Specialty Certifications: Value-added or Unnecessary?

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When do you really need a specialty certification versus just capitalizing on your professional training?  Five reasons why you might want to go the extra mile and earn those extra letters for your professional signature.

At this point in my career, I have earned three additional certifications that have advanced my practice skills and fulfilled my desire to become more knowledgeable about several personal and professional areas of interest.

However, when is enough, enough?  Maybe never… but there are specific reasons why you may want to earn an advanced certification versus simply capitalizing on education from your professional program that you already worked so hard to graduate from.

Let’s start with when you should think twice about a specialty certification and instead realize you likely already possess the skills required for researching and reading resources from your profession to deepen your knowledge of a particular subject area within the existing scope of practice of your professional degree. 

Specifically for occupational therapy practitioners, we have nearly every area of human, and therefore occupational, performance under our scope of practice.  These include activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, health management, rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation.  If there is an area you are looking to become an expert in, look to research articles, professional articles (e.g. OT Practice), and continuing education courses offered by fellow occupational therapy practitioners. 

Additionally, you may get the answers you need by reaching out to the researchers and experts and setting up a time to chat over the phone or zoom.  Be cautious of organizations outside of the profession offering specialty certifications in areas of practice that occupational therapy practitioners already focus on in our scope of practice.  Chances are the certification will not be taught with an occupational participation-focused lens and may not be directly applicable to occupational therapy practice.  

With that being said…

If you’ve decided, “yep”, I still want that specialty certification, here are five reasons to consider that support investing in that specialized training.

1. It’s distinct

The technique is truly distinct to the training being offered.  Examples of these courses are The John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release ApproachⓇ or becoming a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP).  Sure, you could learn under a mentor, however, going to the courses allows you to follow a specific curriculum that the creator of the technique developed.  You’re getting the information from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

2. It increases credibility

Earning the credential will result in increased and needed credibility in the area you are practicing in.  I did one of my level II fieldwork experiences in a large urban hospital where most of the therapists had the Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) credential.  Even though this is an interdisciplinary certification and not specific to occupational therapy, I was convinced I needed the credential by the time I was finished with my rotation.  Further, now that I actually have that credential, I think the biggest advantage was that it broaden my perspective on rehabilitation needs and social services that need to be provided for individuals across the spectrum of care for individuals who live with a brain injury. 

3. It has a favorable ROI

It will increase your pay.  I know this may sound a little shallow, however, financial planning and career advancement are real considerations that we professionals must consider.  Plus, we are being honest and talking about what we were already thinking about.  Additionally, many of these certifications cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  It is wise to consider the return on investment (ROI).

4. It recognizes you as an expert

The certification shows you are an expert in this area of practice.  These certifications can be found in the form of certification programs offered or exams that can be taken.  The American Occupational Therapy Association offers an exam-based advanced certification.  Other programs include the USC Chan Sensory Integration Continuing Education (CE) Certificate Progam and the Certified Living in Place Professional from the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

5. It is essentially required

The certification is required (or strongly recommended) to enter that specific area of practice.  There are certain areas that demand advanced practice credentials.  For example, earning the Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) certification is considered standard and best practice for practitioners working in this area.  The certification is interdisciplinary and provides practitioners with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively serve individuals who require assistive technology.

As always, I love to hear from readers! Reach out and comment. Let me know what specialty certifications you are chasing and when you achieve them!

*Disclaimer: The author has no association with and does not endorse any of the certifications or programs mentioned in this article.  All continuing education should be evaluated and carefully chosen by the prospective professional.


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  1. MayerWellness Avatar

    I agree with your list. There are many reasons to seek out CE but the additional credentials are like icing on the cake. Those extra letters can provide additional benefits to the therapist well beyond having more skills to provide great assessment and intervention to your patients.

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