Career Development Certification & Credentialing Benefits Everyone in Higher Ed Institutions

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By Sheri Mahaney, MSW, NCC, CCSP, CMCS and Gaeun Seo, Ph.D., CCSP, GCDF


One of the ways to increase employee engagement and productivity in the workplace is by providing opportunities for learning, professional development, and career advancement. As a growing number of professionals with a diverse array of backgrounds provide career advising and planning, certification and credentials offered by the National Career Development Association can provide both formal career development training and recognition of the important contributions of career practitioners to the field. This article highlights the benefits for practitioners and higher education institutions of career development credentialing and certification.

In 2016, the National Career Development Association (NCDA) formed the NCDA Credentialing Commission to offer more diverse and rigorous credentials for career development practitioners to formally recognize their advanced competencies and professionalism. Since then, more than 1,300 individuals have successfully earned a credential (NCDA, 2019). This may indicate that demand among professionals and employers for credentialing is likely to continue to grow.

Benefits for Practitioners

To earn a professional credential, individuals usually complete a rigorous process that validates the competencies derived from relevant professional experiences and pass an assessment(s) developed by a governing body (Mulvaney, Beggs, Elkins, & Hurd, 2015; Phillips, 2004) such as the NCDA Credentialing Commission. Thus, credentials serve as impartial evidence that professionals have mastered the core body of knowledge and skills required in a specific field, setting them apart from those without any credential (Aguinis, Michaelis, & Jones, 2005; Lengnick-Hall & Aguinis, 2012). In addition to professional development opportunities to maintain a credential over time, researchers suggest credential individuals reported increased recognition, compensation, job self-efficacy, employability, and participation in professional development needed to maintain a credential over time (Aguinis et al., 2005; Mulvaney et al., 2015; Lengnick-Hall & Aguinis, 2012; Phillips, 2004). Additionally, credentials provide practitioners with a sense of belonging to a career field across sectors through the lens of a common language.

Benefits for the Institution

NCDA credentials can be considered as a means to ensure that professionals have the necessary knowledge, skills, and ethics to effectively support students’ academic and career success, which helps increase credibility and validity of the profession as a whole (Lengnick-Hall & Aguinis, 2012; Mulvaney et al., 2015). Organizations that invest in staff growth and development through industry certifications or credentials demonstrate that they value their employees, leading to happier, more engaged staff who stay around longer (Half, 2014). Institutions also benefit from increased work quality, stakeholder confidence in the college, and employee productivity.

A Credential for A Wide Variety of Career Development Work

Of the six credentials offered by NCDA, the Certified Career Services Provider (CCSP) is specifically designed to recognize the work of professionals from a wide array of experience and educational backgrounds. By focusing on baseline career development competency training and experience, the CCSP provides access to credentialing for staff and faculty in any program or area of the institution where career planning occurs, including career services.  Completing a relevant training program (e.g., NCDA’s Facilitating Career Development) and/or earning a credential such as CCSP could potentially maximize the student experience across programs. For example, structured training opportunities like completing the NCDA’s Facilitating Career Development (FCD) certification program would allow academic advisors to offer a holistic advising approach that connects academic exploration with career direction possibilities and it would empower students to build seamless, stronger interactions with professionals at career services offices (Lynch & Lungrin, 2018).


Career development professionals have a crucial role to play in the life and professional success of our future global citizens and leaders. Thus, supporting professionals in their work to meet nationally recognized, rigorous competency and ethical standards of practice increases accountability and ensures the best career services possible. As a result, certification and credentialing improve the overall quality of the profession as well as individuals’ credibility and value within their institutions and society.


Half, R. (2014, December). 4 Reasons a Professional Certification Benefits the Entire Company. Robert Half International Inc. Retrieved from

Aguinis, H., Michaelis, S. E., & Jones, N. M. (2005). Demand for certified human resources professionals in internet-based job announcements. International Journal of Selection and Assessment. 13(2), 160-171.

Mulvaney, M. A., Beggs, B. A., Elkins, D. J., & Hurd, A. R. (2015). Professional certifications and job self-efficacy of public park and recreation professionals. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 33(1), 93-111.

NCDA (2019). Introduction to Credentialing. National Career Development Association. Retrieved from

Nelson, B.  (2018, September). How Learning & Development Impacts Employee Engagement.  Training Industry: Performance Management. Retrieved from

Lengnick-Hall, M. L., & Aguinis, H. (2012). What is the value of human resource certification? A multi-level framework for research. Human Resource Management Review, 22(4), 246-257.

Lynch, J. & Lungrin, T. (2018). Integrating academic and career advising toward student success. New Direction for Higher Education, 184, 69-79.

Phillips, J. T. (2004). Professional certification: Does it matter? Information Management Journal, 38(6), 64-67.

Tudor, T. R. (2018). Fully integrating academic advising with career coaching to increase student retention, graduation rates, and future job satisfaction: An industry approach. Industry and Higher Education, 32(2), 73-79.