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ATD Blog

Certification Changes Reflect Expanded Knowledge and Skills

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Think for a minute about a certification being a living, breathing entity. As a measurement of professional standards, the certification program, its content, and processes must stay current with the growth and maturation of the profession it serves. The content is updated as the standards are updated. Likewise, the process of earning a certification can also change to reflect the changes in content and the best practices in certification.

The certifications governed by the ATD Certification Institute (ATD CI) have reached a time when the changes in the content are so significant that changes in the process, and even updating the name of one of the certifications, is necessary to position the certifications as the definitive credentials for the talent development profession.

Name Change, Content Update

To reflect the expanded scope of knowledge and skills in the new Talent Development Capability Model, the exam content has been updated for both ATD CI certifications, the Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) and Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD), which is the new name for the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP).

The new model’s content includes trends affecting talent development, including how professionals get the job done today versus seven years ago (when we last conducted research for the model). The knowledge and skill statements for each capability address the “what” of the profession. That “what” was informed by ATD’s global community, which gave excellent input about what is relevant during the research phase for the new model. A group of certified subject matter experts validated specific content from the model based on work requirements of three years of experience for the APTD and five years of experience for the CPTD.

In addition to the work experience eligibility requirement, the new professional development participation requirement was included to help ensure candidates have the fundamental knowledge needed to tackle the concepts on the exams. A professional certification is the pinnacle of professional development, combining experience and education, and the ATD CI certifications will reflect a breadth of work experience combined with a background of the foundations of talent development acquired in a learning environment.


The APTD’s exam blueprint has grown in scope to include eight new concepts. The way we speak of the associate credential has matured beyond a description reflecting career tenure or job role to recognize that the need the personal, professional, and organizational capabilities at a foundational level. Due to the content changes, former test-out options no longer apply. However, a change was made to allow for those having earned any ATD Master designation to apply the master-level credential to satisfy the professional development requirement entirely.

Reactions to the content of the new certification programs from a focus group of current certificants were overwhelmingly positive, with several APTDs feeling like the new content represented a more well-rounded professional to supervisors and that the credential would be more valued for its position within the suite of ATD credentials.

The CPTD builds on the traditions of the CPLP by being the premier certification in talent development, covering content from 22 capabilities in the Talent Development Capability Model. Along with an eligibility requirement of 60 hours of education within the professional or organizational capabilities, there is now one exam that covers the skills needed by talent development professionals at the five-year mark. Case studies have been replaced with case management questions that more closely resemble real-life professional decision-making, allowing candidates to use their knowledge of the content and their experience doing the job to make decisions while solving a problem. After the pilot administration in August 2020, the scores for the CPTD exam will instantly become available so the path to become a CPTD is streamlined


Other Changes

Other changes coming include eligibility spanning two administrations so candidates have the flexibility to schedule within a three-month window without having to transfer, score reports with diagnostic feedback regarding performance on the exam, and a new application system that will help track professional development and eligibility so candidates will know when they are eligible to become a candidate. And once a candidate becomes a certificant, the new system enables online tracking of recertification activities, eliminating the need for reporting on paper.

These changes are the re-fresh the ATD CI programs deserve as we begin to work within the realm of the new Capability Model. The APTD and CPTD certifications have been redesigned from the ground up, both in response to candidate and certificant feedback and the changes in how the industry has been defined by its professionals. The certification standards have changed to reflect a professional who understands, and can affect, the value and impact talent development strategies and solutions bring to the success of an organization. In turn, we look forward to partnering with APTDs and CPTDs to more fully expand the presence and reputation of the certifications with the updated branding and awareness within the industry.

About the Author

Holly Batts is associate director of credentialing at ATD, with more than 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. Her background in developing and maintaining certification programs includes mid- to high-stakes assessments, extensive work with organizing SMEs, and a thorough understanding of the certification process. Holly has an MS in organizational leadership, as well as the Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Association Executive (CAE) certifications.

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