Emerging Issues in Security

Is There a Value to Professional Security Certifications?

The security world is full of professional certifications, ranging from the plethora of initials offered by ASIS, to homeland security designations, to a fraud examiner’s certification, to others related to crisis management, threat management, and even critical incident stress. Do the examination costs, recertification fees and costs, and study time make sense for security professionals to grow in their careers?

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The short answer to the value of professional security certifications is: It depends. For the uninitiated, they mean nothing, other than a long string of initials behind the person’s name. To other security professionals, these designations can represent a coded shorthand language that proves the long hours of study and expertise, built around years of experience, in a chosen technical or operational portion of a security career. To external clients looking to hire security consultants for site assessments, private investigations, physical security improvements, or threat assessments and management, these designations may be a required and built-in part of any Request for Proposals (RFPs) they put out.

ASIS offers three board-certified designations, including the venerable Certified Protection Professional (CPP) certification; the Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) designation; and the Physical Security Professional (PSP) designation. Each involves a rigorous test, specific years of work in the security field, educational requirements, recommendations by peers who already hold that specific designation, and continuing education recertification requirements. For more information, download the ASIS Board Certifications Handbook PDF file at https://www.asisonline.org/Certifications/Pages/default.aspx.

The American Board for Certification in Homeland Security (www.abchs.com) offers 15 different board certifications in topics related to sensitive security information, disaster preparedness, homeland security (with five different levels of expertise), intelligence analysis, chaplaincy, national threat analysis, emergency medical response, aviation security, cyberwarfare, dignitary and executive protection, and information assurance. Each requires testing and industry- and education-specific prequalifications to sit for the exams.

A relatively new designation was created by the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP) (www.atapworldwide.org) to demonstrate expertise in the emerging field of threat assessment and management. The Certified Threat Manager (CTM) designation requires membership in ATAP, a challenging exam, recommendations by ATAP peers, and regular recertification.

Insurance investigators and other private investigators who work on forensic accounting or financial cases can get the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (www.acfe.com). This certification also requires education and professional requirements in accounting and auditing; criminology and sociology; fraud investigations; loss prevention; or the law, along with the completion of a challenging examination.

Some critics of this collection of designations argue that these “alphabet soup” listings are merely résumé builders that provide lucrative application, testing, and recertification fees for the association, not its members, without much real benefit. But this perspective ignores the fact that these certifications are recognized as bona fide in expert-witness court cases around the United States and the world, and they add prestige and value to the holder’s professional expertise, education, and status in the security world.

  • Jerry Leonard

    Those are certainly the ‘heavy hitters’ when it comes to professional certifications, but I feel you left out a few that are more useful, in general, to the first line officers and supervisors, who often get left out in the cold when it comes to these types of articles.

    The first recommendations I would make for front line security personnel would be the “Certified Protection Officer” (CPO) and “Certified in Security Supervision and Management” (CSSM) designations from the International Foundation for Protection Officers (IFPO, http://www.ifpo.org/ ). These are quite affordable.

    For Security Professionals in the Healthcare fields (again for line officers/supervisors) there are the Basic, Advanced, and Supervisor Certifications (CHSO, CAHSO, CHSSO) from the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS, http://www.iahss.org/ ). The IAHSS also offers the Certified Healthcare Protection Administrator (CHPA) designation for Healthcare Security Managers and Directors.
    Hope these are seen as useful. It always disappoints me when I see “professional certification” articles that proceed with the underlying assumption that you are not a professional unless you are in a management position. We should ALL strive to be professionals no matter where you are positioned on the ladder…