Professional certificates based on rigorous standards serve important roles with consumers, state licensure boards, and clinicians. The following questions and answers address how this process differs from market-based certificates.
Q. What is the purpose of ASHA certification?
A. The foremost purpose of both the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in Speech-Language Pathology and the CCC in Audiology is to provide the public with some assurance that holders are highly qualified practitioners. The standards set rigorous requirements, including extensive coursework and closely supervised practical experience. The standards further require an internship period (which will change in the new audiology standards) and the passing of a written examination. New standards will require continuing education.
The CCCs also serve to benefit holders. They allow movement across practice and geographic settings. They provide professional recognition and are a de facto guide for licensure. They support professional autonomy, provide entry to third-party reimbursement systems, and protect holders, as well as the public, from less-qualified practitioners.
Q. On what authority are the CCCs based?
A. Like all professional certificates, the ASHA CCCs are based upon the idea of a "social contract," which has moral authority. One of the hallmarks of a profession is that its members establish and monitor their own standards. As Silverman (1999) notes, "Each profession has an obligation to police its own ranks and make certain that those who wear the name and display the [certificate] are in fact ethical and competent practitioners." ASHA accomplishes this because the CCCs incorporate high standards, including adherence to a Code of Ethics. Thus, certificate holders develop public trust. If a holder breaks that trust, it is possible for him or her to lose certification.
Q. How are the standards developed? How does this process, and the CCCs themselves, compare with a certificate from a CE course?
A. In developing the most recent standards for the CCCs, the Council for Clinical Certification (CFCC) relied heavily on independent (non-ASHA) validation studies of the knowledge and skills required for professional entry into audiology and speech-language pathology. The CFCC also examined the current scopes of practice, the Code of Ethics, publications of related professional organizations, preferred practice patterns, and more to develop drafts of the standards. The drafts were shared with the entire ASHA membership for review, then modified in light of peer comment. At least for the speech-language pathology standards, the CFCC sent out a second draft for widespread peer review before developing final versions. Our Association undertakes periodic formal review and revision of the standards.
Because a certificate from a CE course is not part of a whole professional fabric, substantial differences emerge in the way the two types of certificates are developed. An ASHA certificate will require much more extensive and exacting educational/practical preparation, and development of ASHA's standards will be a profoundly more meticulous process. Most importantly, a certificate from a CE course will not enjoin holders to adhere to any ethical standards, thus minimizing public protection and confidence.