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Government Certificates and Certifications and Their Roles in Talent Development

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Certifications continue to be a key pillar of professional development in many occupational fields. They are an important piece of the talent development continuum and are most appropriate in those areas that involve high risk, high visibility, and high stakes (such as security, healthcare, law enforcement, IT, and cyber, among others). This applies to many government roles as well.

Not only do certifications help develop individuals, they also professionalize your broader workforce, and potential employees, by establishing a common standard for the fundamental knowledge and skills expected. Certifications can outline the core expectations for what all professionals (regardless of organization, function, and experience level) must know and successfully perform to contribute to the execution of your mission, function, and activities at a prescribed proficiency level.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is a helpful resources that defines government terms and compares and contrasts the differences between a certificate program and a certification program (see

Certificate Program: A training program established or purchased by an agency to provide structured training course(s) to employees to meet an identified performance and developmental need.


Certification Program: A process in which individuals attain and demonstrate the level of knowledge and skill required to perform in the profession.


Professional Certification: An indicator of proficiency that acknowledges the certification issued and recognized by a specific general professional community or industry and demonstrates a person’s proficiency in the competencies or knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to perform the job.

What’s missing from this list? Accreditation. National accreditation is a key component of a certification program. It assures that the work analysis and certification assessments meet national quality standards and can be implemented with confidence and, more importantly, recognized for their quality program by all organizations. Accreditation is the glue that binds the different workforce segments (military, government, industry, and academia) together. Ultimately, accreditation addresses the program development and implementation processes used to certify your workforce. The subject matter experts within a functional community define the actual certification content.

While not all skills and functions require certification, it is key in those areas that may require a higher level of assurance to the employer or serving public. And providing national accreditation for such certifications provides the highest level of assurance for companies and the ultimate level of talent development.

About the Author

Reese Madsen is the founder and owner of MEMY&I, LLC. He is a senior learning executive that consults on program design, development, and improvement for the federal government sector. Using his 40 years of federal service and the last 15 as a chief learning officer at the Department of Defense to support national and federal learning programs. His experience included leading a learning enterprise of 52 schoolhouses and programs for the U.S.’s largest government department - including overseeing a $2 billion budget supporting 2.5 million professionals. He developed policies, plans, programs, and training for civilian, military, government, academic, and industry workforces. This included maintaining a Learning Enterprise comprising of 5,000+ courses, the first nationally accredited government certifications, and providing more than 21 million hours of instruction per year.

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