I need to start this article with a disclaimer. I am HIGHLY BIASED in favor of professional credentialing. If this is offensive to you, stop reading this now. I am fairly well credentialed. I have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school, a MBA degree and a Doctorate of Science in Healthcare Administration. I hold Fellowship certifications from both the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). I hold HFMA certifications in Managed Care and Patient Financial Services (PFS). I am in the first class to be certified by HFMA in managed care and I was the national co-valedictorian in my HFMA PFS exam class. I served a ‘sentence’ on HFMA’s Board of Examiners (BOE) including a year as Chairman of the BOE. The BOE is responsible for HFMA’s professional certification program. Other than this, I have not done much to improve myself professionally or promote professional certification.
Lest this come across as self aggrandizing, you should know that I had a rough time in high school but ended up being the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree and that undergraduate degree was bestowed by The University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. One of the highlights of my service to the healthcare profession is my service on HFMA’s BOE. A number of changes to the HFMA certification process occurred during my service on the Board and as the Chairman of the BOE that I am very proud of. Changes that were focused on making the certification process more objective and making the preparation process more efficient.
You’re damn right I think credentialing is important.
More than anything else, I think a professional credential makes a statement about you. I discuss this in my article about getting ahead. Holding professional credentials makes a statement that you have shown willingness to go beyond the minimum required by a job to be recognized by your peers in your discipline as being one of the best among them and an example for others seeking career advancement and improvement.
Professional certifications usually require a combination of education, experience and ability to demonstrate through examination, research project, mentorship, etc. mastery of a discipline. The effort required to obtain a credential is useful in that in the process of achieving the recognition, it is impossible to not learn something or possibly a lot. This knowledge is helpful in career development and can differentiate you from your peers in a competitive job or search situation. Among your peers, those with professional certifications are typically held in higher esteem.
For some credentials and some disciplines, certifications are minimum requirements for certain roles. There was a time when holding an ACHE Fellowship was practically a minimum requirement for becoming a hospital CEO. That is not as true today because of the shortage of FACHEs and the effects of some head-hunters focused on making their own jobs easier by convincing Boards of Directors that requiring professional certification will unnecessarily restrict the pool of candidates. My question of a Board making a decision like this is why would they want to expand their net to catch applicants that did not feel that getting certification in their discipline was important? Ironically in hospitals, these Boards preside over medical staffs that increasingly require Professional Practice Board Certification of their members. My question is if they support requiring Board Certification of their physicians, why would they intentionally establish a lower threshold for the executives operating the organization? If demand was higher for certified leaders, it could result in a remuneration differential and lead to more executives seeking certification. If I was advising a Board or a hiring executive, I would and have required headhunters to build a very strong case for recommending consideration of a non-certified executive when certified executives are available.
If you are an executive that is interested in career advancement, my advice is that credentialing is one of the first things you should consider. The type of credentialing you pursue can vary depending upon your current or desired role. In nursing for example, a wide variety of credentials are available. Many nurses carry several credentials.
We have all heard the adage that if something was simple or easy, everyone would have it. This principle certainly applies to credentialing. Credentialing can be expensive, time consuming and difficult. Credentials require a combination of minimum education, in-role experience, examinations, service under the tutelage of another certified leader and the like. Each discipline has a process for determining the requirements for one of their members to be recognized as the best among them. Some are more rigorous than others. An argument can be made that the more onerous the process, the higher the value of the credential and the greater the degree to which a credentialed executive is set off from his peers. In the case of HFMA, the credential is a Fellowship and it is earned by fewer than 10% of the members. If you are a HFMA member, start paying attention to the certified status of your peers and look at their career advancement success compared to the 90%+ of uncertified members. It should not surprise you to discover that the type of people that pursue professional certification are the same type of people that tend to advance their careers faster than others. Is it the credential? To a degree, I would argue that the answer is yes.