Monday, November 19, 2012

Alphabet Soup De-Coded: Making Sense of Credentials

Based on last month’s blog posting about participation in industry specific organizations, we decided to take the discussion a step further and examine professional industry-related credentials. An assumption often made in the A/E/C industry has become that the more letters and acronyms next to your name, the more important and/or qualified that individual appears on paper. The question then becomes “Is it worth it to earn all of those distinctions?”

During a recent address in June of 2012 entitled “Credentials in the 21st Century Job Market” during the Clinton Global Initiative, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis commented, “It really doesn't matter where you've been or where you want to go, because you're not likely to get far in the current job market without the right training and credentials.”

Many companies, municipalities and federal organizations are now requiring industry designations to qualify individuals and companies.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over a10-year period from 2008 to 2018, 21 of the 30 fastest growing occupations will require a postsecondary certificate or degree. These numbers indicate a greater need for professionals to earn industry certifications, licenses and registrations.

When deciding which distinctions to pursue, this mix of alphabet soup of credentials can be overwhelming. One way to investigate the relevance amongst the number of credentials available is to examine the organizations that sponsor many of these industry-standard registrations and certifications. These organizations and corresponding distinctions include:

In addition to these organizational sponsored certifications, many states offer professional licenses in the A/E/C industry. These licenses add even more acronyms to the mix of alphabet soup including:
  • Professional Engineer (PE)
  • Engineer-in-Training (EIT) or Engineering Intern (EI)
  • Professional Land Surveyor (PLS)
  • Professional Geologist (PG)
  • Professional Landscape Architect (PLA)
  • Registered Interior Designer (RID)
Outside of industry-related requirements, organizations and state licensures, professional distinctions offer other benefits. Industry distinctions help to define A/E/C professionals by: 
  • Allowing for standardization across the country for quality of workmanship
  • Assessing specific industry knowledge
  • Providing an avenue for continuing education

In the end, the pursuit of this mix of alphabet soup of credentials should be a decision made based on the individual and the needs of the company. When decoding this mix of alphabet soup, be sure to consider the following:
  • Industry related standards – is a license/certification required to perform necessary job tasks?
  • Organizational reputation and the amount of organizational involvement
  • Amount of work experience required
  • Opportunity for training resources and continuing education
  • Impacts on career advancement

For more information on professional distinctions, the Department of Labor has sponsored two websites: