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Spotlight on certification: ACA conducts professional certification opinion survey.

The American Camping Association has formally operated a certification program for camp directors since 1970. In response to expressed needs of the camp and conference/retreat center industry, the program was updated and expanded in February, 199 1.

With the implementation of the new program, it seemed prudent to find out if the certification program is meeting the expressed needs of the professionals it was designed to serve.

To this end, the ACA National Certification Board conducted a survey of 900 ACA members in November, 1993, to ascertain their opinions about the ACA Professional Certification Program and the benefits of certification in general.

Response Rates

A total of 300 certified camp professionals, 300 certification candidates and 300 non-certified camp professionals were contacted by mail. The combined response rate was 59 percent. Of that group, 253 respondents are certified professionals, 140 are certification candidates and 138 are non-cerfified professionals.

More than 78 percent of the respondents are camp directors, with the largest share operating resident camps. About 25 percent operate camp/conference centers and about 10 percent operate day camps. Three-fourths of the respondents are associated with not-for-profit organizations such as agency camps, independent not-for-profit and religiously affiliated camps and conference/retreat centers.

Benefits of ACA Professional Certification

One of the major objectives of the survey was to dctermine what ACA members perceive to be the benefits of ACA professional certification. It was suspected that there might be a sizable disparity between how certified professionals and non-certified professionals value certification. But overwhelmingly, all three groups surveyed strongly agreed on the major benefits of ACA professional certification (see accompanying graph below:

* Professional certification results in professionals being better able to meet and serve their clients' needs.

* Certification increases feelings of competence as a camp or conference/retreat center professional;

* Professional certification increases the number of contacts or networking opportunities in the camp and conference/retreat center industry;

* Certification increases a professional's potential job mobility;

* The learning necessary for professional certification gives great personal satisfaction; and

* Certification increases the self-esteem of professionals.

All three groups of respondents perceived that professional certification does not have an impact on the annual salaries of professionals; does not result in a promotion on the current job; and does not increase a professional's position of authority in their present job.

Certification is seen primarily by the respondents as a structured means of professional developnient. Those who seek it are motivated by the desire for increased ability to serve clients, personal satisfaction, and other career-related reasons, rather than a desire to get a promotion, or increase salary or authority in their present positions.

Certification's Place in the Camp Profession

In the camp and conference/retreat center industry certification is a voluntary action. While many of today's professionals entered the profession with a solid academic background in camp administration, that track is fast disappearing from colleges and universities. Records of present ACA certification candidates show a majority of professionals are entering the field with bachelors degrees in disciplines other than camp administration. The principal undergraduate major of most camp professionals today is education, with physical education and recreation following in rank.

Today, the ACA Professional Certification program is one way camp and conference/retreat center professionals can document knowledge, experience, professional involvement and commitment to their profession.

The number of certification programs in America is increasing, according to a 1994 study conducted by the National Certification Commission. Consumers and employers are becoming more conscious of credentials that document the quality of the programs and skills they purchase. Despite this trend, our survey shows that participation in professional certification in the camp and conference/retreat center industry is driven primarily by the professional practitioner.

Why Pursue Professional Certification?

Certification professionals and certification candidates surveyed were in agreement as to the reasons one might seek to become a certified professional. In rank order, the major reasons given were: 1) to document knowledge; 2) to document commitment to professional development; 3) to expand contacts; 4) to increase status and recognition in the field; 5) to increase credibility; 6) to increase potential advancement or job mobility; and 7) to increase self-confidence.

As expected, there was significant disparity among the responses of the three surveyed groups concerning whether professional certification would benefit their careers. The certified professionals and certification candidates clearly thought the process was or is worth die extra effort, time and expense; the non-certified professionals had mixed opinions. Major reasons why the surveyed non-certified professionals did not pursue certification were, in rank order: 1) lack of time; 2) too busy at work; 3) not sure it will benefit career; 4) lack of money; 5) already have the knowledge and/or skills.

All three groups surveyed agreed that certification programs generally offer benefits. The most highly recognized benefits among survey respondents were 1) they encourage professionals to continue their education and professional development; 2) they improve the standards of practice, and 3) they increase the credibility and respect of professions.

In summary, it would appear that ACA members value professional certification and think certification programs in general improve the profession. Individuals interested in obtaining more information about certification should contact the ACA Certification Department.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:American Camping Association
Author:Cox, James
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:860
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