Opinion on Certification

December 22, 2008

stormy seas  

I admit to being a bit of a good girl/ rule-follower type, so the truth is, if certification becomes a reality for the conservation profession here in the U.S., I would do it.  I would also pay out the nose from my own pocket to fly where I had to (from Alaska mind you) and cough up fees to do it.  But I’m not looking forward to the prospect.  I’ve tried to keep up with what is developing in committee, mainly through postings to the listserves, but I can’t bring myself to become a student of the vast verbage being generated almost daily.  I have had the same general feelings about it since it came up years ago, but I’m still willing to be swayed…

In essence, I believe in the formal graduate training programs.  NYU, Buffalo, Delaware, Queens, London, and now UCLA, basically.  I believe one’s diploma from one of those places constitutes your walking papers.  I feel like I paid my dues, jumped through a lot of hoops, learned a ton, and that ought to be the equivalent of a certification.  (In the near future I’ll be posting an exhaustive CV which will detail said hoops.) Furthermore, I have been involved in AIC and jumped through those hoops to become a Professional Associate.   I’ll jump through the Fellowship ones when the time comes, too.  And if the certification hoop shows up, I’ll do it.  

I have a nagging suspicion that there will be folks out there who didn’t want to pursue a formal degree, have put in some time as a conservation technician, and who will be clever enough to study up and pass a certification test.  I imagine myself in that position years ago and think I probably could have passed.   There are some talented folks out there who didn’t go through a formal program.  The brilliant and insanely skilled Tony Sigel for one.  And then there is Dave Harvey, whose posts I have been reading and agreeing with on discussion lists for years.  But that cream seems to have risen on its own, hasn’t it?  At this point in history, I am not in favor of  an apprenticeship-style path into the conservation profession.  Professions like medicine, law, and engineering include the expectation of formal academic training and I would like to see conservation grouped in with those kinds of professions.

A certification program is not likely to impact my work much.  I feel concerned that there are people who I admire and respect who are in favor of certification and worry that I am missing something in the dialogue.   And it is upsetting to think of dozens of people working hard, volunteering their efforts to design a certification model with nothing but the best of intentions for our profession…and then have it voted down.  But at this point, I am likely to vote “no” or not vote at all.


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