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How to start a certification program: 5 Essential Tips

Certification programs have become increasingly popular in recent years as a tool for fueling business growth. A certification is a designation that an individual can earn to demonstrate professional skills and knowledge in a particular industry. Certification programs have benefits for both professionals and employers.

For professionals, the benefits to earning a certification include professional recognition, career advancement opportunities, and increased earning potential. For employers, certifications can be useful criteria in attracting talent, making hiring decisions, and retaining talent that has the latest skills and qualifications in competitive markets.

If you are considering starting a certification program for your organization, this article will provide you with tips to support you in the process. In this article, we will cover:

●                What a certification program is and the benefits

●                How to determine the need for a certification program

●                How to create the certification exam

●                Tips for maintaining a certification program

●                Launching a successful certification program with an expert partner

What is a certification program and what are the benefits?

The certification process usually includes passing a comprehensive test to earn a designation that demonstrates a set of qualifications, knowledge and skills in a particular topic or field. Certifications can give professionals an edge over their competition, demonstrate their competence and commitment to their field, and increase their earning potential. Employers also benefit from certification programs. Employers can be assured that professionals who have earned a certification have the latest skills and competencies to be the top talent in their field. Certification programs can also help employers identify which employees are eligible for advancement within the company or who to recruit and hire to fill needed roles.

Tip #1: Determine the need for a certification program

The first step in developing a certification program is to first evaluate the market need. Determine who is the test candidate and total size of the target market. Evaluate if there are similar credentials already in the market. An organization may conduct a feasibility study in this phase of determining the need for the certification program. According to a report by the Seacrest company, a feasibility study may include:

  • Information gathering – researching target audience(s), market analysis, etc.
  • Survey development – survey and pilot testing
  • Additional data collection – focus groups, interviews, etc.
  • Analysis – results and recommendations

Tip #2: Determine the resources needed to create the certification exam

One of the most common mistakes when launching a new certification program is to overlook the resources needed to create a credible certification exam. The process of launching a certification program that can have long-term success includes market research, subject matter expert recruitment, beta testing, test form development, standard setting and more.

Dr. Leslie Thomas, Kryterion’s Chief Strategy and Product Officer and a psychometrician with over 20 years of industry experience, states that the process required to build a professional certification exam typically requires nine to 12 months. For healthcare and finance industry-related certifications, it can take even longer! Certifications for the IT industry typically take less time, reflecting the rapid pace of product development and narrower scope of assessment.

Tip #3: Getting started with developing a certification exam

Once you have determined the need for a certification program, you will need to create the actual certification exam. The certification exam should be designed to measure whether professionals have the required skills and knowledge to competently perform the job or role you are certifying.

It is essential to develop a certification exam that is fair, reliable, legally defensible, and consistent with credentialing industry standards. This is where an expert psychometrician comes in to support the development of your certification exam, facilitate meetings with subject matter experts, and support the long term maintenance of the program.

Throughout the test development process, active involvement from subject matter experts (SMEs), a representative from the credentialing organization, and a psychometrician is needed.

Another important consideration in developing your certification exam with credibility in mind is to select the right SMEs. These subject matter experts must have a depth of knowledge the specific field being certified and, since many certifications are testing for applied knowledge, it is also a benefit that they have real world experience. These SMEs will play an essential role in the development and evaluation of the certification exam content.

According to Trish Young, Kryterion’s Director of Psychometric Services, when selecting SMEs ensure that your subject matter group is representative of the target audience especially if you intend to pursue accreditation of your certification program.

Tip #4: How to promote a new certification program

Once you are ready to launch, marketing is an essential step to grow any certification program. A comprehensive marketing plan that is effective at attracting test candidates to your certification program will include these steps:

  • Identifying your target customer. This is a targeted niche of people who are best suited to take your certification exam.
  • Establishing your positioning. This includes how you brand and communicate your certification program to your target market.
  • Define your go-to-market plan and channels. This is where strategy meets execution. Your plan will define which marketing channels you will use to promote your certification program.

In our free guide, How to Market Your Certification Program, the Kryterion marketing team shares in-depth insights and strategies to develop a successful marketing plan. In this guide you will learn how to market the certification program through various channels, such as social media and email marketing.

While you might focus on marketing your certification program directly to prospective test candidates, Kryterion recommends promoting the benefits of certification to employers. Encourage them to sponsor and incentivize employee participation.

Tip #5: Tips for maintaining a successful certification program

A professional certification program can be a valuable tool for organizations, but it is important to maintain the program in order to ensure long term success. Here are a few tips for maintaining a successful certification program:

Keep criteria for certification up-to-date and engage in regular certification exam maintenance

It is important to keep the criteria for certification up-to-date so that the certification remains relevant in today’s rapidly changing markets. The criteria should be updated regularly to reflect new skills and knowledge required to succeed in today’s marketplace.

A certification test must be reviewed and revised on a regular basis to reflect any changes in the industry or field.

There are common maintenance measures for all certification programs. For example, routine job analyses and routine item checks and updates. According to Trish Young, Kryterion’s Director of Psychometric Services, the frequency of certification exam maintenance efforts can vary. Factors to consider include testing volume, how high the stakes are, the extent of exam content exposure, and the degree to which test candidates talk about the exam.

Certification exam development is not a “one and done” process. Maintenance is critical to ensure long-term success and credibility in the market.

Promote the benefits of certification

Promote the benefits of certification to your market in order to increase awareness of the program and encourage participation. The benefits of certification to professionals include validated competence, enhanced career growth opportunities, and increased earning potential.

How to launch a successful certification program with an expert partner

Certification programs have proven to be an effective tool for fueling business growth, customer retention, partnerships, and employee satisfaction. Organizations large and small, from top-tier technology companies to professional associations have leveraged certification programs to ensure proper product implementation, improve customer experience, and generate revenue growth.

There are several critical steps in launching a certification program and maintaining the success of that program. You must ensure your certification test is credible and meets the standards of the industry. The certification program must serve the goals of your market including career advancement and professional recognition. When navigating through the certification program start up process, it can be valuable to work with an experienced industry partner.

Backed by 20 years of expertise, Kryterion is a leading all-in-one certification development and delivery partner for some of the foremost technology companies and professional associations worldwide.

As a partner in starting or growing a certification program for your organization, Kryterion provides:

  • A self-service SaaS platform that gives you in-house control of your exam development and delivery eco-system in real-time
  • In-house, world class psychometricians available to support the design and development of certification exams.
  • Faster time to market. Publish exams or change test items in minutes – with no annual minimums or test publishing fees
  • Multi-modal test delivery: online, online with live remote proctoring, via Kryterion’s 1000+ test center network, or via your own test center or event
  • Customer success pros ready to support the successful launch and growth of your program

Want more information on how to launch a successful certification program? Schedule a meeting to speak with a member of our team.

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