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My APTD Journey Took a Long, Zigzagging Road

Thursday, January 4, 2018

My journey toward a career in talent development and the Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) credential has been long, zigzagging, and weird. Like most of us, I didn’t grow up dreaming of one day becoming an instructional designer. In fact, for most of my life I thought I wanted to be a physician. I eventually came to realize that I was built precisely for this field, and that my attraction to the career of doctor was directly related to the sheer number of hours I would get to spend in school.

I have always loved learning, and learning about learning, and organizing learning, and advising people on what they should be learning . . . there’s a pattern emerging here. I earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State in human development and family sciences and immediately went to work as an academic adviser. During my time in that position, I began to develop digital tools students could use to more easily access student services and, unwittingly at the time, started to develop my instructional design skills. On the advice of a colleague, I looked into instructional design as a career option. I did some reading on the topic, and immediately went, “Woah, I can get paid to organize information?! I thought this was just a thing I did to calm my persnickety-ness.” So, I went all-in and ended up with a master of education in educational technology.

In higher education, I thought the master’s degree was sufficient in lending credibility to my skills. When I moved into the private sector and started working in L&D departments, I realized no one cared what degree I had. I started to hear about a certification called the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) through ATD, and noticed that a lot of jobs were listing this as a requirement. I looked into it and I was super intimidated. I didn’t have quite enough work experience to make this happen. I found myself wishing there was another option for someone who thought they were kind of in the middle, between newbie and seasoned pro. Faster than I could say “Accio less scary certification!” the APTD arrived on the scene.

It felt too serendipitous to pass up, so I checked and rechecked ATD’s website until I saw the application go live. As I was waiting for the application to open, I was also collecting information so that I’d be ready to submit. I looked at old job descriptions, calculated what portion of my past and current positions were talent development related, and had that written up and ready to submit. This helped tremendously with the application process. I submitted that information and was notified pretty quickly that it was accepted.


ATD made the entire registration process pretty painless. They notified me of every step in the process, hosted webinars in advance of the application opening, and published some guidelines for credentialing. After I was registered, all that was left was preparation and testing. I relied solely on the APTD Learning System and the APTD On-Demand Course for preparation. I had about three months to ready myself, so I committed to doing an hour of preparation every day. I started by taking the sample CPLP test online so that I could have a decent idea of where I was starting. Things looked pretty grim, which motivated me to really make that hour a day happen.

I started with reading the APTD Learning System in its entirety. As I was reading, I would make flashcards on topics I felt less sure about. I completed the assessment at the end of every unit right after I read the unit, then again the next day before I started the new unit, to make sure things were sticking. Once I completed this, I moved on to the on-demand course. This was super helpful. The questions on the certification exam are all multiple choice, but the on-demand course included a bunch of different question types, such as matching, fill-in, and ordering. It also adapted to my performance, autodirecting where I should be focusing more of my attention. It seemed as if ATD really tried to make the prep as simple as possible, to keep our focus on the material itself. This was the best preparation I could’ve asked for. It felt like the on-demand course was slightly more challenging than the exam itself, and mastering this content ultimately paid off.

I took the exam about three months after I registered, and was notified a few weeks ago that I passed! The impact of having the APTD credential is twofold in my mind. Of course, it signifies to others that I am technically competent in those areas of expertise. But more important, it allowed me to measure myself against my peers, reassured me that I have some measurable competency, and reinforced my decision to enter into and stick with the talent development field. I fully intend on using this as a springboard to the CPLP once I’ve got a little more experience, but I know that it will also provide me with leverage in my career as a stand-alone certification. I would recommend this to anyone who thinks they’re not quite ready to commit to the CPLP journey.

Learn more about the APTD Certification.

About the Author
Kristin Gebhart is a proud cat mom and Harry Potter enthusiast. She also moonlights as an instructional designer, living and working in the Pacific Northwest. She has been in the learning and development arena for almost eight years. Kristin holds a master’s degree in educational technology and recently earned the APTD credential from ATD. She has had the opportunity to work in both higher education and the private sector, and has presented her work at local, regional, and national conferences.
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I enjoyed reading this article. We both walked that long road to the APTD. It feels so good to earn this credential and I’m happy for you. Next stop CPLP...
Back at ya, Shermaine! Congrats on the APTD!
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