Certification programs: A comparative study of perceived benefits

Alastair MacLean Morrison, Purdue University


The number of professional certification programs in North America is increasing. Many programs are of recent origin while others, including programs for adult educators, instructional developers, and trainers, are proposed. Despite its growing popularity, little empirical research has been done on how certification benefits the individual practitioner. This study addressed this problem by examining three respondent groups from the National Tour Association (NTA); program graduates, candidates, and non-certified association members. Through a mailed survey, it compared the groups' perceptions of perceived benefits of the NTA's Certified Tour Professional (CTP) program, demographic characteristics, and opinions on certification programs in general. The results indicated that those who had decided to be involved in certification had more positive perceptions of perceived benefits and of certification programs in general. The perceived benefits tended to be intangible rather than tangible and included greater personal satisfaction, respect and recognition, increased professional competence, and improved self-esteem and self-confidence. In contrast with earlier research (Davis and Rubin, 1976), certification was not found to have a strong positive influence on annual salary, authority and responsibility levels, implying that not all professional certification programs are alike in how they benefit graduates. Regarding certification programs in general, support was found for the three propositions that they encourage professionals to continue their education and professional development, improve the standards of practice, and increase the credibility and respect of professions. However, the idea that certification protects customers from incompetent practitioners was rejected. Some evidence was found to indicate that professionals' demographic characteristics, including years worked, formal education, job titles, and organizational affiliations affect their perceptions of certification's benefits. Several important demographic differences were noted between the respondent groups. Above-average participation by female professionals and by those without college degrees was found. Reasons cited for participation included the gaining of greater prestige in the industry, greater knowledge, greater status with the public, and increased self-confidence. Reasons for non-participation were lack of time, work pressures, and doubts about the career benefits of becoming certified.




Russell, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server