Professional Certification Matters

In recent decades, more and more professional fields have developed internal standards for performance, professional ethics, and continuous learning (professional development), and have created criteria for certifying and recognizing those in the profession who demonstrate both knowledge and practice of those standards. Professional certification is different from professional licensure. Licenses are usually issued by state agencies to individuals that perform certain jobs, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, or lawyers. Professional certification, on the other hand, is voluntary. For example, you are not required to have earned the PMP credential to work successfully as a project manager.

Nevertheless, professional certification does endorse expertise. In “The Guide to National Professional Certification Programs,” Phillip Barnhart explains that “certification allows its participants to define their profession, to establish its standards of performance and knowledge, and to create an objective standards of quality to which others within the profession can aspire.” Certification also raises the bar for people working in a particular profession. “Certified professionals,” continues Barnhart, “set new standards in expertise and organizational contributions.”

Myriad job fields now offer professional certification. It is no longer just highly technical or specialized jobs and services; ballroom dancers and picture framers have professional certifications, too. In each case, the certification assures employers, clients, and the public that the certificate holder is not just competent but beholden to professional standards and ethics.

It is without surprise, then, that managers of volunteers have a professional certification available to them. The Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration is currently the only internationally recognized certifying body in North America for volunteer administrators. Since its beginnings with the Association for Volunteer Administration in the 1980s, the certificate in volunteer administration (CVA) has served as a professional development tool for anyone who manages volunteers. It assesses the core competencies and accepted best practices in the profession.

If you have been asking yourself whether to pursue the CVA certification, then you should consider how it can benefit you. While some managers of volunteers pursue certification to improve employment opportunities, others do so to demonstrate proficiency, commitment, professional validation and status. The CCVA provides an entire page of reasons and testimonials on its website why the CVA credential is worth investing in. Regardless of your motivation, one thing is clear: professional certification elevates the stature of the volunteer management profession as a whole.

Personally, in preparing for the CVA exam this past May and again when writing my portfolio, I read and re-read the CCVA textbook (particularly the chapter on ethics), researched the body of knowledge that comprises the field of volunteer management, and participated in the Yahoo Group with others who are pursuing this credential. The more I prepared, the deeper I felt my competency was becoming, and the stronger my conviction was that this is absolutely a relevant credential to earn. If you want to benchmark the quality of your volunteer management, improve the effectiveness of your work with volunteers, and enhance your reputation, I absolutely urge you to pursue the CVA credential.

Written by Richard Higgins

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