Making careers accessible to anyone with the ability and interest to pursue them can foster equality of opportunity within society. Individual ability and merit should be the most significant factor in making decisions about who we should hire and employ. However, this requires a way for skills to be recognised by those who might not understand the particular skills and abilities required for a particular job. We need a method for providing others with verifiable proof of our skills and abilities. Three formal methods of achieving this are certification, licensing, and professional organisation membership. We can have our capabilities tested and certified by a recognised authority, we might apply for a licence from a regulator that provides evidence of our suitability for performing particular tasks, or we can also demonstrate our commitment to certain values and standards by belonging to professional organisations that require certain standards and expertise as criteria for membership. The costs and difficulty of obtaining these credentials may act as a barrier to entering occupations that require them, even for those possessing the necessary abilities. In this article I argue that certification is the best compromise between maintaining the accessibility of entering the field of ICT with the desire to recognise competence and promote professionalism within the field. Certification allows for a nuanced and flexible recognition of skills and abilities and can foster both the commitment to professionalism and the easy transition from amateur to professional that makes ICT such a dynamic and vibrant field.

This paper was published in the July/August 2012 issue of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) magazine Information Age.

A PDF of this paper is available here: certification.pdf