What’s Your Certification Program’s Shelf Life?

By Tracey M Flynn

I believe that some organizations and companies have gotten into a rut and only require updates to their certifications because they default to the way they’ve always done it.

What’s the shelf life of your certification program? How long do you think you can stand by the certification exam and support the claims that you make regarding your credential holders?

Ed Tittel, author of over 140 computer trade/certification books, states, “most technical topics have more of a ‘half life’ than a ‘shelf life’ because they don't necessarily go bad, but they do become increasingly irrelevant or unusable as time marches forward.”

Use the term you’re comfortable with, shelf life or half life, and think about your content and come up with your own percentage mix to see how you’d categorize the following broad buckets of your competency model; core competencies, compliance, major technology upgrades, and product updates. See which instigate certification renewal for your program and when.

For example, core competencies, are the knowledge, skills and attributes that are the foundation of the credential. They make up about say 60 percent of what’s required of the certification candidate’s ability and let’s say they remain relatively stable. Then let’s focus on compliance changes mandated by the government or industry standards. These can account for 10 percent changes, major technology upgrades/changes – these may cause 10 percent changes and more often product updates may require 20 percent change to the certification exam.

17-Cert Shelf Life Flynn

Review your certification exams for these broad categories and see what instigates renewing the credential. Can you put time periods or cycles next to these categories? For example, you know you’ll have a new product launch every two years or every year and you’ll have to offer a gap-exam to cover changes beyond the core competency certification. Or, you know that you require compliance updates every three years due to a government agency standard. Or is there an ANSI standard that you must adhere to?

Recertification may default to time periods based on your industry, for example a two to three-year time period in hi-tech and a 5 year time period for maintenance in the health care and education sectors. Can organizations provide a reason for the update based on the competency requirements, is it a comfortable default or is it for administrative and budget reasons?

Continuing education requirements may or may not encompass the required changes in core competencies, compliance, technology or product updates but may be the most comprehensive way to administer renewals for large audiences with core competencies that remain stable.

When’s the last time you took a hard look at your certification’s shelf life and asked why do we do things this way, is it the best way?

Posted in: Certification

About the Author

Tracey M. Flynn

Tracey M. Flynn is the principal of Performetrics , providing training and certification design solutions. She’s the author of two books on certification; Certify Like Your Business Depends On It and Unlocking the Power of Certification, How to Build Effective Programs.  She has 25 years of experience in a variety of community and corporate education roles and industries. She has taught instructional design at the Graduate School of Education for the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and in many corporate settings.  She takes a performance consultant’s approach to the business  of certification. She can be reached at TraceyFlynn@Performetrics.Biz

She invites your unique perspective, “let’s link up and blog about all things certification for buyers and suppliers.”

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