- Dec 18
Developing a Credential Is Not for the Weak of Heart
Developing a credentialing program is never as easy as it might seem.
Companies and professional/trade associations that undertake credentialing often discover that the process is far more complex, technical and labor intensive than originally believed. That’s even true for organizations that performed meaningful due diligence.
It’s essential that the credentialing committee, board members, staff and other stakeholders go into the process with eyes wide open.
1. Credentialing involves risk
This is especially true for high-stakes licensure exams, where the credential is mandatory for practice. If test candidates fail to obtain the credential, they may challenge the process. A challenge could mean a lawsuit.
A high-stakes exam is one that has meaningful consequences for the test candidate, so the risk of lawsuits is probably more prevalent than it may seem.
Per Lenora Knapp Ph.D., author of The Business of Certification, advises consulting an attorney familiar with credentialing law before test-development begins to address these issues:
- Failing to follow credentialing best practices
- Unfair or unsound eligibility requirements
- Unfairly excluding otherwise qualified test candidates
- Not having written policies for handling appeals and disciplinary actions
2. Credentialing involves pyschometricians
They’re the experts on developing credentialing exams that are fair, reliable, legally defensible and consistent with credentialing industry standards.
Psychometric expertise is needed throughout the life of a credentialing program.
Psychometricians are indispensable for managing subject matter experts whose participation is necessary before, during and after the development of the exam.
3. Credentialing involves considerable upfront and ongoing costs
The cost to develop a legally defensible exam in accordance with credentialing industry standards and best practices could range from $200,000 to $500,000.
Even the lower end of that range will stop some credentialing plans immediately, so it’s best to create a budget right at the beginning of the process.
Not only could actual development costs be considerable, but money must also be available for launching the credential and then marketing it on an ongoing basis. “If you build it, they will come” has proven to be a failed marketing strategy. The program must be actively, continually promoted.
New test items must be developed on a regular basis to replace ones that become overexposed. A job analysis must be performed every few years to ensure that the test remains current with the knowledge and competencies required of the minimally qualified candidate.
4. Credentialing requires significant human resources
The development and long-term management of a credential involves the sponsoring committee; association staff including program managers, accountants, and creatives (a graphic designer and writer); volunteers like subject matter experts and beta-test candidates; and consultants including psychometricians, attorneys, and market researchers.
Per Lenora Knapp, volunteers in particular bear much of the human-resource burden since their work is laborious and cognitively demanding. Why not ask other associations with credentialing programs about their firsthand insights into the levels of effort required?
Like other things in life, credentialing should not be entered into lightly. Information related to timelines, costs and manpower should be collected, reported and discussed/debated at the very beginning of the program—and always before test development begins. Any one of them could be a showstopper, and knowing that at the earliest possible date will serve the best interests of all stakeholders.
While we're on the subject of credentialing...the Kryterion Psychometric Team would love to hear about your plans for your first, next or current certification program. Why not schedule a free, no-obligation, 30-minute call with one of our friendly (and really smart) psychometricians? Just click here to get started!