February 14, 2017

Certifications and continuing education requirements

All certifications have, or should have, a continuing education requirement. The CDIA exam I took in 2002 has almost zero relevance in the technology and process environment of 2017. And in fact this is one of the key benefits of a formal certification as compared to, say, a certificate or even a full degree program - once you complete a degree or certificate, that's it. As soon as you're done it starts getting stale, Certifications are designed to allow candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in certain areas - but they are also markers of dedication to continuing professional development. Someone who has maintained a certification for 20 years has had to make at least some effort to keep up with changes in the industry and technologies.

The process generally involves earning continuing education units (CEUs) and paying a fee, typically lower than the original exam/assessment fees. Every program determines what types of activities are appropriate for earning CEUs and how many are required; the typical figures are around a 3-5 year recertification cycle and 15-20 CEUs per year of the cycle. Certificants have to report these credits and pay the fees within the time limit in order to maintain the credential. I discuss this process for the CIP in much more length here.

Certifying organizations have to balance the desire to have certificants maintain their credential - and the revenue that comes from them - with the need to ensure certificants really are doing what is expected. If it's too hard, people drop the certification; if it's too easy, it devalues the value of it. So many organizations have a process in place where certificants provide information about a qualifying event along with proof of participation, such as a registration, receipt for payment, brochure, or URL. Certificants should always maintain their own copies of these things - screenshots, the digital (or paper!) brochure, etc. - in case there are questions when it's time to recertify.

One way in which certifying organizations try to balance these needs is to offer preapproval to third party event producers/trainers. This provides a number of benefits depending on your point of view:

  • The certifying organization shows its relevance and that of its designation, as event producers include its name, designation name, and logo in their marketing materials
  • Event producers have a ready way to demonstrate their commitment to the specific certifying organization and the broader community/industry as they market
  • Individual certificants can attend events secure in the knowledge that they are educational in nature and of some level of quality
  • Candidates can also attend those events and for largely the same reasons; in addition, some credentials require some amount of education to even sit for the exam, and these events can meet some or all of that need
Every once in a while a certifying body considers this question and determines that it will only accept its events - that makes it more money, and why should it go to the trouble of accepting, or even promoting, competitive events? This is a terrible idea for several reasons: 
  • Most non-technical certifications are designed to demonstrate industry-accepted knowledge and expertise, not that of a single organization or product. 
  • Individuals won't limit themselves to consuming a single product or service - rather, they will assume that the certification isn't a "real" one since it doesn't accept their otherwise educational activities. 
  • Certifying bodies are themselves part of a community. If AIIM only accepted AIIM events for CIP CEUs, it would only be logical for ARMA, the ICRM, etc. to only accept theirs or at least refuse AIIM events for credit. This results in everyone cutting off their own noses to spite their faces. 
  • Education should be evaluated based on its value and content, not whose name or logo is on the cover. 
  • Frankly, it's also a way for associations to work more closely together. We compete in many ways and on many things - but ultimately we're all in the business of providing value to the members of our communities, and I view all of our various communities as part of the same, larger, information management community. I am an AIIM professional member, and an ICRM member, and an ARMA member, and a member of many other groups.
This is why at AIIM we accept any event for CIP CEUs provided that it meets two requirements: it's educational in nature, and it relates to the CIP body of knowledge. So ARMA events and courses count. So do events produced by other organizations and associations. Vendor events count. Again - it's related to CIP, and it's educational. We provide more examples on our CIP CEU reporting form

So. Event producers, associations, vendors. If you have an event or course that aligns to the CIP, reach out to me. Send me the details - date, duration, location, schedule/agenda - and we'll get it reviewed and approved for CIP credits.  If you have a certification that aligns with information management/governance, send me your details and I'll send over our events and training courses to get preapproved for your certification's CEU program. You  can always reach me at jwilkins@aiim.org.

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