Professional associations and organizations bring together like-minded IT professionals who share both common interests and career and industry goals. Such organizations can exert powerful leadership for the IT communities they serve, building synergy and commonality of standards and quality expectations throughout an industry. Because professional organizations are public guardians of quality and usability, it’s a natural progression to see such groups take the lead in promoting industry standards in addition to standards for training, quality of workmanship, and skill.
There are many types of certification programs available today. These range from internal programs specific to one company, to profession-wide credentials offered by an industry association or society (such as the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional or PMP credential), to product- or technology-specific certifications (such as the Oracle Database 11g Administrator Certified Associate and CompTIA Network+). Professional associations are often called upon to provide input to vendors as they create and build proprietary certification programs, and to endorse such programs.
As leaders in their industries, professional organizations and associations are uniquely qualified to address current conditions and analyze future trends and skill requirements. These groups are also uniquely suited to plan for such skills to ensure that a highly qualified and skilled group of IT professionals remains available to step up to the plate as new technologies emerge. Whether building a certification that’s offered directly through a professional association, or providing input and endorsing a vendor program, building certification programs benefits the IT industry and IT professionals, as well as the professional organizations and associations. Here’s how:
- Public interest: In many ways, professional organizations and associations are the gatekeepers of public interest and safety. The purpose, value, and benefit of certification programs teaches candidates to build quality products and services so that the final technology or product that reaches the end user will be well-suited for its intended purposes. Quality skills and workmanship result in reduced costs, as well as improved efficiency and productivity. Building certification programs enables professional organizations to establish standards for understanding concepts and technologies and for the skills necessary to install, develop, maintain, and use them. Professional organizations are key in establishing quality standards and promoting such standards for industry-wide and global recognition and adoption. The end result is products and technologies that meet a common minimum standard of quality throughout the industry that end users can depend on. Employers and industry leaders can also proceed with confidence, knowing that the IT professionals who create such technologies or products also meet minimum professional quality standards when it comes to their own knowledge and skills.
- Quality skills standards: Employers want (and need) to know that the IT professionals on their projects possess the technical skills necessary to do their jobs. Building certification programs that are widely recognized and sought after among IT professionals, industry leaders, and employers enables professional organizations to ensure that a highly skilled and qualified workforce exists to meet industry needs. Certification communicates the message to employers that they can be confident that such credential holders can perform essential job functions competently and efficiently. By building quality standards into certification programs, professional organizations also ensure that all credential holders are technically qualified and posses certain minimum levels of skill and knowledge in the specific IT areas the credential covers. This ensures, for example, that a holder of the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) credential possesses the same skills and knowledge whether they obtained the credential in the United States or France or Germany. Building certification programs allows professional associations to ensure standards of consistency among credential holders in terms of training, assessments (of skills), skills and technical expertise, and knowledge of key concepts and technologies required to meet industry standards.
- Ongoing quality control: Building certification programs allows professional organizations to ensure that the skills of the IT workforce continue to meet industry standards and requirements on an ongoing basis. IT is an extremely fast-paced, constantly changing industry. Perhaps more than any other industry, IT is knowledge-driven. Knowledge of new and emerging technologies is critical to industry success. Without additional training, candidates who were qualified two years ago may suddenly find themselves at the bottom tier of their profession. Many certifications require periodic renewal that frequently includes continuing education credits or additional training courses to maintain a credential. Some credentials may expire when products sunset and are replaced by newer technologies. Ongoing training or continuing education requirements provide professional associations the opportunity to ensure that the IT professional workforce remains highly skilled and technically qualified.
- Industry leadership and recognition: By building certification programs, professional organizations establish their organization or association as a body of experts and industry leaders. For certifications that are globally recognized as being the best in some class, the benefits to both membership and organization can be numerous. This recognition conveys to their membership who reap many benefits in terms of increased earnings potential, job opportunities, and career progression.
- Profitability: Certification programs not only benefit IT professionals, employers, and the industry at large, but they’re often profitable endeavors that benefit their parent association or organization as well. From a financial perspective, they can make money from certifications through a number of outlets including training courses, study guides, materials, and initial certification fees. Additional monies also accrue from continuing education, along with periodic renewal fees. Often, certification preparation courses are sub-licensed to other vendors to generate additional passive revenue. For highly sought-after credentials, a vendor’s certification industry is self-sustaining, with existing credential holders returning for advanced training and certifications, continuing education courses, renewal fees and so forth. Even if a professional organization is not the certification vendor, such organizations reap many benefits in terms of increased membership and participation from holders of certifications endorsed by the organization.
Unlike licensure (which is required by law), certification programs are voluntary. They exist solely because of the value that they bring to the individual IT professional, employers, and the industry. By working to build quality certification programs, professional associations ensure that industry needs are met and that IT credential holders have an industry-wide consistency of training, skills, and knowledge.