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What is the Value of a Professional Designation?

Over a recent holiday, I was cleaning out my home office and found some pins and jewelry associated with one of my professional designations.  Seeing them, my daughter commented, "Wow, that's real gold!  I bet they're worth over $200 apiece!"  While laughing at her reaction, I also decided to post the following question on my blog.  "What is the true value of a professional designation (PMP, CPA, CLU, etc.), and why are they important / unimportant?

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Over a recent holiday, I was cleaning out my home office and found some pins and jewelry associated with one of my professional designations.  Seeing them, my daughter commented, "Wow, that's real gold!  I bet they're worth over $200 apiece!"  While laughing at her reaction, I also decided to post the following question on my blog.  "What is the true value of a professional designation (PMP, CPA, CLU, etc.), and why are they important / unimportant?

What my daughter did not know is that for me, the pins and jewelry represented the hundreds of hours learning curricula and taking exams and the exams I invested in achieving them; all in an attempt to advance my career and serve my clients better.  I also know it is possible to compute the expected life time income of a professional that completes a designation compared to one who does not.  And, I know that Net Expected Earning sets a provable value on a designation.  But, is it the best measure of a designation's value?

Questions: Do you encourage young professionals to take on the added burden of a professional designation?  How should we measure the value of attending educational and networking events sponsored by associations of professional designees? 

Do you think management consultants should seek designations in a specific vertical that they serve?

I'd like to see what you think the future of professional designations holds.  Are they really worth the effort?

Comments

James, that's a great question. While I do not hold any professional designations, I can see their value. On a recent project, the client required that all Project Managers be PMI Certified. This particular client has very rigorous project management standards and processes, and I saw at least one of our PMs in the hot seat during a milestone review (she handled herself very well under pressure). Certainly for the PM profession, I can see both the tangible and intangible value of PMI Certification. Tangible in the sense of helping us sell enagagements when the client expects certified consultants, intangible in the sense of preparing PMs to execute those engagements in accordance with the highest standards demanded by the client.

I would say that any additional education, especially in a field that you are interested in making a career out of, is a good thing. It can't hurt you and if anything people will respect your opinion more because you would be more qualified to trust than a person who just has experience.

When did learning become a burden? A designation indicates seriousness. It shows that the person has a goal in mind..a sense of purpose. Whether all designations/brands are good is a different question.

Hi Jim, very good question. I have been thinking about it. I am a PMP & also completed many other industry certifications. In my opinion professional designations surely hold value because each one of these reputed designations such as PMP require one to have the necessary industry experience, expertise and aspiration to move forward. It also gives you multiple opportunities to connect with like minded professionals. Also continuing educational requirements makes one strive to learn new things developing in the profession. These are my 2 cents.

Any highly motivated young person is well advised to pursue the knowledge and credibility that come with obtaining a professional designation. If obtained early in a career, this knowledge and credibility helps offset the disadvantages of less experience. When recruiting people for our organization, I always look for designations as an indication of motivation and persistence in addition to basic knowledge. Other than measuring the difference in earnings of designated versus non-designated professionals, however, there does not seem to be many ways to quantify the value of a designation. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have several designations hanging on my wall, most of which I obtained early in my career.)

Professionals of all ages should be encouraged to seek designations in their fields of interest and expertise.
Many companies see encourage employees and in some cases even fund employees seeking professional designations. These companies see the value that they can gain by their employees constantly improving and honing their skills.

1. Thank you for all the comments. Many offline commenters have caught me off guard when commenting on this particular blog entry. I invite all of them to post their intesting comments for all to enjoy. Multiple perspectives are always appreciated.

2. Based on the comments I have heard, it appears that the value of a designation does not depend on the one who holds it, in some cases it carries a cache' of its own.

3. Most offline commenters believe that designations are more of a resume' item, or an "academic achievement", rather than a commitment to life time learning, professional dedication and public altruism, as can be heard in some of the blog comments.

4. As a true confession, if one were required to print all designations on one's business card, mine would not fit, and this is true of several of the commenters, But do I really use them? No, I do not access the various curricula or serve the associated designees, anymore. But once I was very active and I think that the involvement that it takes to get interested and achieve a rigorous designation carries something in itself. Somehow the tangible proof of one's ability to set and achive a goal and learn a new facet of an industry or professional area is where the value lies, and this is where the quality of life uptick occurs, setting a projectory of increased value to self and employer for years to come.

5. What do you think? What value do designations provide to you or others?

Can they help tell the good guys from the bad guys?

Can they identify the intelligent / ambitious / committed? (Just kidding!)

Summary:

A. The question can be re-framed this way: "Why should a professional (young or old) take two years of nights and week-ends out of their valueable time to study a curricula and pass a series of exams." The answer is simple; It must add value or rational men and women would not do it.
B. If the very act of passing a series of exams has value, how can its value be increased? Maintained over time?

Please weigh in. I'd like to hear what others think about this important topic.

In one sentence; Is there a "Hawthorne Effect (management influence) or reward system that a company can adopt and can sustain over time to convince the professionals that were once "students" and worked so hard to achieve their chosen designation, continue to use the same effort at work, thoughout his/ her carreer, once having proved that they are capable of high achievement?

What do the experienced readers see? Is this natural =human nature? Is it the designation or the process of attaining it that matters?

Please weigh in.

JCM

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