Career Development Practitioner (CDP) Certification

Green check mark with the word "certified"

One of the trends mentioned in my recent What’s Trending in Career Development article was a growing focus on certification. Quebec, via l’Ordre, has had a formal credential/certification for many years. Alberta launched certification in 2005; BC quickly followed in 2010. New Brunswick will probably be the next Canadian province to put certification in place and I believe Ontario and Nova Scotia are also considering the benefits of certification.

None of this is a bad thing.  Generally, the goal of certification is to establish a minimum set of skills, knowledge, and attitudes (KSAs), outline educational requirements, and encourage continuous learning through continuing education units/credits. Many employers use the provincial credential as a minimum hiring standard and, in some cases, funders have considered making certification a requirement for various funded projects.

However, at a January meeting focused on CDP training needs, an interesting question emerged – Does certification result in more highly-skilled practitioners and, therefore, better service to clients? It was agreed that, as many employers are considering certification as a minimum (or at least preferred) hiring standard, there must be at least some anecdotal evidence. However, none of the meeting attendees were aware of any research or indication that certified CDPs were “better” than those who were not certified.

This question piqued my curiosity and I took the opportunity to connect with several colleagues during CANNEXUS 2014 to explore it further. Although I only spoke to a few people, the general consensus seemed to be that no one is tracking how, or if, certification impacts practice. At least one contact I spoke to mentioned there was no difference between staff who were certified and staff who were not.

On the surface, the answer to the question, “Does certification result in more highly-skilled practitioners and, therefore, better service to clients?” seems to be no but I think this warrants further investigation. I’d love to hear what readers think; feel free to add a comment in the space provided.

Of course, the other question may be whether or not the goal of certification is to improve practice and, if improved practice isn’t the goal, then what is?

This article was originally posted on the Life Strategies blog at


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Deirdre Pickerell
Deirdre Pickerell is career management/development specialist with over 20 years’ experience. She has made significant differences within the field of career development – locally, nationally, and internationally – through innovative program design, leading-edge education for career practitioners and HR professionals, inspiring facilitation and career coaching, and selfless leadership, consulting, and mentoring throughout the sector. She is currently completing her PhD in Organizational Systems where her research interest is the links between career management and employee engagement. Her doctoral research is focused on examining the career engagement of Canadian Career Development Practitioners.

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