NCCA Accreditation is a stamp of approval on the quality of a certification program, governed by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).™ This is part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence™, the leader in the world of professional credentialing. Note that Certification is different from Licensure, Microcredentials, and other terms.
What do we mean by “certification program”?
A certification is a validation of a person’s skills and knowledge for a particular profession. We all think of it as a test that must be passed, but that’s actually a minority of the process. There’s also things like initial education, eligibility pathways to sit for the exam, retake policies, how to get recertified, continuing education, etc. On top of that, there are organizational issues; you need to make sure that there is an appropriate governing board, that education and certification staff don’t overlap, that you have valid financial accounting, etc. So that’s why the accreditation refers to a “program” and not just a “test.”
What do we mean by “stamp of approval”?
NCCA is a panel of experts, composed of a range of stakeholders in the industry: PhD psychometricians, internationally-known certification managers, attorneys with expertise in this specific topic, and so on. You need to complete a formal application process, submitting tons of documentation about the aforementioned topics. The panel will then review this and grant accreditation, stating that you have followed all the standards.
Why should we get accredited?
In many cases, it is not necessary. There are really three reasons:
- It would provide a competitive advantage against other certifications in your industry
- It would increase trust and brand recognition, helping you sell more certifications (it is a sellable product like any other!)
- It is required by outside sources; for example, if you are selling tests to members of the US Military
These are all very good reasons, certainly.
What is involved in NCCA Accreditation?
The time and cost can vary widely depending on the current state of your organization. If you read the NCCA Standards (requirements to get accredited), they generally fall into 3 categories:
1. Psychometrics and test development, such as statistical reports, job task analysis study, or making sure you have a defensible pass score
2. Certification operations, such as Candidate Handbook and continuing education
3. Business/legal/governance, such as Bylaws and audited financial statements
What is the cost of NCCA Accreditation?
A rule of thumb that I have heard in the industry is that achieving NCCA accreditation for a certification exam will take 1 year and $100,000. Most of that is for parts 2 and 3, which are typically done by you, and not your testing vendor. So those costs are not what is paid to NCCA for the application process, either. It is to your staff, to work on a quality Candidate Handbook, set up quarterly webinars for continuing education, create a registration portal – whatever makes sense for you, as long as it follows the Standards. In some cases they might be things you already do, such as audited financial statements.
We specialize in the psychometrics, which costs far less than $100,000 and takes 3-6 months depending on availability of your subject matter experts. We can certainly work on parts 2 and 3 if you do not have bandwidth and expertise internally. We can also deliver the exams for you.
If you aren’t sure of the net steps, we can perform an audit on your current state and potential timeline, which will provide a much clearer picture. CONTACT US to learn more.
Note: this is not an endorsement of NCCA by ASC, or vice versa, and is meant for educational purposes only.
Nathan Thompson, PhD, is CEO and Co-Founder of Assessment Systems Corporation (ASC). He is a psychometrician, software developer, author, and researcher, and evangelist for AI and automation. His mission is to elevate the profession of psychometrics by using software to automate psychometric work like item review, job analysis, and Angoff studies, so we can focus on more innovative work. His core goal is to improve assessment throughout the world.
Nate was originally trained as a psychometrician, with an honors degree at Luther College with a triple major of Math/Psych/Latin, and then a PhD in Psychometrics at the University of Minnesota. He then worked multiple roles in the testing industry, including item writer, test development manager, essay test marker, consulting psychometrician, software developer, project manager, and business leader. He is also cofounder and Membership Director at the International Association for Computerized Adaptive Testing (iacat.org). He’s published 100+ papers and presentations, but his favorite remains https://scholarworks.umass.edu/pare/vol16/iss1/1/.