Reputation or Certification: What Drives Success in Lifelong Learning?

My father was one of the smartest men that I’ve ever known. He owned his own business, served thousands of happy customers every year, and was a thought leader and influencer long before people ever used those terms. When Calvin Joyner told you that he would do something, that is all you would ever need because his reputation was rock-solid. He was the type of businessman that everyone aspires to be because he was honest, hard-working, consistent, loyal, positive, and had the strongest work ethics of anyone I’ve ever known. Dad had a reputation for providing excellent customer service along with the best, quality products on the market. And to think that he only had an 8th grade formal education! After I was in high school, he decided to get his GED, so the two of us spent many evenings working together on our homework. To say he was one of my best teachers would be an understatement, but I learned from this man simply by watching him work and watching the way he interacted with all kinds of people. My father was an extraordinary master teacher, a servant leader, and the president of the state’s professional organization for his industry. He conducted ALL professional development trainings at his company, and he did this without a college degree or formal certifications in his field. So, I must ask you, what is more important: reputation or certification?

When you are hired to lead a professional development session for a college, industry, or organization, what credentials do you need? What are you doing to hone your skills and to gain the specialization needed to conduct training workshops? Most of us have degrees in our field, but in the spirit of life-long learning, we’ve added microcredentials and certifications to augment traditional degrees and improve our proficiency in specific skills. Are you wondering how these might be helpful for your personal career goals?

Exploring Credentials and Skill Enhancement for Professional Development Leaders


Microcredentials offer a multitude of options for professional development and mastery of a skill or topic. These “short” courses are delivered in continuing education workshops, college courses, and in self-paced learning formats that are flexible and geared towards filling a skill gap.  While this is not a degree program, the courses are designed to develop knowledge and experiential skills.

Professional Certifications

Professional certifications indicate that the employee is striving to become specialized. Certifications are earned credentials awarded following the successful completion of assessments administered by an accredited organization or association that upholds high standards of industry. Often this type of certification is required training for the employee to enter or advance in the field of work for which they are trained.


Licensures are credentials required by law and are usually awarded through state or national agencies. Licensures must be successfully completed prior to performing specific jobs. Having the license qualifies the necessary skills and experience needed to complete the job and to follow local and federal guidelines.

Professional Degrees

Professional Degrees are programs awarded through colleges or universities for work in certain industries or careers and will make the employee eligible to earn licensures and certifications in the field. These include associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. Typically careers that require a postgraduate degree will offer a higher earning potential.

What do our local, national, and global industries need when they hire a training and development professional to lead a continuing education workshop? Ability is important. Knowledge of the content is important. Public regard is important. Overall quality is important. Character is important. Experience is important. Degrees and certifications are certainly important. Truthfully, it takes all this along with dedication, and contributions to the profession to build the reputation needed to train our workforce.

Striking a balance between traditional degrees, microcredentials, and certifications have served me well in preparing for workforce development. However, I can’t dispel the fact that experience in the field, experience in the classroom, management experience, understanding industry and business needs, as well as having a genuine love for leading workshops has provided a reputation that speaks louder than the degrees I have earned over the years. A reputation that began when I was just a little child follows me to this day and ironically, can not be displayed through a diploma, degree, or a certificate. That being said, I’m sure Calvin Joyner is proud of the reputation that he inspired. Once he told me, “You’ve got to go beyond ordinary to discover that you have what it takes to be extraordinary. Never settle. Keep moving forward.” That’s great advice for all of us in professional development fields.

If you are involved with training and development, we invite you to join our organization. GCEA (Georgia Continuing Education Association) is a Georgia based community of professionals whose mission is to provide the resources and perspectives needed to equip and empower educators. With over 50 years of service for professional development in Georgia, we want to help you discover ways to thrive in your role.

Learn more about membership opportunities here, or contact our President, Cher Brister, at (678)226-6756.  

Here’s to a great reputation!

Dr. Penny Joyner Waddell

SpeechShark Training and Development Instructor