Professional certification programs that allow participants to validate their knowledge and skills abound in the U.S. and around the world. Examples range from long-standing, well-recognized teacher certification and CPR programs to more niche and cutting-edge offerings, such as the Project Management Professional and Amazon Web Services credentials. Candidates are often pursuing some combination of new career, promotion, higher salary, and self-fulfillment. They take varying risks with their time and finances for what could return great reward. Given the high stakes involved, an extensive effort goes into certification program management – that is, ensuring that the certifications are developed and run according to best practices. This includes psychometrics, but is most definitely not limited to that topic.
There are many aspects that go into certification program management, including legal status, board governance, accounting, test development, staffing and org charts, continuing education, recertification, prerequisites, and policies for candidates.
One important consideration in certification program management is the requirement of firewall between staff involved in Certification and those involved in Education. Basically, you don’t want the people who are teaching courses to have seen the items on the test – especially if there is an incentive for them to help the students pass! For example, if instructors are tracked by pass rate for their students or institution, they have a reason to want more people to pass, and could divulge more info about the exam than they should. If they never know such information, they instead concentrate on teaching.
Other stakes in certification program management include the protection of the public. This includes patients, students, customers, employees, employers, and all others affected by the performance of certified individuals. The program itself also wagers its reputation each time it confers a certification.
In this high-risk environment, savvy program managers are concerned with granting certification only to those likely to practice competently. They optimize their tests using tools from the science of psychometrics to ensure that candidates must demonstrate appropriate knowledge and skills in order to pass. Learn more about the process of test development in this blog post.