Certification: What can it do for you?


Omar was here. As with most professions, the Parks, Recreation, & Open Space field has seen an explosion of growth in terms of job development, career diversity, & its need to develop and staff confident professionals within its ranks. While experience and education will always shape the path that many professionals walk, it is important to note the significance that certification can and will play during someone’s career. If experience and education sincerely do shape the path for upward moving professionals, it is fair to say that certification could be the currency used to access higher levels of responsibility and opportunity.

Defined as a process that validates the truth of a statement, certification comes in the form of documentation that confirms the completion of a certain number of requirements needed to reach a goal. The goals are often set by a governing body that maintains these standards dependent upon the overarching requirements which are deemed mission critical skills needed for a position. While it is important to note that certification within a field cannot overrule or make up for a lack of experience and or education, it can be the tale tell sign of a polished professional claiming ownership of their own skills and abilities.

Positives Involved

  • Career Advancement
  • Skill Development
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Continued Community Support & Feedback
  • Confidence Booster
  • Introduction to Larger Networks

What Can It Really Do?

In a realistic sense, certification can bring esteem among your colleagues, increased value at your job, and an elevated profile in the open career market should you choose to look for other opportunities. Underneath the surface, certification can be an amazingly improbable boost to the general confidence of any professional in the working field. This is especially important for individuals who supervise and or manage groups of people who need and expect leadership, training, and feedback on a daily basis. This is in addition to any gains which are made through fellowship cultivated through like minded individuals investing in the growth of practical field knowledge. By including oneself into a professional network via certification, you can almost guarantee broadened horizons on an accelerated scale. It should also be understood that seeking certification may required a significant financial investment in the form of source materials, application fees, and the actual cost of the exam itself. These small hurdles should not; however, persuade you from seeking a higher level of professional clarity.

So, What’s Available? (This is not a comprehensive list. There are many certifications which could have practical application in the Parks & Recreation field.)

Through the use of measured testing and training, the National Recreation & Parks Association (NRPA) has established several certification choices which seek to aid  parks & recreation professionals along their paths towards career enlightenment.

CPRP Certification – Certified Parks & Recreation Professional: The Certified Park and Recreation Professional certification is the national standard for all parks and recreation professionals who want to be at the forefront of their profession. Attaining the CPRP designation shows that you have met education and experience qualifications, and illustrates your commitment to the profession as well as your knowledge and understanding of key concepts within parks and recreation. nrpa.org


CPRE Certification – Certified Parks & Recreation Executive: The Certified Park and Recreation Executive (CPRE) establishes a national standard for managerial, administrative and executive parks and recreation professionals. This mastery-level credential focuses on the practical knowledge and current real-world skills necessary in today’s changing park and recreation environment. nrpa.org



CPSI Certification – Certified Parks & Recreation Executive: The National Recreation and Park Association offers the industry leading certification program in playground safety, the Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) Certification program. The CPSI certification program provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date training on playground safety issues including hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods. nrpa.org



AFO Certification – Aquatic Facility Operator: The National Recreation and Park Association offers the premier certification program in swimming pool operations, the Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO) certification. The AFO program provides the most comprehensive and up-to date training for pool operators and includes information on water chemistry, disinfection, mechanical systems, operations, healthy pools and safety.

Other Certification Options:

Certified Youth Sports AdministratorNational Alliance for Youth Sports: The Academy for Youth Sports Administrators is a comprehensive certification program offering cutting-edge information on critical topics for professional youth sports administrators. The Academy’s primary goal is to provide professionals with the foundation and tools needed to positively impact the youth sports experience for all children in their communities. It is designed as an interpersonal, educational and networking opportunity that no youth sports administrator should miss.
Certified Emergency Manager – International Association of Emergency ManagersThe International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) is an international organization dedicated to promoting the goals of saving lives and protecting property by mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters/emergencies. IAEM sponsors the Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) and Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) Program to maintain professionalism through the certification process.
First Aid/CPR/AED

A graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Jaye Phillips has been a professional within the Parks, Recreation, & Open Space discipline for over 6 years.

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