NACA a Lead Partner for New Student Affairs Certification
We are proud to announce NACA will be a lead partner in the development of a student affairs certification, called the Certified Student Affairs Educator. The first step in this process will be the creation of a separate 501(c)6 organization, called the Higher Education Consortium for Student Affairs Certification, to develop, oversee and execute the certification. This consortium will include representation from each of the founding association partners, including NASPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, AFA, ASCA, and NIRSA. In addition to the creation of the general certification, several specialty areas are also being developed with NACA leading the development of a student activities specialization.
Developing the Certification
NACA has explored the idea of certification/credentialing for campus activities professionals for the past few years. Under the guidance of a credentialing consulting firm, a task force comprised of NACA volunteers convened in 2018 to explore credentialing options for the Association. The taskforce was led through several activities designed to help frame a market research study, which subsequently found strong support for providing professional development support via certification. The task force provided a detailed business plan with recommendations in summer 2019. The first half of 2019 saw a change of staff leadership at NACA. During this time, the board of directors determined it would be wise to place a hold on any developments until new staff leadership was in place. Simultaneously, conversations were beginning to take form with fellow student affairs-based associations, including NASPA. An opportunity arose for multiple student affairs-based associations to come together and support an initiative that could have a broader reach. Unfortunately, the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic slowed progress on this initiative in early 2020, but work was able to pick back up this past spring.
Association volunteer leaders have shared their time and talents alongside fellow student affairs educators, graduate faculty, and professional association representatives developing the initial components of student affairs certification. As a voluntary credential, student affairs certification holds tremendous potential to the overall student affairs profession; as well as to individuals who have already earned a master’s degree, spent several years working in higher education, and who seek a formal means of demonstrating their ongoing learning, competencies, and knowledge.
Student Affairs Practice Analysis Survey
As a part of the development of the certification, there will be student affairs practice analysis – a first-of-its-kind, profession-wide survey – that will identify the essential tasks and competencies of student affairs educators, including those duties that are critical to our respective functional area(s). The results of the survey will inform the overall work of our Association, as well as contribute directly to the development of the new student affairs certification program.
The upcoming practice analysis survey is intended to assess the work of the volunteer groups referenced above, and to generate critical data to guide ongoing certification development efforts. Participation in the practice analysis of the student affairs profession is a key opportunity for student affairs practitioners to share their voice outlining what they do in student affairs. The student affairs practice analysis survey will be emailed to practitioners next week from our partners at NASPA. Survey results will be shared later this year.
As certification requirements develop, being a lead partner affords the Association the ability to align its curriculum, resources, and membership services to better support professionals who aspire to earn the certification and specialty areas. We will be sure to share information with you as it becomes available.
Certification is a voluntary process through which an organization grants recognition to an individual after verifying they have met certain, minimum requirements. To become certified, an individual must meet eligibility requirements and pass an assessment. Eligibility requirements generally include a minimum amount or level of training/education and years of work experience. Certification usually has ongoing requirements (such as continuing professional development) and a recertification process that need to be met over a designated period for the individual to maintain certification.
Certification is different from a certificate. A certificate program is also voluntary, and is a recognition of an individual’s learning of a designated content area, at a particular moment in time, by an organization. The individual must meet minimum criteria, including participation in a training or education program, and demonstrate comprehension of the program’s learning outcomes via passing an assessment. There are usually no ongoing requirements to maintain a certificate.
A quick way to understand the difference between certification and certificate is that certification focuses on verifying experiences and education obtained elsewhere, and assessing current knowledge and skills; a certificate focuses on educating individuals on intended learning outcomes and then assessing their attainment.
Source: Certification Simplified: A primer for staff and volunteer leaders.
A voluntary credential, student affairs educator certification holds tremendous potential to the overall student affairs profession; as well as to individuals who have already earned a master’s degree, spent several years working in higher education, and who seek a formal means of demonstrating their ongoing learning, competencies, and knowledge.
While various professional associations offer strong certificate programs, there is not currently a credential available to student affairs educators--who have already earned a master’s degree--to officially demonstrate the ongoing competencies, knowledge, and skills that are earned through ongoing professional experience and development. Certification can benefit student affairs educators seeking a robust credential to assist with professional advancement, as well as educators seeking to transition to new functional areas (as well as leadership roles encompassing multiple functional areas).
Certification is a credential that will be available to student affairs educators who hold a master’s degree in a higher education-related field, or equivalent, and have at least five years of employment experience at a college or university. A pathway to certification will be available for student affairs educators (or those seeking to enter the field) who do not currently hold a master’s degree, and who have significant experience working at a college or university.
The certification development process regards a master’s degree as an established, foundational, and core credential for student affairs educators. Certification will be available as a voluntary “next step” for mid-level professionals, and above, who hold a master’s degree and/or have equivalent work experience, and are seeking a formal credential to demonstrate their ongoing knowledge and skills. Certification will complement a master’s degree without being an alternative to it.
Yes. Certification is entirely voluntary.
Certification will include both general and specialty (functional) areas. General certification will include the competencies, tasks, knowledge, skills, and abilities of student affairs educators (mid-level and above) regardless of functional area. In addition to general student affairs education, individuals will be able to seek specialty certification in the areas of campus activities, college unions, collegiate recreation, fraternity and sorority life, housing and residential life, and student conduct.
A task force of student affairs educators, graduate faculty, and professional association representatives and staff were appointed by participating associations (ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, AFA, ASCA, NACA, NASPA, NIRSA, and NODA). The task force developed general student affairs educator certification content in the form of a practice profile-a draft of the tasks, competencies, knowledge, skills, and abilities of student affairs educators.
Functional area groups were then convened for the areas of campus activities, college unions, collegiate recreation, fraternity and sorority life, housing and residential life, and student conduct. Group members were appointed by the respective functional area association. Each group identified and built additional content for their respective functional area upon the foundational practice profile for general student affairs educator certification.
The practice analysis is a survey to test the practice profile developed by the certification task force and functional area groups. It is intended to identify the essential tasks and competencies of student affairs educators--generally as well as within the six functional areas. The practice analysis for student affairs educators will be a profession-wide survey encompassing multiple professional associations. It will launch in mid-July and end in August 2021.
It is an expected practice of certification programs to include an ethics statement. A Code of Ethics Development Committee (CEDC) has been convened as part of the certification development process. Members include student affairs educators, graduate faculty, and professional association representatives. The code of ethics development process includes review of existing professional student affairs ethics statements. Once finalized, the code of ethics will focus on the student affairs profession and not any unique functional area or association. Certified individuals will agree to adhere to the code of ethics as a requirement for maintaining their certification.
A new organization will be established to manage general and specialty area certifications. This organization will have formal relationships with student affairs associations collaborating to develop certification content, while also functioning as its own independent, 501(c)6 organization. The new organization will provide tools and resources for potential certificants. However, it will not provide professional development.
The certification organization will have its own governance structure, leadership, staff, and processes.
Cost considerations and equity in access are priorities in certification development. Certification budgets and financials are being developed in conjunction with the creation of the certification organization. Specific costs for certification applications and maintenance will be shared as certification program development commences.
Eligible student affairs educators should expect to begin to apply for certification in Spring 2022.
Please contact Director of Education & Research
Sarah Keeling, Ph.D.