corporations, where management ismore motivated by profit, productivity,and business knowledge than meetingstandards or enhancing professional UXcompetencies.
• It’s nice to have but not a jobrequirement for most large employers.
(This may be changing, as we willdiscuss.)
• It costs money annually to maintain,and some employers won’t pay for this.
• It requires proof of professionalactivities and continuing education forrecertification.
Do any of these programs lead tocareer enhancement in UX? Will I needa certification to work in my field in thefuture? Certified professionals do enjoyaspects of career enhancement. BCPEreports that certified professionalshave increased salary, job promotion,enhanced job opportunities, andenriched personal lives. Employerspurportedly cite the top three benefitsof hiring certified individuals asindependent verification of competency,greater productivity and efficiency,and higher quality of work [ 9]. Thereis an increase in employers showingpreference for a BCPE certification andrequiring certification for employment,including Amazon FulfillmentServices, AON Risk Services, Coca-Cola Refreshments, Exxon BiomedicalSciences, Ford Motor Company,Kohler, Library of Congress, Raytheon,the U.S. Navy, and the World Bank.
Also, now that user-centered design ismandated for medical devices by theU. S. government [ 10], there may bestronger market forces propelling UXprofessionals toward certification as ameans of differentiating themselves totheir clients and employers.
What has been your personal
experience in terms of the value of
professional certification? It has been a
career enhancer. I got my CPE Number
175 in the first wave of certificants.
The application required a completereview of my academic, industrial, andconsulting practice to pick the strongestevidence of the scope, breadth, anddepth of my work. You rarely get theexcuse to do this in your professionalcareer; it’s important to see whereyou’ve been in order to decide where youneed to go.
Generally, I have found it helps to
have a credential in our field, which
in many high-tech jobs is now called
UX. This term is fairly recent. It has
previously and outside the U. S. been
called by a variety of other names:
engineering psychology, human factors,
human factors engineering, user
interface design, usability engineering,
ergonomics, and software ergonomics,
to name a few. Being certified in any of
these names seems to be a good thing,
even if you do have to explain it to
prospective employers and clients from
time to time.
I regard my professional vocation asbroadly as possible, doing whatever ittakes to make products, systems, andorganizations as safe, efficient, andsatisfying as possible to users and theirstakeholders. Proving your competencyin a wide variety of domains or skillsets demonstrates the importance ofthis work and strengthens you as aprofessional.
Certification has also helped me asa manager. For hiring, performanceappraisals, promotions, training, labdevelopment, and administration, Ihave used the BCPE core competenciesand test questions as a baseline toselect, motivate, facilitate, and adviseemployees on their career progress anddevelopment strategies.
In the UX field, we should be takingleadership to the next level, and I thinkcertification is the next level. Serviceas a BCPE director exposed me to themost knowledgeable and professionallymotivated people who identify withour field in the broadest sense. Thechallenges they were working on (e.g.,repetitive strain injuries, workplacedesign, anthropometry of hand-helddevices) became important to me in myown software UX applications work.
1. Knapp, J., Fabrey, L., Rops, M., andMcCurry, N. Basic guide to credentialingterminology. Institute for CredentialingExcellence. Oct. 2006; http://www.
2. Andrews, A. NOCA Standard 1100:Certificate vs. certification; http://www.
acac.org/forms/otherpdfs/NOCA%20Article%203-09.pdf (NOCA is now ICE—Institute for Credentialing Excellence).
3. Smith, T. Certification of professionalergonomists: A global perspective.Ergonomics in Design 20 (Oct. 2012), 22–28.
4. There are 15 IEA-accredited U.S. universityprograms that are recognized. Seeasterisked programs at http://www.hfes.org/web/Students/ grad_programs.html
5. BCPE accreditation expired in March,2014. They are conducting a new jobanalysis and field test before reapplying toNCCA for reaccreditation.
6. The BCPE Core Competencies have beenindependently validated in a series ofsurveys with students of IEA-accreditedprograms, new hires, and hiring managersby Rantanen and Moroney [ 11, 12] andMoroney and Rantanen [ 13].
7. Lund, A. User Experience Management:Essential Skills for Leading Effective UXTeams. Morgan Kaufman, 2011.
8. Thanks to Charles Mauro, Arnie Lund,Susan Dray, Carol Stuart-Buttle, DavidBrodie, and Scott Isensee for their insightsand contributions to this discussion.
9. Knapp & Associates International,sponsored by ANSI, surveyed 125certifying organizations in 23 industries;this is what certifying bodies who surveytheir certificants report employers assaying; http://www.knappinternational.com/assets/uploads/pages/Knapp% 202007%20Industry%20Scan%20Report.pdf;
10. Department of Health and HumanServices. Health Information Technology:Standards, Implementation Specifications,and Certification Criteria for ElectronicHealth Record Technology, 2014 Edition;Revisions to the Permanent CertificationProgram for Health InformationTechnology. Federal Register 77, 171 (Sept.
14, 2012), 54186–54189.
11. Rantanen, E.M. and Moroney, W. F.Educational and skill needs of new humanfactors/ergonomics professionals. Proc. ofthe Human Factors and Ergonomics Society55th Annual Meeting. 2011, 531–534.
12. Rantanen, E.M. and Moroney, W. F.Employers’ expectations for education andskills of new human factors/ergonomicsprofessionals. Proc. of the Human Factorsand Ergonomics Society 56th AnnualMeeting. 2012, 581–585.
13. Moroney, W.F. and Rantanen, E.M.Student perceptions of their educationaland skill needs in the workplace. Proc. ofthe Human Factors and Ergonomics Society56th Annual Meeting. 2012, 576–580.
Anna Wichansky, CPE, studies howusers interact with new technology. She isSenior Director at Oracle, where she foundedthe Corporate Usability Labs, AdvancedUser Interface Program, and UsabilityAdvisory Board. She is a Human Factorsand Ergonomics Society Fellow and Boardof Certification of Professional Ergonomistsdirector emerita.→
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