two kinds of stamps, one on ink pad
PHOTO: shutterstock

It can be exciting to take a training course to improve your knowledge and skills, especially when it gives you solid, actionable advice you can try right away at your job.

When researching training options, you might compare certificates to try to figure out which one is more valuable. You might even seek out proof from the training provider that this certificate was approved by some other/higher authority. But how do you decide the value of a certificate? There are excellent training companies and programs out there, however, there are many poor ones as well. Is anybody regulating or overseeing these?

Who's Regulating Business Certifications?

Outside of accredited colleges and universities, certificates and certifications for training are still the wild west. Plenty of companies around the world will come and certify a job site or company for various reasons or qualifications, but there are few official organizations regulating or assessing business training certifications.

In the US, there is no authority or governing body behind business training certificates. There is no framework at all. Anybody can offer a certificate or certification, and nobody oversees the quality of the program, trainer or test. The EU has a framework relating to the level of knowledge you might expect to get from business training. Preliminary research shows it’s not self-awarded, but it has been difficult to find who decides what level your training is awarded or if the authority is just rubber stamping your own self-assessment.

This isn’t necessarily bad. It just means we must be clear with ourselves and others about the value of any particular certificate.

Related Article: How to Start Improving Digital Literacy in Your Workplace

Certification's Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder

The value of any certificate is what we perceive it to be. If we like Company X’s “Certified Scrum Master” training over Company Y’s, we choose Company X.

Some companies have declared they have created the standard of user experience (UX) education. It’s probably legal to say that, but remember to ask what authority gave them the power to decide the standards of all UX education is, well, them. It’s not as if 15 companies applied to be the one in charge of UX education standards and this company won the bid. They just placed a crown on their own heads.

Some trainers want you to receive training on a recurring basis, which can be great to make sure that as knowledge evolves, so do you. They might also request or require you to get “continuing education credits” by taking additional training that they offer. However, some see this as a cash grab. All of these factors are part of deciding which company you might turn to for training.

Related Article: How to Keep Your Skills Sharp and Your Career Vibrant

Continue Training, But Don't Discount Experience

It’s great to attend training and collect certificates. But we also must have the self-awareness to know that in many cases, this training is the tip of an iceberg, a starting or middle point. A week-long course on UX may have “certified” you in UX design, but that wouldn’t be enough time to significantly change your work experience or your level of expertise. If you have never worked in UX before and you get a certificate, you have knowledge you can now apply. If you were a newbie before a week of training, any hiring manager would still see you as a newbie.

We should recognize that certificates and certifications deliver valuable knowledge, methodologies and approaches, but do not make anybody an expert.