Choosing a Credential – Factors, Roles and Answers

By Cynthia Marco Scanlon and John E. Long

Earning a career credential can help solidify your work experience and knowledge into one complete package. This can define who you are as a career development professional, and reveal the strengths and skills that represent your competencies. NCDA's Credentialing Commission understands you have questions about this new step in your career and offers many answers here and on the website at www.ncdacredentialing.org

What is a credential? A credential represents a formal validation of an individual's qualifications and professional competency in a specific industry.

What is the value of a credential? An industry certification ensures that you are proficient in a field, while allowing you to enhance your professional brand. By promoting your credential to organizations, your peers and the public at large, you are able to present your base of knowledge, skills and experience to those you serve (students and clients).

How do you know which credential to choose?  NCDA has developed five credentials, to let the general public and your current employer or potential clients know that you have a strong working knowledge of the standards set by the recognized leader in the career development profession, the National Career Development Association.  Each credential is competency based, meaning it has a set of “requirements” with guidelines, for certain industry-specific career practitioners.   The five credentials we offer are listed below. Visit the Credentialing section of the NCDA website for detailed descriptions and requirements at www.ncdacredentialing.com.

Which credential to choose? Who is it for?

CCSP – Certified Career Service Provider    
Are you a coach, advisor, consultant, workforce practitioner, trainer, recruiter or resume writer? Have you completed the NCDA Facilitating Career Development (FCD) training program, or hold a current GCDF certification? CCSP is for all levels/all career settings - no educational requirements or years of experience required.

CMCS – Certified Master of Career Services           
For non-counselors who have completed a Bachelor’s degree or higher with a depth of experience in the field of career development, serving in roles such as: senior consultant, professional coach, senior advisor, executive recruiter, master resume writer, senior workforce practitioner, or master trainer.  Designated years of work experience is seven years for applicant’s with a Bachelor’s degree and five years for those with a graduate degree (Master’s, Specialist or Doctorate).

CCC – Certified Career Counselor    
Are you a career counselor with an advanced degree (master’s or higher), in an area like counselor education, counseling psychology, rehab. counseling, or clinical counseling, and provide primarily career counseling related services?   Did you complete subsequent training in career development, such as an internship, GCDF or training with a depth of career-related CEU’s?            

CCSCC – Certified Clinical Supervisor of Career Counseling        
Do you provide clinical supervision to career counselors and others that provide career services? CCSCC is for applicant’s with a Master’s degree (or higher) in counseling and trained in supervision.           

CCCE – Certified Career Counselor Educator         
Is your primary focus on the training/teaching of new counselors who will specialize in career counseling? Are you a faculty member or other counselor educator contributing to the career field through publications, research or other scholarly work?


Still Don’t Know Which Credential to Apply For?

We have received many phone calls from potential candidates for certification, and a common question they have is, “Which credential should I apply for based on my unique background?”  Here are a few tips to answer this difficult question:

  • Job titles can be arbitrary at times, so ask yourself, “What role do I play in the field of career services?” 
  • If you are working on enhancing your involvement in the career field – what credential “ties in” with your background (experience, education and training), and therefore demonstrates to others your level of proficiency in career development?
  • Have you looked at the in-depth FAQs page for each of the five certifications?  Start there to address your initial questions such as Who is this credential for?  Which career counseling competencies are necessary?  What educational requirements are needed in order to apply?
  • There is also a general FAQs page that will guide you through core questions on the process of applying for and pursuing a credential. It includes answers to such questions as How much does it cost to apply? What is a blind review? What continuing education is needed to keep up the credential?

The Credentialing Mindmap is an illustration of the core categories and multiple facets to think through when considering a professional credential. Reflect upon this mindmap and select all elements that represent your place within the field of career development. You can then compare the items you’ve selected to the summaries above and the detailed FAQs on the credentialing website to focus in on the certification you would like to pursue. Carefully consider how a credential can bolster your professional role, foster trust among those you serve and support career progression.


NCDA Provides Help with the Application Process

To assist candidates with the “getting ready” part of the credential application, several members of the Credentialing Commission have designed “Study Guides” for the three practitioner-based credentials (CCSP, CCC and CMCS).  During the application process, you will be given scenarios. For each scenario,  you will be asked to write 2-5 paragraphs responding to a focused question based on that scenario.  Members have been asking for help before attempting this assessment piece of their application, because some people have not completed a "test" (as some call it), for quite some time. To reduce the angst and fear of the unknown, a study guide was created to help applicants approach the credentialing process with information and confidence.  The guides are located on each of the three credential-specific web pages.

The NCDA "Need Career Help" directory is open to visitors to NCDA's website. In the past,  members holding Master Career Counselor (MCC) and Master Career Specialist (MCS) designations have paid to list their availability to provide career services. Because the NCDA designations have been discontinued, the “Need Career Help” directory will be relaunched with a listing of individuals who have earned a new NCDA credential.  This will be an attractive marketing option to those holding a practitioner-based certification, specifically CCSP, CCC, CMCS. 

What Else Is New?

Good news! Four of the new NCDA Credentials are currently being approved for listing on the Federal Government's Certification Finder within the CareerOneStop website www.careeronestop.org.  Our CCSP is already posted! 

NCDA is currently working on offering the Certified School Career Development Advisor credential. School Career Development Advisors would work in the K-12 sector to provide career development and education to children and youth. The foundation of the training is NCDA’s Facilitating Career Development Curriculum and is supplemented by three additional chapters The training piece and the assessment portion of this credential are currently in pilot phase.  Watch for future announcements about when this application opens.

We are excited to announce that the NCDA Credentialing Commission will be hosting a “credentialing application session” at the NCDA Global Career Development Conference on Thursday, June 21 from 8:00am-12:00pm. This is a time slot set aside for all those interested in receiving some assistance with the application process.  Commission representatives will be available to help answer questions about which credential is appropriate for you and the steps to get started on the path to your new credential! 

The members of the NCDA Board of Directors and NCDA Credentialing Commission encourage all members to make the COMMITMENT to demonstrate their COMPETENCY and earn a new CERTIFICATION!

NCDA Cred Comm Logo


Cynthia Marco ScanlonCynthia Marco Scanlon, Ph.D., LCC, CCC, and a member of the NCDA Credentialing Commission, has been passionately involved in the career development field for over 25 years in numerous capacities. She is currently the new Director of Credentialing and Special Programs for NCDA. She has been in leadership roles in NCDA for five years, serving as President 2015-16 and Secretary, and with her state organization, Ohio CDA. She has worked in higher education in career centers, and also as adjunct faculty teaching graduate level counseling courses.  As a licensed clinical counselor, Cynthia is very proud to have earned the new credential CCC – Certified Career Counselor.  Because of her career expertise, Cynthia has been interviewed by many popular magazines and on-line venues such as Redbook and Cosmopolitan magazines, Thrillist, EverUp and NBC News. Dr. Scanlon received her Ph.D. at The University of Akron (UA) in Counselor Education and Supervision, and her Master’s in Community Counseling from UA also. Her undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology were completed at Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at cscanlon@ncda.org


John LongJohn Long, ED.S., BCC, CMCS and a member of the Credentialing Commission, is a professional coach, university instructor and program facilitator. His private coaching practice has offices in Atlanta, GA and Jacksonville, FL. John specializes in career and life coaching, and is the author of the August ‘17 book, Career Judo – The Martial Art for the Mindful Career.  He also teaches undergraduate courses in education, human services and psychology. John is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he completed an educational specialist degree with a major in counseling and educational psychology. He also holds a master of science degree with a concentration in career development. His professional credentials include: Board Certified Coach, Certified Master of Career Services, Certified Career Services Provider, Global Career Development Facilitator, Certified MBTI Practitioner, and qualified Strong Interest Inventory practitioner.  He can be reached at coach@exploretworoads.com