, said Kathy Schoneboom, certification manager at IAAP. “They’re the same for both,” she said. “Recertification was first introduced in our program in January of 1988. Everyone since then has had to recertify, and they have to recertify every five years. They have to gain a total of 90 points within that five-year period. They don’t retake the exam as long as they recertify. If they don’t recertify within their five-year period and every five years thereafter, then we will mark their certification as inactive on our records. The only way they will get it back is to retest.”


IAAP provides its credentialed professionals with several options for recertification. There are three broad categories in that component of the program: experience/education, which includes topics like technology, office administration, business law, financial management, management, team skills and strategic planning; electives, which covers courses in subjects such as personal finance, workplace violence and retirement planning; and leadership positions held in work, civic, religious, etc. environments.


“They have several categories they can choose from in order to get those 90 points,” Schoneboom said. “The majority of them are getting their points in the continuing education category. Most of them are getting that through attending seminars. We do have a lot of people who are members of IAAP, who also will get some of their points in the leadership category. We have expanded that in recent years to where it’s leadership in anything that they’re doing to allow them a greater way of obtaining some points.


“We also have added, in recent years, our elective category,” she said. “That category is for those seminars or courses they may be taking that are specific to their job, things that really don’t fall into our exam outline, but that they’re still using to continue their education. We pretty much just have guidelines on what can be covered. In each of the three categories, we have a maximum. For instance, on both the leadership and elective categories, the maximum is 30, whereas on the education experience, the maximum is 90. They can conceivably get all their points in just the education category. That’s what any certification program is all about: education.”


Recertification benefits both IAAP credential holders and their employers, Schoneboom said. “The main reason for recertification is for the continuing validity of the program and the continuing education of those who have been certified. What we’re looking at is both keeping the CPS and CAP holders current in their field—and they’re doing that by their continuing education, by being in a leadership role, those kinds of things—and keeping our program very valid. We have people who are saying they are CPS and CAP holders, and we know that they are keeping current in their field, so it validates our program. What we also are trying to do is make sure that meets the needs of not only the people in that profession, but also of their employers. The one thing that we really try to make sure that our CPS and CAP holders are letting their employers know how that benefits them, and what all of this continuing education is bringing to the table for the employer.”


Schoneboom added that efforts to keep professionals learning about their own discipline lent credibility to credentialing programs. “I’m a big proponent of continuing education,” she said. “You cannot give someone a rating in 1980 and know that person has remained current and still expect that rating to be valid. I think in order to keep current in your field and keep up with what is going on, you have to continue your education. What better way to do that than through a recertification program?”


Brian Summerfield is associate editor for Certification Magazine. He can be reached at

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