PDI Blog

Am I Considered a Professional?

LaDene H. Bowen, CEcD, FM, HLM

Often I am asked, "When did you get certified in economic development?" In some ways, it seems like yesterday in 1993 enjoying my PDI comrades and celebrating being the first certified female in Iowa. I remember the group stating, "you passed the exam nationally, now you need to pass in Iowa." They proceeded to (in jest) grill me with Iowa-style questions. Now, as I understood, was considered a "professional." 

Professional certification can be found in almost every industry in the United States today. Law, construction, auto repair, nursing, accountancy, information technology training, aerobic instructing, social work, engineering, software development, association management and economic development just scratch the surface of the wide range of professions that have voluntary or mandatory certification. Although certain occupations require certification, and in economic development it is voluntary, all certification programs are designed to encourage professionals to expand their knowledge through training, experience and education and ultimately enhance effective practices in the field. 

Do you want to show your stakeholders and community that you are committed to professional excellence?

Certification is designed to elevate the standards of the profession as a whole and enhance individual and organizational performance. Therefore, having one or more certified individuals on your team demonstrates your organization’s competency and enhances your credibility. 

In the economic development industry and in my opinion, every employer has a general obligation to perform due diligence in ensuring the competency of the personnel providing services in economic development. For an employer, the investment in certification can have long-lasting benefits to the organization, including:

  • Boosting staff’s level of confidence and professionalism,
  • Improving staff’s education and knowledge,
  • Enhancing the image and credibility of the organization,
  • Ensuring that the organization is rich with staff who can translate development opportunities into results.

Economic development certification provides employers with evidence that the certified economic developer has demonstrated a certain level of job-related knowledge, skills and abilities. It provides a documented level of assurance that employees are competent in the practice. Certification provides concrete evidence to board members and citizens that the organization is staffed with people who know what they are doing and is competitive in any comparison of service. 

Most successful certification candidates have the support of their employers. Employers pay for relevant courses or other training events, supply study guides/manuals and sometimes allow time to study at work. Candidates that do not have employer support often find it difficult to prepare, have a lower pass rate, and feel that professional development is a low priority for the employer. It takes approximately 18-24 months to complete the course work and prepare for the exam, so the costs may be spread over two or more fiscal years.

The CEcD (International Economic Development Council www.iedconline.com) is the leading industry designation and represents demonstrated competency in economic development with a high-level of knowledge and practical experience in the field. Some other recognized certifications in the field of economic development also include: Economic Development Finance Professional-EDFP (www.nationaldevelopmentcouncil.org); Business Retention and Expansion Professional -BREP (www.brei.org); Certified Chamber Executive-CCE (www.acce.org); and American Planning Asssociation-AICP (www.planning.org)

Starting today?

Make an investment in your own future in the profession by seeking professional development through certification. For additional information and/or guidance, contact LaDene H. Bowen, CEcD, IEDC Fellow, HLM Associate Director, Institute for Decision Making, University of Northern Iowa, ladene.bowen@uni.edu 319.273.2969.

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