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ATD Blog

Which Certification Is for Me? CPLP vs. APTD

Thursday, January 24, 2019

If you have been thinking about pursuing a talent development certification, 2019 is a great time to set this goal for yourself. If you have decided you want to pursue an ATD credential but you’re not sure which one is right for you, read on!

What are your career goals?

The first thing to determine is what you would like to do next in your career. Are you hoping to take on different responsibilities at work? Do you aspire to a management position? Do you want to start a consulting practice? If you’re not sure what you want to do next, you need to think it through. Try completing the Preference Grid in Keeping Your Career on Track (available as a free download for ATD members).

How much experience do you have?

ATD certifications (the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance [CPLP] and the Associate Professional in Talent Development [APTD]) have eligibility requirements because they are designed for professionals who already have experience and knowledge in the field. They are not intended for people who are just getting started or who want to get into the field.

In general, to be eligible to sit for the APTD or CPLP exam, you need a certain number of years of experience.

  • If you have three years of experience in a talent development role or have been working at least 50 percent of your time doing talent development type work, you may qualify to sit for the APTD exam.

To do a quick self-screening about your likely level of eligibility, take the quiz Which Certification Is Right for Me? However, to be sure if you are eligible, you should submit an eligibility form or email the credentialing staff at [email protected].

Do you have broad-based or focused experience?

Has your experience been narrowly focused on one or two main areas of expertise in the field, such as training delivery or instructional design? Or, have you worked in many different areas across the talent development spectrum?

Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD): The APTD involves one exam that is focused on three main areas of expertise: Training Delivery, Instructional Design, and Learning Technologies. Even if you technically qualify to take the CPLP exam, you may want to consider the APTD if your experience has been concentrated in one of these areas of expertise. In addition, once you pass the APTD exam and stay current with your certification, you can use it to opt out of three portions of the CPLP Knowledge Exam, should you decide to pursue it in the future.


Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP): The CPLP involves two exams, a Knowledge Exam and a Skills Application Exam. The Knowledge Exam covers 10 areas of expertise. This certification may be appropriate for you if you have very broad-based experience, aspire to a management position, or hope to build a consulting practice in the future.

For more information about both of these certifications, you may want to listen to this webcast or take a look at this page for a summary of the requirements.


Another key consideration will be how much time you have to invest in a certification. You will need to allocate time to study for and take the exam. Before you undertake this endeavor, you’ll want to make sure you have adequate time to achieve this professional goal.

  • Successful APTD candidates study 40-60 hours for the exam.
  • Successful CPLP candidates study 80 hours for the Knowledge Exam and another 40 hours for the Skills Application Exam.


The final consideration will be the financial resources you have available to invest in your professional development. If your employer supports your pursuit of a certification, take advantage of any funds that can be allocated toward preparation and exam fees. ATD has sample pursuit letters you can use as a template to request funding from your employer.

Pursuing an ATD certification is challenging but rewarding for those who attain the credential. Join the next group of elite candidates to achieve an ATD certification.

If you’re still not sure certification is for you, email the credentialing staff at [email protected] for more information.

About the Author

Sue Kaiden is the Project Manager, Credentialing for the Association for Talent Development’s Certification Institute (CI). In this role, Sue manages the preparation products used by candidates for the CPLP and APTD credentials. Prior to joining the CI team, Sue was the Manager of the Career Development community at ATD. Before coming to ATD, Sue held executive and consulting roles in the healthcare, IT, and nonprofit sectors and founded a career coaching firm, CareerEdge. In addition, she started a job search support program for unemployed and underemployed people in the Philadelphia area which she ran for 11 years. Through this program and her coaching practice, Sue helped hundreds of people find meaningful work. Sue is the author of  Keeping Your Career on Track (TD at Work) and the editor of Find Your Fit: A Practical Guide to Landing a Job You'll Love, a book written with 16 top-notch career coaches that was published in October 2016 . Sue holds an MBA from Cornell University, a BS from Miami University (Ohio), and is a certified Myers Briggs (MBTI) and Strong Interest Inventory practitioner.  

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